The Argentine champion Kevin Benavides, reinstated after his abandonment on Wednesday in the motorcycle division, won the victory of honor in the eleventh and penultimate stage of the Dakar Rally, disputed with a loop of 501 kilometers (346 timed) in the city of Bisha, Saudi Arabia.

The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider won by just four seconds over the leader of the general classification, the British Sam Sunderland (Gas Gas KTM), who in turn led the Portuguese Joaquim Rodrigues (Hero Motorsport Team Rally).

After abandoning the tenth set due to a broken motorbike engine, a fact that left him virtually out of the competition, the man from Salta got the consolation of obtaining his first victory in this 44th. rally edition.

Benavides, 33, thus added the sixth stage of his entire history in the Dakar, which adds to those achieved in 2016 (1), 2018 (1), 2020 (1) and 2021 (2) when he was champion of the category with Honda.

The man from Salta, who suffered a recharge of 15 hours in his accumulated time due to desertion in the previous stage, is in 97th place in the general classification, so he only has to fulfill the pride of completing the most extreme rally of the world.

“There are no words to explain the disappointment of seeing the chances of fighting to defend (position) 1 slip away. With 3 stages to go, 6 riders were 10 minutes away, the game was open, but my dreams were over for me,” he lamented. the Argentine looking to retain the crown in his first year with the Red Bull KTM team.

His brother Luciano, from the official Husqvarna team, finished the penultimate stage in 26th. place, 27:58 from Kevin, and remained in 13th. position of the accumulated category.

The definition of the title will be centered between Sunderland, his Chilean escort Pablo Quintanilla (Monster Energy Honda, +6:52), the Austrian Matthias Walker (Red Bull KTM, +7:15) and the Frenchman Adrien Van Bereven (Monster Energy Yamaha, +15:30).

In quads, Frenchman Alexandre Giroud (Yamaha Racing SMX Drag’on) savors his coronation, having a lead of 2:41:24 over Argentine debutant Francisco Moreno (Yamana), second overall.

Giroud, favored by the abandonment of his main competitors and the irregularity of other contenders throughout the rally, entered today in fourth place below the Brazilian Marcelo Medeiros (Yamaha), the Pole Kamil Wisniewski (Yamaha) and Moreno.

If there are no problems in the final stage, the Frenchman will be the fourth European to become champion of a category historically dominated by South Americans and Argentines in particular.

The Czech Josef Machacek was the first to be crowned in 2009, the year in which the quad category began in the Dakar. Then it was achieved by the Polish Rafael Sonik (2015) and the Russian Sergey Karyakin (2017).

In the rest of the seasons there were South American champions: the Argentines Marcos Patronelli (2010 and 2013), Alejandro Patronelli (2011 and 2012), Nicolás Cavigliasso (2019) and Manuel Andújar and three times the Chilean Ignacio Casale (2014, 2018 and 2020). .

In cars, Qatari Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota) retains a 28-minute lead over second overall, Frenchman Sébastien Loeb (Prodrive) after the dispute in the penultimate stage won by Spaniard Carlos Sainz (Audi).

It was the second partial victory this year for the driver from Madrid aboard the hybrid vehicle of the German team that made its Dakar debut this year.

In case of securing his victory, Al-Attiyah will achieve the fourth Dakar title after those of 2011, 2015 and 2019.

Loeb only has the 146 km special on Friday, between Bisha and Jeddah, to go in search of his first crown and not repeat the second place he already held in the 2017 general classification.

In this Thursday’s stage, Mendoza’s Lucio Alvarez (Toyota) entered second and his native Orlando Terranova (Prodrive) ninth, a position that allowed him to retain fourth place in the overall table.

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