Kevin Benavides: That Dakar debut that went down in history

The Salta made his debut in tough competition in 2016 and finished fourth. That result opened the doors for him to become one of the protagonists of the motorcycle category.

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"Kevin is, without a doubt, one of the great promises of the new generation that has arrived at the Dakar." Thus, without further ado, the Spanish Marc Coma, five times winner of the legendary competition, gave the blessing to Salta Kevin Benavidez shortly before he showed his talent in the 2016 edition that he crowned with fourth place overall.

It is well worth clarifying that the statement of Coma, then the sports director of the event, was made before the start of that race, when no one imagined that the boy who was 27 years old (born on January 9, 1989) was going to be one of its figures with a performance that included the victory in one stage and the partial second place in the general classification ahead of more experienced pilots.

Kevin Benavides Dakar 2016As if that weren't enough, he was also the best Honda representative in the classifier with a CRF450 Rally of Honda South America Rally Team, which had the support of the HRC.

“The Kevin thing doesn't surprise me. I knew it was going to be very good. He is very talented and knows how to navigate despite his little experience ”, affirmed the italian Paolo Cecí, one of the pilots of the official team of the Japanese brand. The truth is that Benavides was placed among the best in his category from the very beginning of the strenuous challenge.

He finished sixth in the prologue of Arrecifes, eighth in the second stage (the first was canceled due to the rain), he was left with the triumph of the third after a surcharge to the Spanish Joan Barreda Bort (Honda) and thus became the first Argentine to achieve such a feat, finished second in the fourth, fell behind in the next two (16th and 17th), but returned to the top in the last before the rest day at finish second again.

He started the final part of the test with a fifth place, then he was tenth, second, sixth, third and returned to repeat a second position. In the general classification, he never fell below eighth position and when it seemed that he was going to finish fifth, he had a remarkable reaction to win fourth place from the Portuguese Helder rodrigues (Yamaha).

Kevin Benavides Dakar 2016
Photo: Eric Vargiolu / DPPI.

“It was an incredible debut. I am happy, happy. Finishing fourth in my first Dakar is more than I imagined as my goal was to try to get in the top ten. I think I did good stages, although in some I had problems and I had to pay the floor fee. From the second week on, all the days were difficult. But I tried to enjoy each one to the fullest to have the best possible time on the bike "Kevin explained upon reaching The Higueras, the Cordoba town that stopped the competition timer after 9.000 intense kilometers.

-Beyond the final result, what was the best moment of this debut?
-Without a doubt, win a stage on the second day of the race and be the first Argentine to achieve such a result. That was incredible. Also the reception of the people in Salta, just on my birthday. Seeing your posters with messages made me very excited.

-And the worst?
-It was in the Uyuni loop. The motorcycle turret broke and I had to drive with one hand for several kilometers. With little to go, the turret kit cut one of the power cables and the bike stalled. I despaired because I could not find the fault and I thought that it would all end there. Luckily I was able to detect the problem, fix it, and get there. The next day I started from the bottom to recover and it went very well.

-After this fourth place, can you imagine racing the next Dakar as an official Honda rider?
-For now I want to enjoy my present and this great result. What happens later will be welcome. But hopefully it is something positive.

Indeed, everything that happened after that debut was positive, beyond the odd disappointment. Today Kevin Benavides is an official Honda rider, one of the animators of the race and a firm candidate for victory, something he scratched in 2018 when he finished second ...

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Diego durruty

Journalist with 32 years of experience. Worked in magazines STROKE, The graphic, teammate y Only TC, on the Internet sites SportsYa!, e-driver.com y kmcero.com and on the radios Rock pop y vorterix.com. He covered the Dakar rally for the German agency dpa. He is currently the director of the portals Automundo.com.ar y NationRPM.com, host the podcast motorbit and the magazine Two Daring Guys (Campeones Radio, Radio Arroba and Spotify). In addition, he is a columnist in WorldSport (AM 570) and teacher in SPORTS.

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