Toby Price fights back to take stage 11 win
Toby Price has fought back from yesterday’s disappointing result to dominate stage 11 of the 2018 Dakar Rally. Antoine Meo put in another superb performance to post the third fastest time for the day while Matthias Walkner placed fifth to retain his position at the top of the provisional overall standings.
Today was the first leg of the second marathon stage at this year’s Dakar Rally. The Super Fiambalá as it has come to be known was a 280km special through the Argentinian dunes with scorching temperatures reaching over 40 degrees. Similar to yesterday’s stage, navigation was massively important as was the ability to conserve machinery as no mechanical help could be provided at the bivouac.
Toby Price was one of those riders who lost their way on yesterday’s stage 10. Riding hard to make up time on today’s stage, Price led the special from start to finish. This dominant performance moves the Australian up to third in the provisional standings, albeit close to 40-minutes down on the leader, team-mate Matthias Walkner.
Like Price, Antoine Meo was suffering from a late start position due to his result from stage 10. The Frenchman rode superbly all day battling for the runner-up spot right until the flag. A small mistake cost Meo a few minutes but the former Enduro World Champion was still able to claim third place and also improve his position in the provisional standings to fifth.
Matthias Walkner opened the road for the bikes and with stage 11 being a mixed start, the Austrian had to contend with some of the leading cars on the tracks, too. Riding consistently and again concentrating on his navigation, Walkner rode to a strong fifth place – 11 minutes down on his team-mate and winner of the stage, Toby Price. Despite losing a little time today to his rivals, the former Cross-Country Rallies World Champion still holds a comfortable advantage at the top of the standings, 32-minutes ahead of second-placed Kevin Benavides.
Matthias Walkner: “Things went pretty well for me today. I was a little nervous because I didn’t want to go wrong anywhere and lose all of the time that I gained yesterday. The stage was good, but my pace could have been a little better. I didn’t really want to end up making a mistake by pushing too hard though. I got stuck behind one of the cars later on in the stage and didn’t want to risk overtaking so that cost me a few seconds. Overall, I am feeling really good, my body is getting used to all the strain now. There are just three days to go, so I’ll keep focused and carry on.”
Leading female competitor Laia Sanz had another good day astride her KTM 450 RALLY. The Spaniard, riding sensibly and concentrating on hitting each waypoint, maintained a good pace throughout the timed special to finish in a very solid 18th place.
Stage 12 of the 2018 Dakar Rally, the second leg of the final marathon stage, will again test both rider and machine. Following a night in the bivouac with no team-assistance riders will leave Fiambalá and head for San Juan. Conserving both machine and energy will be extremely important on this 723km stage. A long 375km timed special will require good navigational and supreme physical endurance in the Argentinian heat. Winding its way through the dirt tracks and riverbeds of the San Juan region, the route could bring even more changes to the current running order.