by Vaibhav Kashyap from https://bikeindia.in and Report from Kurt Morris
Kevin Benavides won the final stage 14 of the 2023 Dakar Rally to top the overall bike title results by 43 seconds over Toby Price.
The 2023 Dakar Rally’s final stage 14 was won by Kevin Benavides, who outpaced Toby Price by 43 seconds to win the overall bike title.
The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider won the final two stages on his 450 Rally Factory to move up from third to first and win his second Dakar Rally championship. The Argentine, placed second in the first stage, dropped to fourth overall in stage two but managed to maintain his podium position during the following 12 stages with impressive consistency.
On a Honda, Benavides finished the 136-kilometre-long special ahead of Price in second place by 55 seconds. Benavides had also won the 2021 Dakar Rally. The American, Skyler Howes of Husqvarna Factory Racing, was placed third overall with a fifth in the last stage, five minutes and four seconds behind Benavides.
After nearly 44 hours and 30 minutes and 5,000 kilometres of racing against the clock, the winning margin was less than a minute. Price had a 12-second lead going into the last stage and almost missed his third Dakar Rally bike title, but he gave credit to teammate, Benavides.
In his fourth start in the famous off-road rally raid competition, Howes earned his maiden podium finish. After six stages, this St George (Utah) native was in the lead overall. In stage competitions, he finished on the podium five times on his Husqvarna 450 Rally Factory.
Howes, who has recently won several significant races and has also established himself as a well-known factory-backed star rider in rallies, maintained his stunning ascent with a third-place finish at Dakar. He was the first American cyclist to be placed in the Dakar cycling race since Ricky Brabec (the first American winner of the Dakar Rally in 2020, who also took second in 2021).
India’s Hero MotoSports, made a valiant effort in their Dakar campaign. All the Hero MotoSports riders finished among the top 15 in the Dakar 2023 final stage, thus signifying the company’s most productive Dakar campaign yet. The motor sport squad from Hero MotoCorp won two stages at the Dakar 2023 and finished in many top 10 positions. With Franco Caimi achieving consistent results throughout the rally to be placed 10th overall, Hero MotoSports also finished the rally among the top 10.
Franco Caimi was Hero MotoSports’ top performer for the most part of the rally. He won several top-10 stage positions and this ultimately helped him in achieving a top-10 finish in the overall standings. The Argentine had to ride through the rally’s final stages in pain due to a mishap in recent days, but he persevered and displayed the genuine spirit of Dakar. He finished in P13 in the Rally GP Class at the end of the last stage, making his début Dakar rally with Hero MotoSports a success.
Sebastian Bühler posted his first podium result in a stage in his third Dakar campaign with Hero MotoSports, coming in second in stage two. Like Branch, Bühler lost some time during stage four due to the same problem, which prevented him from finishing among the top 10. Eventually, he managed 14th overall in the Rally GP division due to a number of top-10 performances and his steady pace.
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