After the 2023 Dakar Rally’s official rest day, competitors were ready to get back into action for Stage Nine. As winner of Stage Eight, Ross Branch was first to start. It didn’t take long, however, for Mason Klein to catch up. At the 43-kilometer checkpoint, Toby Price set the fastest time, with a lead of 35 seconds over Adrien Van Beveren and 45 seconds over both Pablo Quintanilla and Kevin Benavides. However, as we know, anything can happen—and it probably will. 

Remember, this isn’t just about setting fast times—it's also about navigation. After the 117-kilometer mark, a whole group of riders seemed to have lost their way. The group included Mason Klein, Pablo Quintanilla, Ross Branch, Adrien Van Beveren, Michael Docherty, and Daniel Sanders. (Question: If enough of the pack all goes the wrong way, can’t they just make their own stage? Yes, we know they can’t really do that; it’s a rhetorical question.) 

While some 2023 competitors were getting lost on Stage Nine, other riders down the start list were further back on the track. Unfortunately for Joan Barreda, he crashed after riding 16 kilometers of the day’s route. After reporting back pain, he was airlifted to the hospital in Riyadh, and he is now out of the 2023 Dakar Rally contention. 

Remember how it didn’t take Mason Klein long to catch up to frontrunner Ross Branch earlier in Stage Nine? That extra-rally navigation excursion that he and several other frontrunners took cost him dearly. At the 85-kilometer time checkpoint, Mason Klein found that he’d lost over five full minutes—and unfortunately, his time bonuses for opening the stage earlier only amounted to a minute and 50 seconds, so the math clearly isn’t in his favor. 

By the time of Stage Nine refueling at 163 kilometers, Toby Price had the best time. Luciano Benavides was second, and Skyler Howes stayed steadily in third at this checkpoint. The day continued to get worse for Mason Klein. Although he managed to get back up and ride after suffering a fall, he lost his road book somewhere along the way, and was behind by more than 14 minutes at this checkpoint. 

At the end of the stage, Luciano Benavides became the first rider to take two stage wins at the 2023 Dakar Rally. Toby Price came in second, while Skyler Howes held down third place for the day—as well as maintaining the overall lead for the event thus far, thanks to his consistency. Toby Price is closing in on the overall lead, though—and only lags behind Howes by three seconds at this point.  

Here are the rider standings for Stage Nine of the 2023 Dakar Rally, as more Rally2 competitors make it up into the top 10 finishers: 

Rider Team Time
Luciano Benavides (ARG)  Husqvarna Factory Racing  3 hours, 18 minutes, 44 seconds
Toby Price (AUS)  Red Bull KTM Factory Racing  3 hours, 19 minutes, 46 seconds 
Skyler Howes (USA) Husqvarna Factory Racing 3 hours, 21 minutes, 41 seconds 
Toscha Schareina (ESP) BAS World KTM Racing Team 3 hours, 23 minutes, 37 seconds
Romain Dumontier (FRA) Team Dumontier Racing  3 hours, 24 minutes, 54 seconds 
Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (CHL)  Monster Energy Honda Team  3 hours, 24 minutes, 56 seconds 
Kevin Benavides (ARG) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing  3 hours, 26 minutes, 37 seconds
Toni Mulec (SVN)  HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing 3 hours, 27 minutes, 30 seconds 
Martin Michek (CZE) Orion – Moto Racing Group  3 hours, 28 minutes, 42 seconds 
Franco Caimi (ARG) Hero MotoSports Team Rally 3 hours, 28 minutes, 51 seconds 

It’s also worth noting at this point that the 2023 Dakar Rally marks the first year that road racer James Hillier, who is well-known for competing in the Isle of Man TT and North West 200, is competing in the Original by Motul privateer category. While it’s understood that the Original by Motul competitors are some of the most dedicated sportspeople you could ask for, it turns out that Hiller has been competing with a dislocated collarbone since Stage Five, according to an interview with Motorcycle Sports.  

What will happen in the final five stages of the 2023 Dakar Rally? Your guess is as good as ours—and the fact that anything can happen is part of what makes it so fascinating to watch.

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