The final 14th stage of the 2018 Dakar took place over 120km of Special Stage set north of Cordoba on January 20, the last day of the rally. Spectators gathered around the many fords set in the route, admiring and cheering on the riders who had made it this far from Lima, Peru.

Starting in the traditional reverse order, Monster Energy Honda Team rider Kevin Benavides set off from 84th position on this final stage leaving the start line at 10:33. He passed both Way Points at top times and successfully won the stage, finalizing his result to an overall 2nd place. Benavides had achieved overall 4th in 2016, so this result was an improvement for his career, and being the equal result as what Paulo Goncalves achieved in 2015, it is again the best for the Honda team since they returned to the Dakar in 2013.

Jose Ignacio Cornejo who joined the team at the last minute to replace injured Paulo Goncalves also performed in the final stage. He started from overall 10th with another rider close behind in 11th, so it was important for Cornejo to ride hard and error-less to secure a top 10 finish. He opened the gap to 29 seconds at Way Point 1 and by the time he reached Way Point 2, he had successfully pulled away by almost 3 minutes and was able to keep that gap to the finish line, securing him overall 10th. Cornejo finished Stage 14 in 7th place, and was consistently within the top 15 overall throughout the fortnight, while also supporting the other riders. Both his final result and overall performance were impressive. Among the regular single finishers in the top 10, he had made his dream come true.

Also riding the CRF450RALLY, Diego Martin Duplessis (Argentina) and Mark Samuels (USA) from the MEC TEAM both completed the race in 18th and 21st respectively.

Kevin Benavides #47, Stage 14: 1st, Overall: 2nd
“It’s been a great Dakar. I’m really happy and I felt great. It’s been really tough. We fought right up until the end. We always had a great strategy. We were always on the podium and were even leading the race at one point. It’s a shame about what happened in stage ten, but we have to keep looking forward. We’ve finished second overall and we have won the final stage, which we knew we could.”

Ignacio Cornejo #68, Stage 14: 9th, Overall: 10th
“We set out to ride a good, intelligent race. We started well in Peru, had a complicated stint in Bolivia and then were able to pull things back in Argentina. We went from seventh to fifteenth before finishing in tenth final position. This was something that we had dreamed about and planned for a few years now. Finally we have fulfilled our aim. I’m really pleased to have achieved it with the Monster Energy Honda Team and I’m really happy that they gave me the chance to do so. It wasn’t easy, but we finished the race without problems.”

Taichi Honda | Monster Energy Honda Team Rally Large Project Leader
“The 2018 edition Dakar has now reached its end in Cordoba. Kevin Benavides won the last stage and finished the challenge in an overall 2nd place. We thank you all for your support and cheers towards the team.

“Monster Energy Honda Team fought hard right to the finish line, hoping to regain the overall top position, however despite our determination the overall victory of the Dakar was still a hard pinnacle to achieve. We will have to assess the race and our strategies and hope to fight on into the future.

“We are grateful and would like to acknowledge all our riders, staff, sponsors, engineers who were in the development of the CRF450RALLY, and all the rally related Honda staff around the world.

“The Dakar challenge continues. We will appreciate your continuing support in the future.”