Kevin Benavides takes his second Dakar by just 43 seconds, the closest finish in history | Sports

After more than 4,000 kilometers under the clock, the last 136 decided the winner of the 2023 Dakar rally in the motorcycle category. Kevin Benavides (Salta, Argentina, 34 years old) beat his teammate, Australian Toby Price, in an intense and muddy final sprint. He won the event after 44h27m20s through Saudi land, but it was only 43 seconds that made the difference between losing and winning. The final distance between the two candidates is the closest since official records were kept. “Greetings to Leo and the boys, I was able to beat Saudi Arabia,” joked the champion on the finish line, euphoric after getting his second crown in a tricky stage with many navigation traps and difficult terrain. “I think the victory of the team had a lot to do with it, one came motivated by what they did, they were an inspiration,” he added.

When the day began, Price led the classification by 12 seconds. After 33 km, Benavides was on par in the middle of the mud, in a fast special with many sections on the sand of the beach. “It has been incredible, very hard. I tried to be consistent and I fought it a lot, ”he declared. In the timed final he counted to 18 jumps and went to the limit to win. He dedicated the victory to Paulo Gonçalves, his former teammate and mentor at Honda who died in the 2020 edition. The Argentine is the fifth rider to win with two different brands (Honda and KTM) after Edi Orioli, Cyril Neveu, Richard Sainct and Sam Sunderland . Price, who aspired to lift his third Touareg, had to resign himself: “It is what it is. It’s very frustrating to lose him on the last day, but I’m happy for Kevin,” he commented. He missed three reference points “by meters” and left 55 seconds behind the champion, who signed his second stage victory in the rally.

Winner of the 2021 Dakar, Benavides was the first South American to win the test and the first Argentine to win a stage in the motorcycle category in 2016, just in the year of his debut. He celebrated his birthday on the 9th in Riyadh, coinciding with the rest day of the competition. All his teammates were there, a few since KTM participates under three different brands in the rally and has once again dominated the general classification. His brother, Luciano, 27, was there to celebrate and was also the rider with the most victories (3) in the edition with his Husqvarna. The American Skyler Howes, third classified with the Swedish brand owned by the Austrian group, completed the podium of the intense and fast-paced five-minute motorcycle test.

The motorcycle category enlivened the fourth edition of the Dakar in Saudi Arabia. There were constant lead changes and very close gaps in the overall. In total, nine different winners in 13 stages -the seventh was canceled due to bad weather-, including Joan Barreda. The man from Castellón ended up leaving and in the hospital with a broken vertebra during the ninth stage in what may be his last participation. The best Spaniard in the standings, Lorenzo Santolino (Sherco) from Salamanca, was ninth, almost one hour and twenty behind the winner.

The eldest of the Benavides learned to ride motorcycles with his father, Norberto. He put a condition on him when he wanted to travel to Europe to pursue his dream. He had to graduate from college. He turned 21 – he graduated in business administration – and in 2011 he moved to Spain and then to Italy, where he built his professional career. His close circle says that he listens and is responsible, as well as a born worker. Jordi Viladoms, the team’s technical director, highlights his method and persistence, quite the opposite of what Price preaches, pure talent and little given to training or resigning due to injuries -from the second stage he competed with a broken right little finger-. The man from Salta, on the other hand, has a trusted psychologist, physiotherapist, nutritionist and everything any elite athlete could need on his payroll. “I spoke with my psychologist, with my family and my friends, they helped me a lot. Today I just blanked out my mind and did the only thing I could do, I went out there to drive and push,” he explained.

After finishing the 2022 edition in tears due to an engine failure in his debut with KTM, this Sunday he was able to touch the sky again on the shores of the Persian Gulf, very close to Dammam. His name will be inscribed in history. Also his smile, and it is that in 2021 he had to take the photos on the podium with the mask. Benavides is the twelfth rider to win the Dakar twice.

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