Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Toby Price has moved into fifth overall in the 2018 Dakar Rally after placing third in Stage 6, only 30 seconds behind stage winner and KTM teammate Antoine Meo.
The 2016 Dakar winner challenged for the win throughout today’s short two-hour timed special. Finally finishing in third, Price’s time matched exactly that posted by runner-up Kevin Benavides. With only a split-second separating the two after nearly 200km of riding, the former world enduro champion was happy with his pace but disappointed to miss out on the win.
Toby Price: “Stage six worked out really well. We had a long morning with the extended liaison section and that was really cold to ride. The special went well, but we caught some rain from about the halfway point and it made things very slippery in places. I got third today, which I’m happy with but I need to try and get back some time on the top guys. I’ll enjoy the rest day tomorrow and then it’s full-gas next week and see what we can do.”
Rod Faggotter placed 27th in the day’s stage and is currently 18th overall. Fellow Australian, Scott Britnell is 79th overall after another strong stage finish.
Setting off fourth due to his finish on the previous day’s stage five, Antoine Meo immediately set about chasing down his team-mate Matthias Walkner and the other riders in front. Slowly building pace as the day went on, the 33-year-old Frenchman made very few mistakes and snatched victory right at the climax of the stage.
Antoine Meo: “Today was a good day. I am so happy to take my first win of this year’s event – it feels great. The stage was very long and it was so cold out there. I had a great battle with Toby for the whole stage but as we neared the finish, the last 10km got really muddy and very slippery so I knew I had a chance to make up some good time. I took the risk, pushed on really hard and managed to beat him. Tomorrow we have a rest day, which will be nice and then it’s onto the second half of the rally.”
Matthias Walkner, by being one of the first to start, was at a slight disadvantage as is often the case in rallying. Walkner rode a good day without mistakes, and although placing eighth at the end of the stage the Austrian was pleased with his pace and will go into the second week of racing holding third in the overall standings.
Matthias Walkner: “Today was a long day, but I enjoyed the stage, I love riding into Bolivia, the people here are wonderful. Everything is going to plan and I’m in a good position going into the second week of racing. I feel I need this rest day because the first week has been the toughest I’ve ever known at the Dakar and my whole body is aching. I think the next marathon stages will really sort out the positions at the top of the standings. Bolivia has always been tricky to ride and with the weather being so bad it will be even more difficult.”
Laia Sanz continues to impress on this 40th edition of the Dakar Rally. Utilising her excellent enduro skills in the wet conditions, Laia again put in a performance that placed her well within the top 20.
Laia Sanz: “It was a good day, but so cold out there. The liaison section was very long and it was freezing when you were riding. The special was ok because it was very fast and I think my pace was good, despite not wanting to take any risks. I am happy because I am moving up in the overall and now I’m really looking forward to relaxing a little on the rest day.”
Friday, riders will enjoy a well-earned rest day in the city of La Paz, Bolivia. The break will also give competitors a chance to acclimatise to the extreme altitude of the Bolivian Altiplano – the city of La Paz itself sits at 3,640m above sea-level. Racing will resume on Saturday with the 727km stage seven, La Paz to Uyuni, the first of the two marathon stages for the bikes.
Provisional Results Stage Six – 2018 Dakar Rally
1. Antoine Meo (FRA), KTM, 1:54:10
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 1:54:40 +0:30
3. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 1:54:40 +0:30
4. Diego Martin Duplessis (ARG), Honda, 1:55:23 +1:13
5. Daniel Oliveras Carreras (ESP), KTM, 1:56:05 +1:55
Provisional Standings after Stage Six – 2018 Dakar Rally
1. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 16:33:20
2. Adrien van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 16:35:17 +1:57
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 16:36:10 +2:50
4. Joan Barreda Bort (SPA), Honda, 16:42:53 + 9:33
5. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 16:42:59 +9:39