12:23 Sunderland regains the lead of the Dakar
At the finishing line on special number 11, Kevin Benavides has achieved the best time, 4'' ahead of Sam Sunderland, 2'26'' in front of Hero’s Joaquim Rodrigues and 4'54'' ahead of Matthias Walkner. Pablo Quintanilla has finished in 6th place, 7'40'' behind the winner, Adrien Van Beveren in 12th place, 21'33'' behind and Joan Barreda in 16th place 25'10'' behind. Toby Price, who opened this morning, completed the stage in 18th, 30'47'' behind the Argentinean. In the general rankings on the eve of the finish, Sam Sunderland is the new leader of the Dakar with an advantage of 6'52'' over Quintanilla and 7'15'' over Walkner. VBA is in 4th position, 15’30’’ behind his brother-in-law and Barreda occupies 5th place, 27'54'' behind the British rider. A GasGas, a Honda and a KTM are within a time bracket of scarcely more than 7 minutes. A little more than a quarter of an hour down, the official Yamaha rider will start the last 164-km long special in 15th position, while the three riders in front of him in the overall classification will start grouped in the top 6. It is far from over yet regarding final victory or for the podium… The last stage of the 44th edition of the Dakar will be decisive!
11:38 The openers pay a heavy price
Toby Price, Luciano Benavides, Joan Barreda and Adrien Van Beveren, who started the special in that order this morning, are all outside the top 20 after 257 km. VBA is 19'24'' behind the best time with “Bang Bang” Barreda trailing by 19'52''. Price, the first to start, is more than 25 minutes behind the current stage leader. VBA, this morning’s general rankings leader, is doing slightly better than the rest, equal with Barreda having started afterwards. The navigation must be complicated today for so many of the openers to have come unstuck. It will be interesting to hear what they have to say after the stage.
11:17 Early exit for Michek
Rally GP rider Martin Michek has encountered a mechanical problem after the second check point. After his 10th placed finish yesterday, he occupied 18th position in the general rankings and was the 5th best privateer in the classification. It is a tough blow for the leader of the Czech contingent who finished 10th on the Dakar 2021 and 23rd the previous year on his first participation. The Orion-Moto Racing Group rider achieved three top ten finishes this year.
10:47 Sunderland still leads after 214 km
Sam Sunderland still has the best time after 214 km. Matthias Walkner is in 4th place, 4'44'' behind the stage leader and Quintanilla is in 7th place, 7'17'' behind the Englishman. Joan Barreda has dropped down into 15th place, 19'19'' behind Sunderland and VBA is in 17th position, 18'41'' his British brother-in-law. In the virtual general rankings, Sunderland still leads the Dakar, ahead of Walkner and Quintanilla.
09:41 Quintanilla, Walkner and Sunderland hold steady after 127 km
After 127 km, Sunderland has achieved the best time, 8’’ ahead of Kevin Benavides', 1’15’’ in front of Matthias Walkner', 2’09’’ ahead of Joaquim Rodrigues and 2’48’’ in front of Pablo Quintanilla. Joan Barreda is in 15th position, 9’01’’ behind the leader, whilst Adrien Van Beveren is in 29th place, 15’38’’ behind the Englishman. In the virtual general rankings, Sunderland leads Quintanilla by 2'04'' and Walkner by 3'40''.
08:59 Kevin Benavides out to help Walkner
Kevin Benavides has resumed the race this morning by virtue of the new rules for the FIM W2RC, of which the Dakar is the first leg. Faced with a possible exit from the rally, the Argentinean has returned to take starter’s orders as the 39th rider to begin the special. He is currently 10 km behind Matthias Walkner. The title holder should be riding to help his team-mate who is in the reckoning for overall victory or should at least protect his back as his water carrier.
08:48 Quintanilla is in the virtual overall lead
Matthias Walkner has completed 43 km and is 24’’ behind Sunderland and 47'' behind Quintanilla. In the virtual general rankings, Pablo Quintanilla currently leads Sunderland by 21'', Walkner by 2'22'', Barreda by 4'49'' and Van Beveren by 7'07'' sur Van Beveren. The penultimate special of the 44th edition of the Dakar is delivering on all the action it promised!
08:34 Sunderland shines after 43 km
At the first time check point, Sam Sunderland, the 17th rider to get to grips with the special, has posted the best time, currently 23'' ahead of Pablo Quintanilla but more importantly 12'45'' in front of Van Beveren. Walkner started 9 places behind the Englishman and has not yet reached the check point.
08:16 Quintanilla takes the lead after 43 km
Pablo Quintanilla, the 10th rider to start today with a deficit of 5'15'' to general rankings leader VBA, has achieved the best time after 43 km, with ten bikers through the first check point. He has regained 12'22'' over the Yamaha rider and is now in the virtual lead of the bike category, more than 6 minutes ahead of the Frenchman with Barreda behind him. However, there are still 300 km to cover and neither Sunderland nor Walkner have registered an initial time yet.
08:07 Barreda explodes out of the blocks
Joan Barreda, the 3rd rider to start, 3 minutes in front of Adrien Van Beveren, has blown away his rivals at the first time check point! Just 43 km from the start, he already leads Van Beveren by 11'05''. Following the passage of the first eight bikes, including Price who trails the Spaniard by 6 minutes, “Bang Bang” is in the virtual overall lead in the bike category. Indeed, he lay 8'47'' behind Yamaha’s leading rider at the start of the special but in less than 50 km, the official Honda rider has already made up his time deficit and now appears to be leading the way.
07:58 A day for strategists?
You may have noticed yesterday when following the Live tracking that Matthias Walkner, who was opening the special, was caught two thirds along the route before falling in behind his pursuers. Yesterday evening, Joan Barreda claimed to have seen riders deliberately cede the initiative in order to obtain a more favourable starting position today. This will be the case for Walkner today, as well as for Sam Sunderland, who set off in 26th and 17th place respectively, 8'24'' and 5'59'' behand Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren in the general rankings. The Yamaha rider chose a different strategy yesterday by finishing 4th and taking the lead in the Dakar by 5'15 ahead of his nearest pursuer, Pablo Quintanilla. However, a watchful eye will have to be cast over Sunderland’s performances at each check point before jumping to any hasty conclusions.
07:22 Gelažninkas is closing in on the title
Arūnas Gelažninkas leads the Original by Motul category after having reacquainted himself with victory yesterday. The Lithuanian boasts a lead of almost an hour over Milan Engel. With two stages to go, the outcome of the battle for his title is looking fairly good for him. Benjamin Melot finished fifth, 15’ behind Gelažninkas and almost as much behind Engel. The Frenchman currently still occupies the third step on the podium in the general rankings, but Charan Moore is only nine minutes behind him…
07:11 Toby Price opens the way, Kevin Benavides at the start
Toby Price, yesterday’s winner, is the first rider to start the 11th special. Luciano Benavides, the brother of Kevin, who exited yesterday’s stage due to a mechanical problem, will set off three minutes after the Australian. Kevin Benavides will in fact take starter’s orders this morning and though he will be the 33rd rider to get to grips with the special, all observers will have to keep a keen eye on him.
06:51 One last loop before heading for the finish
Nothing is certain before the loop around Bisha, which has the potential to turn the podium on its head. This stage will be the biggest technical challenge in the final part of the rally because the vehicles will be spend about half of the stage on dunes of all shapes and sizes including the softest ones that the desert has in store. The scene is set for the last big fight!