2021 Dakar Rally, Stage 12

Photo: Honda

Kevin Benavides finished second on Stage 12, the final leg of the 2021 Dakar Rally. That was good enough to earn him the overall win, Honda’s second championship in a row.

It’s the well-deserved result of years of hard work and loyalty for the big Argentinian rider. Benavides started with the Honda team back in 2016, when their Dakar bikes had iffy reliability. He quickly proved to be a promising rider and a team player, earning second overall in 2018. Now, he’s the champ, after racing a careful 2021 rally. He even managed to break his nose in one of the earlier stages, and he’s been pounding out consistent results anyway.

Benavides’ teammate Ricky Brabec, the 2020 champion, was first on the stage and finished second overall. It was easy to see the disappointment in his comments, but Brabec still battled back from a massive navigation error on the race’s first day, and kept within striking distance of the win.

Sam Sunderland was unable to make up the time to win the overall lead. Photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Sam Sunderland, the highest-ranked KTM rider, finished third overall, losing any chance at the title when he finished 11th on the stage due to a series of mistakes. His teammate Matthias Walkner was third on the stage; Walkner’s clutch trouble early in the race set him far back in the pack, and he thought he’d lost any chance at contention, so he (understandably) let off on the gas a bit.

Still, he finished ninth overall, which shows how bad the factory teams suffered from injuries and breakdowns this year. Honda lost two stud riders, KTM lost Price, Husqvarna lost Luciano Benavides, and the Yamaha factory squad was wiped out, with Adrien Van Beveren on the withdrawal list today.

It’s got to be an incredibly embarrassing situation for the Yamaha team, as every one of its riders was forced out due to breakdown. Andrew Short’s issue (bad fuel supplied by the rally organizers) is understandable, but to also have Franco Caimi, Jamie McCanney, Ross Branch and Van Beveren forced out with mechanicals is a very bad look. Especially with Van Beveren leaving on the final stage, after changing the engine only a couple of days back.

Instead of Yamaha, there are a few privateers in the top 10 now. Stefan Svitko, Skyler Howes and Martin Michek all rode KTM-based bikes to top-10s. Hopefully that results in a factory ride for Howes in 2021, as he proved very reliable this year, as he was last year. Maybe Honda will have a spot for him, if Joan Barreda retires?

Sad news

One sad note today. Competitor Pierre Cherpin, who crashed in Stage 7, died today while being transported back to France, from a Saudi hospital. It was Cherpin’s fourth race at Dakar; his first event was in 2009. While there’s lots of cause for the racers to celebrate their results today, Cherpin’s death reminds us all that Dakar is still a race filled with danger, even with constantly updated safety regulations.

Dakar, Stage 12 rankings

  1. Ricky Brabec, Honda, 02H 17′ 02”
  2. Kevin Benavides, Honda, 02H 19′ 19” (+ 00H 02′ 17”)
  3. Matthias Walkner, KTM, 02H 21′ 15” (+ 00H 04′ 13”)
  4. Skyler Howes, Bas Dakar, 02H 22′ 51” (+ 00H 05′ 49”)
  5. Daniel Sanders, KTM, 02H 24′ 13” (+ 00H 07′ 11”)
  6. Lorenzo Santolino, Sherco, 02H 27′ 33” (+ 00H 10′ 31”)
  7. Juan Pedrero Garcia, Rieju, 02H 27′ 42” (+ 00H 10′ 40”)
  8. Joaquim Rodrigues, Hero, 02H 29′ 20” (+ 00H 12′ 18”)
  9. Jaume Betriu, FN Speed KTM, 02H 29′ 37” (+ 00H 12′ 35”) 
  10. Sebastian Buhler, Hero, 02H 30′ 08” (+ 00H 13′ 06”)

Dakar, overall rankings

  1. Kevin Benavides, Honda, 47H 18′ 14”(00H 02′ 00” penalty)
  2. Ricky Brabec, Honda, 47H 23′ 10” (+ 00H 04′ 56”)
  3. Sam Sunderland, KTM, 47H 34′ 11” (+ 00H 15′ 57”)
  4. Daniel Sanders, KTM, 47H 57′ 06” (+ 00H 38′ 52”) (00H 07′ 00” penalty)
  5. Skyler Howes, Bas Dakar, 48H 10′ 47” (+ 00H 52′ 33”) (00H 06′ 00” penalty)
  6. Lorenzo Santolino, Sherco, 48H 16′ 44” (+ 00H 58′ 30”)
  7. Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, 48H 44′ 53” (+ 01H 26′ 39”) (00H 06′ 00” penalty)
  8. Stefan Svitko, Slovnaft, 49H 01′ 21” (+ 01H 43′ 07”)
  9. Matthias Walkner, KTM, 49H 50′ 26′ (+ 02H 32′ 12”) (00H 02′ 00” penalty)
  10. Martin Michek, Orion, 50H 00′ 51” (+ 02H 42′ 37”) (00H 23′ 00”)

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