It was the longest special of the entire RAID, 498km leading from Uyuni to Tupiza. A sort of taster ahead of the grand finale that will see the field travel Argentina. In the eighth Dakar stage, the last on Bolivian soil, the spotlight was on the thrilling head to head between Antoine Meo and Ricky Brabec. A battle that was only decided in the final stages with the KTM rider beating his rival by 1’08”.
The Frenchman therefore secures his second win of this Dakar, moving up to sixth place overall, 9’56” from the front. Adrien Van Beveren continues to lead the way, despite finishing just seventh today. The Yamaha rider retains his leadership, but the battle for victory is heating up,in that Kevin Benavides's Honda is only 22 seconds behind the Frenchman.
Another Honda rider worthy of a mention today is Joan Berreda, who set the fifth time, despite suffering serious knee pain after crasging yesterday. The Spaniard lies fifth overall, eight minutes from the front, behind the KTMs of Matthias Walkner (+6’34”) and Toby Price (+7’35), the latter looking to get back into the swing of the Dakar after fracturing his femur last year.
With five stages of the RAID still to run, considering the cancellation of Monday's stage, the classification sees six riders within ten minutes of each other. There's everything to play for and we're sure there will be no shortage of drama. Take Xavier De Solutrait for instance, who suffered a crash today, transported back to the bivouac by helicopter. His race comes to a premature end.
Pablo Quintanilla also crashed, finishing outside of the top ten, more than an hour behind and hunted by Laia Sanz. The top ten includes Svitko, more than half an hour from Van Beveren, followed by Ricky Brabec and Gerard Farres, and Frenchman Aubert.
The best Italian remains Alessandro Botturi. 23rd for him today, ahead of a surprising Maurizio Gerini, while Jacopo Ceruttiis three places further back. Botturi lies 24th overall at this point.
CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE EIGHT