Monster Energy Honda Team returns to the top of the leader board of the world’s toughest rally. American Ricky Brabec battled back to overall leadership as the Dakar Rally arrived at its seventh stage, one day ahead of the Super-Ica which should prove to be the longest and most gruelling stage of the current edition.
The two Honda CR450 RALLYs of Nacho Cornejo and Ricky Brabec made it onto today’s virtual podium on day seven of the 2019 Dakar Rally. The Chilean narrowly missed out on the stage victory, while rampant Californian Brabec rode a storming ride back to the top. Kevin Benavides, second on Sunday, went in search of a good starting position from which to attack tomorrow.
It was an arduous, tough day out in San Juan de Marcona. Competitors faced a torturous battlefield, as today’s stage played out over the terrain already used in an earlier stage. The consequent passage of cars, SSV and trucks had left huge ruts and churned up sand. The stage featured 323 kilometres of special on a looping stage with departure and arrival in San Juan de Marcona.
The best rider of the Monster Energy Honda Team bunch turned out to be Nacho Cornejo, who came within a whisker of clinching his first Dakar stage win. The Chilean set a cracking pace in the first part and had no difficulty in finding one of the more critical waypoints in the special whilst others doubted and which eventual led to the day’s second quickest time. Nacho lies twelfth in the overall standings, just over an hour behind the leader.
Third today was Ricky Brabec, although the American was more than happy to retake the overall lead. Brabec was comfortable over the terrain that included dunes and was fast enough to mark the third best time of the day some 6’30” off the stage winner. Ricky now holds a 7’47” advantage over the nearest second place rival Frenchman Van Beveren.
Kevin Benavides started the day behind Quintanilla and, after catching him up on the track, continued until he experienced some trouble finding an awkwar waypoint. The Argentine rider arrived amid the main group posting twelfth best time. The Argentine is sixth in the provisional rankings. The main concern for the Argentine rider had been the state of the terrain which had been destroyed with some stretches having been used three times. Expect more of the same tomorrow as ten cars and five trucks will have already started out by the time the bikers start the “Super-Ica”.
The longest special of this rally will have a total of 361 kilometres against the clock out of a total of 576 km before reaching Pisco.
A more-complicated-than-expected third stage of the 2019 Dakar served up a mixed-bag result for Monster Energy Honda Team: Kevin Benavides gave himself a birthday present by climbing the leader board to second overall spot on the same day that team-mate Joan Barreda was forced to abandon the race.
It was double congratulations for Kevin Benavides who was wished happy returns as he headed out from the San Juan de Marcona bivouac on his birthday this morning and again after an excellent stage performance by Argentinean rider when he arrived back. Monster Energy Honda Team’s Benavides had been in the running for the stage victory, but had to settle for third place on the day, 2’37 behind the stage winner. Benavides thus moves up the general rankings to find himself rubbing shoulders with rally’s top guns.
The agenda of the day saw riders set out from the bivouac at San Juan de Marcona to start the first special of the day five kilometres later. The timed section concluded some 264 kilometres later followed by a short two-kilometre liaison section which brought the riders to a second 65-kilometre special. Before arriving back at the camp in Arequipa, it was back in the saddle for a 461-kilometre jaunt to take the mileage to a whopping 800 kilometres.
It proved to be a tough physical test for Paulo Gonçalves who held a swift pace to place a fine sixth on the day. Brabec suffered the setback of being forced to open the track which led to a twelfth place finish.
In stark contrast to Benavides’ excellent stage, Joan Barreda had to make a premature exit from the 2019 Dakar. The Spaniard came across a low visibility foggy and rocky area whilst opening the track, lost control of the bike which went into a slide down a ravine which it proved impossible to escape from. Barreda’s Dakar had ended at kilometre 143. The rider from Castellón’s final score-sheet reads: one stage victory on the opening day, taking the Dakar stage victory tally to 23 and two days at the head of the overall rankings.
Today brings the first leg of the marathon stage. Competitors can look forward to 352 kilometres of special out of a total route of 511 km before the entourage makes it back to the camp in Moquegua, where riders will be left without the possibility of outside mechanical assistance unless it be from fellow team-mates. For assistance riders will have to wait until the bivouac in Arequipa.
Ricky Brabec and Joan Barreda both posted final positions that would see them on the rostrum as day two of the 2019 Dakar Rally concluded with the pair in second and third places. In the overall standings, Monster Energy Honda Team’s Spanish component holds the lead.
Things are looking up for the Monster Energy Honda Team on a day which saw Ricky Brabec and Joan Barreda in the fray for the stage victory. It didn’t turn out that way in the end, but the duo are well-placed in the top three and maintain their hard-fought positions from yesterday.
The stage proved to be a fast one with 90% of the special off-piste and just 20% in the dunes. The mótards started out behind the cars and side-by-sides, but the potential problems that the top riders had expected failed to materialize. All the bikes made it safely back to the bivouac at San Juan de Marcona after a long link section, on a day that had included 342 kilometres of timed special out of a total of 554 km.
Ricky Brabec very nearly stole the stage victory, but the American had to settle for second place, coming home just 22 seconds adrift of the eventual stage winner. Joan Barreda, who opened the special alone, posted third, 1’41” seconds behind Walkner.
All the Monster Energy Honda Team riders keep their positions in the general rankings, such as Kevin Benavides, eighth on the stage who holds the same slot overall. ‘Nacho’ Cornejo finished tenth and lies ninth in the table while Paulo Gonçalves repeated his eleventh position.
Tomorrow, the third stage of the Dakar will take all the participants to Arequipa where they will contest the longest stage in the opening half of the rally. The day will be made up of 331 kilometres of timed special out of 799 total kilometres which will take the competitors from San Juan de Marcona to Arequipa. Riders are scheduled to arrive at the bivouac around 16:00 hrs local time.