Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Kevin Benavides has placed second fastest on the long stage seven of the Dakar Rally. In doing so the Argentinian moves himself up to third overall in the provisional overall standings, one place behind teammate Matthias Walkner, who led out most of today’s special to claim an eventual 24th place finish. Toby Price finished ninth quickest, with Danilo Petrucci successfully completing the arduous stage in 30th.
Leaving the Saudi capital of Riyadh, competitors made their way west towards Al Dawadimi on stage seven, but first they faced a challenging 402-kilometer timed special that comprised a mixture of seemingly endless dunes followed by more tricky-to-navigate canyons and riverbeds. Finding the mixed terrain very much to his liking, reigning Dakar Champion Kevin Benavides made the very best use of his 13th place start position to work his way up through the field to ultimately complete the stage in second. The result gives the number one plate holder a huge boost in the overall standings, moving him from eighth up to third, just over five minutes behind the leader.
Kevin Benavides: “I really pushed today, and it feels good to have that hard work pay off with a strong result. Navigation was tricky, especially later on, and I did make a couple of mistakes that cost me some time, but I was able to fix them quickly and keep a good rhythm going to the finish. I’ll be up near the front tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Putting in a solid day seven performance from his eighth-place start position, Toby Price knew the special would throw up a few surprises and so focused on accurate navigation for the entirety of the stage. Completing the initial dune section as one of the fastest riders, Toby showed more caution as the terrain got technical in the latter half of the stage. Bringing his KTM 450 RALLY home in ninth place, Price moves up one more place in the overall rankings to 11th with five stages left to contest.
Toby Price: “Not a bad stage for me today, there was one really tricky bit of navigation in the middle there, so I took my time through that section to make sure I got through ok. I’m here safe in one piece, so can’t complain at all. On the whole, it’s been a really good day today, so we’ll focus on tomorrow now and hopefully more of the same.”
After catching and passing the one rider setting off ahead of him, Matthias Walkner soon found himself opening the technically demanding stage. The Austrian was able to maintain a good pace through the 100-kilometer dune section at the beginning of the special, keeping the chasing pack at bay. But when the terrain changed to the slower, rocky tracks later in the stage, a couple of small errors resulted in several minutes being lost for the KTM 450 RALLY rider. Despite finishing in 24th place, just over 10 minutes down on the stage winner, Matthias remains in second overall and will now enjoy an advantageous start position for Monday’s long 830-kilometer stage eight.
Matthias Walkner: “It was a super tricky to navigate stage today. I think with the rain that we had here last week it’s washed a lot of the pistes away, so it’s difficult to know exactly where you are sometimes. There was one waypoint that was especially hard to find, and I know I lost a lot of time on that one alone. Other than that, the stage went well, I was opening for a lot of the first half until I got lost a little and I’m happy with my pace. Stages like that are especially tiring, it takes a lot out of you, so I’m looking forward to getting some rest now and attacking again tomorrow.”
Successfully completing another stage at his debut rally, Danilo Petrucci finished 30th, 27 minutes down on the day’s winner. Still a little hurt from his stage six crash, Danilo continues to tick off each stage with solid rides on his Tech3 KTM machine, and now has his sights set firmly on the finish line in Jeddah on January 14.
Provisional Results Stage Seven (overall) – 2022 Dakar Rally
1. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHI), Honda, 3:28:46
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:29:30 +0:44
3. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 3:31:37 +2:51
4. Luciano Benavides (ARG), Husqvarna, 3:36:36 +7:50
5. Lorenzo Santolino (ESP), Sherco, 3:37:15 +8:29
9. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:39:23 +10:37
24. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:51:36 +22:50
30. Danilo Petrucci (ITA), KTM, 3:55:53 +27:07
Provisional Standings – 2022 Dakar Rally after 7 of 12 stages
1. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 23:45:02
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 23:50:14 +5:12
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 23:50:25 +5:23
4. Sam Sunderland (GBR), GASGAS, 23:50:40 +5:38
5. Lorenzo Santolino (ESP), Sherco, 23:51:36 +6:34
11. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 24:14:31 +29:29