Monster Energy Honda Team lead the Dakar. Honda riders’ podium lock-out

It was an outstanding performance on track today from Ricky Brabec, José Ignacio Cornejo, Kevin Benavides and Joan Barreda on the looping circuit in Neom on stage three of the 2020 Dakar Rally. Monster Energy Honda Team riders currently occupy the top five positions in the general standings.

The Super Marathon stage wrapped up today with Monster Energy Honda Team riders scooping a fine haul of results. The 414-kilometre Neom loop proved to be a rewarding one for the crew who achieved the best stage CP times over the course of a lengthy and arduous special. The stage took place amid slippery gravel-filled mountain tracks connected by a breakneck high-speed section of off-piste racing through a valley. The navigation proved particularly taxing, but Brabec, Cornejo and Benavides were up to the task, giving Honda a podium lock-out at the end of the stage.

Earlier this morning, riders once again received the ready-to-use roadbooks just minutes before the race-start, but this was no impediment to Ricky Brabec, as the American Monster Energy Honda Team rider let rip on the Honda CRF450 RALLY registering the best times at the various waypoints of the special before reaching the goal back in Neom. The Californian now leads in the general standings.

José Ignacio Cornejo was also feeling at ease on this third stage of the rally in Saudi Arabia. Improving his skills as each day goes by, the Chilean made it home with the second best time of the day, less than six minutes behind Ricky Brabec.

Argentinean rider Kevin Benavides climbs positions on the 2020 Dakar overall leader board to second place, just 4’43 shy of his team-mate after a notable showing in the day’s tricky special where he took third place on the podium.

Joan Barreda likewise pushed hard to be among the frontrunners, posting sixth but still keeping his options open to stage an attack. The rider from Castellón holds fourth overall place some eleven minutes behind his team-mate.

Once the riders get back to the bivouac in Neom and have swapped information about the day’s event, they will again start work on the roadbook ahead of tomorrow’s fourth stage, given that the roll containing all the details of the course will once again be issued to each rider 25 minutes before the race on days five and six.

 

This is the … Stage 4

Link> 223 km – Special> 453 km – Total> 676 km

On the agenda this day you will find equal parts sandy stretches and gravel sections, mostly on tracks. However, do not confuse speed with precipitation, as the arduous navigation will require some clear choices. History buffs will be keen to get their cameras out as they pass close to Nabatean temples.

Benavides on the overall podium at the Dakar Super Marathon in Neom

Monster Energy Honda Team’s Kevin Benavides produced an excellent showing to take third place on the overall leader board – a minute and a half adrift of the leader – after the first leg of the Super Marathon stage held today between Al Wajh and Neom. All the riders now lie in the overall top ten.

The second stage of the 2020 Dakar Rally proved to be a positive one for the Monster Energy Honda Team, which places all four factory riders in the top ten of the general rankings. Kevin Benavides currently holds the third step of the overall podium.

It was a high-speed affair today in spite of the fact that – for the first time in Dakar history – riders were issued with the roadbooks just minutes prior to the start of the stage. Fast track, rock-filled winding canyons and dry river beds were in store. Most of the trajectory was flat but the multiple parallel tracks demanded particularly tough navigation from all the riders, frontrunners and followers alike.

Kevin Benavides stood out today in the special and replicated yesterday’s fourth final place to move up into third overall position in the rally, some ninety seconds behind the leader.

Another fast-paced rider was Joan Barreda, who might have even won the stage had it not been for a minor fall when he was looking the roadbook notes. The Spaniard finished sixth on the day and eighth overall in the rally. Behind him lies José Ignacio Cornejo who also turned out a fine showing. The Chilean, seventh today, climbs one place on the overall leader board and now holds tenth place. American team-mate Ricky Brabec, also managed the situation skilfully and, in spite of having to start the day from second position, was able to post eleventh final place which leaves the rider in fifth position overall some four minutes shy of the overall leader.

Aaron Maré, after injuring a hand in a heavy fall on stony ground yesterday, this morning underwent observations to discern the extent of the injury and it was decided by both the team and the rider alike, that due to injury it would be better not to not take the start-line.

Tomorrow sees the final leg of the Super Marathon on a looping 489-kilometre course in Neom, including 404 kilometres against the clock. Riders can look forward to varied terrain types and the highest altitude to be encountered during the rally.

This is…  Stage 3

Liaison > 84 km – Special > 404 km – Total > 489 km

The circuit from the future megacity of Neom is a real gem. Taking competitors to the border with Jordan, the rally offers a series of canyons and mountains to explore on a carpet of sand. During this special stage, the Dakar will reach its highest point, at an altitude of 1,400 metres.

Fine debut for Monster Energy Honda at the Dakar in Saudi Arabia

Ricky Brabec and Kevin Benavides were the fastest names among the Monster Energy Honda Team riders as the Dakar Rally made its maiden outing in the Middle East. The American rider, placing second, and the Argentinean, in fourth, shone in the opening 2020 Dakar stage.

Two of yesterday’s most photographed protagonists at the starting podium in Jeddah, which got the 2020 Dakar Rally underway, turned out to be Ricky Brabec and Kevin Benavides. Both featured in the battle for the win in the opening special, and although their starting positions on the day proved unfavourable for the win, the two riders did, however, eventually post excellent final positions.

Riders made a very early start this morning from Jeddah, riding the first 195-kilometre liaison section along the coast of the Red Sea, to dispute the opening 86-kilometre special amid canyons and dried-out river beds.  After a 19-kilometre neutralization section, competitors faced a 213-kilometre timed special. Before arriving at the first bivouac in Al Wajh, in this new chapter in Dakar Rally history, participants had to complete a further 237-kilometre link section. It was a tough trek, requiring some deft navigation due to the multiple parallel tracks on a course which took in hard, stony terrain as well as the first dunes. The sand, although not significantly high, made its appearance at kilometre 27.

Ricky Brabec began the Dakar 2020 at white-knuckle pace, intent on building on the fine work done in the previous edition. The American registered notable times in the earlier stages to eventually take the stage’s second fastest overall time.

Kevin Benavides was also setting an infernal pace, showing that he clearly intends to be among the frontrunners this year, posting fourth fastest time at the end of the special, but citing good sensations on such a tough opening to the rally.

Meanwhile, Joan Barreda, in stark contrast to last year’s rally, was taking things cautiously, knowing full well that today’s start order was not the most favourable to his strategy. The Spaniard will now await the most opportune moment to pounce after finishing the stage in seventh. It was also a noteworthy stage for Chilean rider José Ignacio Cornejo, who recorded fine partial times to post eleventh overall.

South African Aaron Maré got his maiden Dakar adventure underway with a fall early in the special. The Monster Energy Honda Team newcomer came off onto the rocks, taking a blow to the hand, but he will take the tomorrow start. Maré battled on to eventually finish the stage in thirty-fifth place.

Monster Energy Honda Team are all set and ready to tackle tomorrow’s Super Marathon stage, which will see the bikers chalk up some 890 kilometres over the two legs.  Top of the agenda will be taking care the mechanics and main elements of the bikes, given that mechanical assistance is totally forbidden.

This is … Stage 2

Liaison> 34 km – Special > 367 km – Total > 401 km

Mostly made up of tracks, this day’s challenge is technically accessible. But you start to get a feel for what makes Saudi navigation particularly difficult. It is time to learn to trust new landmarks, when multiple tracks lead to confusion. For bikes and quads, this is also the first part of the “Super Marathon” stage.

Monster Energy Honda Team all set for the 2020 Dakar

With the shakedown completed and the administrative and technical verification processes carried out, the Monster Energy Honda Team is now 100% set to get the 2020 Dakar Rally underway. The five factory riders, along with the entire team supporting them, are poised to tackle the world’s toughest rally on January 5.

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second city, will host the build-up to the start of the Dakar Rally 2020. After the recent arrival in the most extensive country in the Middle Eastern region, Monster Energy Honda Team, with their five official riders, have made it through a positive ‘shakedown’ with everything deemed to be in order. Today, Friday, saw all team members pass through, first, the administrative verifications and, subsequently, the technical ones, with the entire entourage of vehicles and personnel given the all-clear to race.

Argentine rider Kevin Benavides, runner-up in 2018 and fifth in the most recent edition, will face his fourth Dakar, aiming at improving on previous results while reasserting himself as a candidate for the overall victory. The number seven will adorn the bike’s fairings for the rider from Salta.

Also among the favourites will be American Ricky Brabec, number nine. The occasion marks a fifth participation in the world’s toughest rally for the Californian. Brabec has experienced the Dakar in its rawest form, after being forced to withdraw just two days from the end of the last edition while holding a very solid overall lead.

Another rider likely to be in hot contention for the victory will be Joan Barreda, and not without reason, as the Spaniard has so far racked up 23 Dakar stage wins. With the number twelve decorating his bike, the rider from Castellón will be making a tenth Dakar participation, moving into the “legendary rider”category. What better way to celebrate the feat than on the top step of the podium!

Young José Ignacio Cornejo finished both his Dakar participations for Monster Energy Honda Team amongst the top ten. The Chilean believes it’s time to make a move upwards and has high hopes that the Saudi terrain could be a perfect match for his riding style.

South African rider Aaron Maré, a residence in Dubai, is the latest addition to the team and will focus on the steep day-by-day learning curve that his first Dakar outing requires. The young rider is skilled in the dunes and should be the ideal pilote to round out the Monster Energy Honda Team.

The 2020 Dakar Rally starts on January 5 from the starting ramp set up in the Jeddah Corniche.