British contender and Gas Gas rider Sam Sunderland took honours at stage 11 of Dakar 2022 orbital from Bisha to Bisha covering a total of 501km with the special stage of 346km, although technically Kevin Benavides took the quickest time.
However this now means he must be the first rider out on the final stage tomorrow which may nullify his slender lead in the overall standings.
It was a bad day for KTM rider Matthias Walkner and Yamaha’s Van Beveren who lost time of the stage and lost ground overall. Yesterday’s retiree and last year’s winner; Kevin Benavides on the KTM made it to the start line due to a rule change in the overall rally raid championships in which he could resume but his penalties would mean he is a long way off the pace for any positioning at this year’s Dakar, however he still rode to top spot some 4secs ahead of Sunderland.
It was another 3rd place finish for Hero rider Rodrigues whilst KTM’s Walkner made it to 4th being 4:54mins off the pace.
American Ricky Brabec still fighting until the end came in 5th at 5:22min behind, then Quintanilla was 6th, Cornejo 7th…both on Hondas.
Andrew Short on the Yamaha was 8th, Svitko 9th and Klein was 10th however the gap between 1st and 10th was much more noticeable being 19:23mins…so some tricky conditions and navigational woes causing some problems on the penultimate stage at this year’s Dakar.
So overall standings now see Sunderland in the lead some 6:52min ahead of Honda’s Quintanilla. KTM’s Walkner is 3rd now 7:15 behind. Van Beveren slips to 4th now 15:30mins off the pace after a 12th place finish today some 21:33mins off the stage lead.
So it is all poised for a dramatic final showdown in tomorrows stage from Bisha to Jeddah, covering 680km with a special stage of 164km.
Realistically it should be between any of the top four overall however Barreda Bort and Brabec on the Hondas in 5th & 6th and 27:54 and 37:24min respectively down, could mount a charge for a podium position should any of the leaders face issues in the last day on the sand.