WADI DAWASIR, Saudi Arabia – Austrian Matthias Walkner took the lead of the bike race Tuesday afternoon from 2017 Dakar Rally winner Sam Sunderland during the 287km stage.
“It was sandy, it was rocky and it was a really, really nice stage,” Walkner said. “It was a shorter stage today so that made things a little bit easier than previous days.”
Walkner’s Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammate Kevin Benavides is another biker moving up the rankings as the bike race’s defending champion is just 10 minutes back with three stages left.
Additionally, Seth Quintero is on the verge of Dakar history after he picked up his ninth edition T3 win in Saudi Arabia.
The 19-year-old set the fastest time for the ninth time, and he needs just one more to equal the record of 10 set by Pierre Lartigue in 1994.
“We had a smooth day. It was really rocky so we set out to avoid getting a flat. I’m still in the hunt for the most stage wins.”
South African Giniel De Villiers picked up a Tuesday car race stage win, his 18th Dakar stage win. The 2009 champion is now up to fifth overall in an effort to chase down a ninth podium finish of his distinguished Dakar career.
De Villiers’ Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate, Nasser Al-Attiyah, continues to control the rally.
Sébastien Loeb isn’t slowing down, however, as he averaged 158kph over the first 35km of the timed special, only for a puncture to hamper him late on.
“We pushed hard from the start until the end,” Loeb said. “No mistakes in the navigation and just one little puncture. Apart from the wheel change, we did a clean stage without any problems.”
It was another solid stage from the trio of Audi Sport drivers with Carlos Sainz (ESP), Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) and Mattias Ekström (SWE) all in the top 10 in their Audi RS Q e-trons.
Russian Eduard Nikolaev of Team Kamaz Master completed the day with the best truck time and currently sits second in the overall classification eight minutes behind last year’s winner Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS).