Wednesday’s rider starting order was dictated by the overall results of all vehicles Tuesday, which mean a mixed start that featured several cars and trucks interspersed with the motorcycles on the track. This posed a serious disadvantage as riders were faced with heavily rutted tracks devastated by the passage of the larger four-wheeled counterparts.
Honda-rider Joan Barreda has retired from the 2018 Dakar whilst still holding 2nd position. After having suffered several falls in some of the earlier stages of the rally and punishing his body severely, the exhausted Spaniard made the decision to completely withdraw. Joan had started the rally with a nagging injury to his left wrist, before falling heavily in the seventh stage, La Paz – Uyuni, where he sustained a damaged left knee. Despite the pain, Barreda soldiered on the following day to hold on to his top five place.
On the route of SS10, Barreda suffered concussion in the head. The rider, still determined to defend his overall 2nd place in the general standings, was forced to call an end to his seventh campaign. Barreda goes home with three stage victories this time.
"I couldn’t take it anymore," said the Spaniard. "Since I fell and hit my knee I have been suffering a lot in every stage. My knee was unstable and I had to change my position on the bike but even that didn’t help. Wednesday I reached a point where I couldn’t feel my leg any more and I think that, in spite of everything, the best decision has been to stop so as not to make the situation worse. It’s a pity because I was second in the race overall, but I wasn’t in any condition to fight to win the races."
Kevin Benavides, in spite of starting out behind the cars and trucks, was in gung-ho attack mode in an attempt to claw back some of the deficit from the overall leader in the general standings. By the end of the day, the rider from Salta had crossed the line 2nd, eating some nine minute into the lead of Walkner, leaving the overall distance between the two in the provisional at 32 minutes.
"We changed the chip after Tuesday and we went out to push hard," said Benavides. "I started out from a long way behind and I found a lot of trucks that had broken up all the track. It was a good result and we have reduced some time from the overall leader. We will continue pushing hard until the end."
A fine performance from Ricky Brabec, who finished 4th of the day and climbs to 6th in the overall. Likewise, Chilean José Ignacio Cornejo rode a solid first leg of the marathon stage to post tenth position on the day and ninth in the general rankings. "I am much happier than when I finished Tuesday, which had been a nightmare to try to find that cursed waypoint. I feel fine; the bike is running really well too," said Brabec.
"It was a hard day for Honda after finding out about Joan’s retirement in the eleventh stage. We also tip our hat to him for the valiant effort that he has made and the suffering that he has endured over recent days," said Raul Castells, Honda Team Manager.
"He’s done really well as he never stopped fighting to win this Dakar and was still second today in the general at the moment of abandonment. On the other hand, we have Kevin second in the general and closing in on the leader. We are satisfied with how he is handling the race so far. We will fight to the end with Kevin, Ricky and Nacho to achieve the goal of the team. I want to thank the team for all the effort that has been made to this day; The Dakar is a very tough race that is exhausting not only for the riders, but also all the other team members. Thanks to all of you."
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