News 19 Jan 2018

Cancellation of Dakar stage 12 dents Price's chances

One less opportunity for leading Australian to catch Walkner.

Image: Supplied.

Stage 12 of the 2018 Dakar Rally was cancelled overnight due to safety concerns raised by the riders at the end of the previous day, leaving just two days of competitive action remaining for this year.

In a similar situation to the cancelled stage nine, motorcycle riders made their way untimed from Fiambala to San Juan. The stage was scheduled to have the bikes follow the cars and trucks into the timed special. This, combined with the terrain and how it would be affected by the vehicles in front, was deemed too dangerous.

For Australia’s Toby Price (Red Bull KTM) – winner of the 2016 edition – he is currently third following his win on stage 11, but is near 40 minutes in arrears of teammate and current leader Matthias Walkner. Every wheel turned will count toward his chances of victory.

“Yesterday’s stage went really well and it’s nice to get my first win at this year’s event,” Price commented. “It helps a little for the time lost the previous day too. We started off behind some cars and trucks, which adds a little excitement. It was a 280km special and I tried to push for the whole way – it paid off because I was fastest to every waypoint.

“I’m sitting third, which doesn’t sound too bad, but I’m still down quite a lot of time on Matthias. With the cancellation of today’s stage, it means even less of a chance to try and catch up. Tomorrow, stage 13 is the longest of the event though and anything can happen on this rally as we have already seen. All I can do is keep pushing and aim for a good finish on Saturday.”

With one day less to ride, Walkner took a step closer to claiming his first-ever overall Dakar victory. Sitting at the top of the leaderboard, 32-minutes up on his nearest rival Kevin Benavides (Monster Energy Honda), the Austrian still needs to perform well on the remaining two stages to secure a winning result.

Stage 13 of the 2018 Dakar Rally from San Juan to the city of Cordoba is the longest of the event. A 483km liaison combined with a 424km timed special will really test the endurance of the riders. Starting in the sand dunes surrounding San Juan, the route will take competitors through an area of fesh-fesh and conclude on the fast WRC-style tracks on the way into Cordoba.