Walkner wins Dakar bike race; Benavides captures final stage, finishes 2nd

    20 de enero de 2018

    Cordoba, Argentina, Jan 20 (efe-epa).- Austria's Matthias Walkner (KTM) won his first Dakar Rally bike title on Saturday, beating out Argentine second-place finisher Kevin Benavides (Honda) by 16 minutes and 53 seconds.

    Walkner, who finished second last year, became the first Austrian to win the world's most daunting rally race and also provided another victory for Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM, which has dominated Dakar for 17 years but faced stiff competition in 2018 from Honda and Yamaha.

    The Austrian finished the race in a time of 43:06:01, while Benavides, who was bidding to become the first South American to win Dakar, captured the final loop stage around Cordoba (the 14th stage) and posted an overall time of 43:22:54.

    Benavides' second-place finish was the best ever by a South American in the bikes category.

    Australia's Toby Price (KTM), winner of the 2016 Dakar bike race, came in third in the general classification.

    All three will take part in the podium ceremony in downtown Cordoba.

    Three pre-race favorites - the United Kingdom's Sam Sunderland (KTM), the defending champion; Spain's Joan Barreda (Honda); and Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) - all were forced to abandon the competition during earlier stages.

    The motorcyclists completed just 11 and a half of the 14 stages initially scheduled for this year's Dakar, since the ninth stage was canceled due to rain, the 12th stage was not contested after riders refused to accept a change in the route and one stretch of another stage was canceled due to fog.

    The 2018 edition of the Dakar Rally was the 40th overall and the tenth successive edition to be held in South America.

    One of the most challenging competitions in recent years, less than half of the participants who started the race on Jan. 6 completed the 9,000-kilometer (5,592-mile) trek through parts of Peru, Bolivia and Argentina.