Brabec, second in the eighth stage, with Benavides just 22 seconds behind the leader

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Monster Energy Honda Team is still well in contention for the 2018 Dakar Rally. As the second leg of the marathon stage comes to a close, Kevin Benavides is about to reach his home town of Salta breathing down the neck of the overall race leader. Great stage performances from Brabec and Barreda on the day.

There was a great sense of expectation among the many waiting, as the Monster Energy Honda Team riders arrived at the Tupiza camp with the squad’s riders revelling in the focus of the cameras. The stage finished after some 498 kilometres of special and 87 km of liaison section as the second half of the marathon stage came to its conclusion.

One of the riders of the Monster Energy Honda Team grabbing a lot of attention was American Ricky Brabec who finished second of the day. The Californian appeared at ease in terrain very similar to what he’s used to in the American Bajas, keeping a ferocious pace throughout the day. Brabec’s endeavours allow him to climb to eighth overall.

Kevin Benavides too, was the centre of attention, given that after today’s performance, the Argentine is a hair’s breath away from taking the overall leadership, with just 22 seconds separating him from the leader Adrien Van Beveren. Kevin caught up with the Frenchman during the special and whittled three minutes off his advantage. The Argentine will certainly need no pepping up tomorrow as the rally reaches the rider’s hometown of Saltas with hundreds of fans lining the route to cheer on the local hero.

Joan Barreda certainly deserves an honorary mention for his never-say-die attitude. Yesterday, in the marathon stage he took a bad fall, injuring his left knee yet still managing to finish the stage. When the race doctors failed to find anything broken, the Spaniard was given the all-clear to continue in the competition. Today Joan was forced to lead the field and battled hard against the pain to finish in eighth place, limiting the damage, and dropping 3’16’’ to the leader. Barreda now holds fifth overall position – a minute and a half away from a podium place in the Dakar.

Young Chilean driver José Ignacio Cornejo crossed the line in 22nd position, after a good stage and lies in fourteenth place in the overall rally. The provisional classification of the race will remain the same after tomorrow’s stage, since for security reasons, the organization has decided to cancel the 242 kilometres of special scheduled. Certain sections of the route of the ninth stage in Bolivian territory have been left impassable after the heavy storms of the last two days.