2020 Andalucia Rally
Day 1 – Prologue
After many months of enforced inactivity, competitors finally got the chance to turn a wheel in anger over a nine-kilometre super special to decide the start order for tomorrow’s first stage, with Australia’s Toby Price and Daniel Sanders taking Red Bull KTM Factory Racing to a strong start for Stage 1.
As informed observers of the super special won’t have failed to notice, not only are all the factory teams – Monster Energy Honda, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing, GasGas Factory Racing, Sherco TVS Rally, Hero Motorsports Rally, Monster Yamaha Rally – present, many of them have been busy recruiting new talent.
Run right next to the rally’s hacienda bivouac, the prologue super special victory went to Toby Price (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), with rookie teammate Daniel Sanders (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), while Yamaha’s new recruit Ross Branch (Monster Energy Yamaha Rally) was third.
Matthias Walkner was fourth, marking another KTM Rally Factory Team rider in the top five, with Andrew Short fifth and Luciano Benavides sixth, as top Husqvarna Factory Racing rider. Jamie McCanney, Franco Caimi and Adrien Van Beveren were seventh, eighth and ninth respectively, with Sebastian Buehler the final rider in the top 10 for Hero Motorsports Team Rally.
Australian Daniel ‘Chucky’ Sanders, astonished the off-road world by heading over to Europe last year and winning the ISDE aboard a 500 and since then has been on a number of team manager’s shopping lists.
“I’ve been training with the team for the last three weeks and already its been a massive learning curve. The terrain around here looks awesome and I’m really excited to race my first rally. Obviously I’ve got a lot to learn but if I can pick things up as quickly as Toby (Price) I’ll be well happy. I’m really stoked to have finished equal first with him on the super special. Just hope I don’t have to open tomorrow!”
Adding, “What a cool way to start Rally #2 prologue. Finished on the same second as fellow mulleteer Toby Price – The lowest number gets to start first, a 3 min gap behind him for the start tomorrow. I am planning to try and not get lost and to focus on my navigation skill. At the end of the day I’m here just to learn and to finish to qualify for Dakar.”
The bike team with the biggest change of personnel is undoubtedly the Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team with the winner of the last Rallye du Maroc, Andrew Short moving over to the French based team. He has been joined by another recent promising arrival on the rally scene, Ross Branch. If factory contracts are nothing new to ‘Shorty’ they are an unexpected pleasure for his Botswanan teammate.
“I’m really excited to be on the race and super happy to be with the team. It is a dream come true for me. On Dakar 2020 I was thinking it was probably my last rally. It was getting really complicated for me as a privateer to keep raising the money, but now that stress has been taken off me and I can just concentrate on the racing. Finishing third on the super special is a good way of starting my ‘professional’ career.”
It isn’t just the factory teams who’ve been busy recruiting, with top privateer outfit HT Rally also upping their game by bringing aboard none other than experienced rally rider Xavier de Soultrait and three times enduro world champion David Knight.
For the Monster Energy Honda Team, Ricky Brabec set off from first place, without references ahead, to tackle the opening kilometres of the Andalucia Rally prologue, eventually going on to post eleventh place, just twelve seconds adrift of the day’s fastest time. Very narrow gaps separated the frontrunners with several riders finishing within the same second. Joan Barreda finished just one second behind his American team-mate.
Argentine Kevin Benavides rode at a pace similar to his Monster Energy Honda Team squad-mates and took fourteenth position, one second off Barreda. José Ignacio Cornejo conceded some 35 seconds to the leader of the general standings, finishing in 21st position.
2020 Andalucia Rally – Super Special Stage Results
|1||PRICE, Toby||AUS||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||6’29|
|2||SANDERS, Daniel||AUS||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||+0’0|
|3||EVAN BRANCH, Ross||BWA||Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team||+0’03|
|4||WALKNER, Matthias||AUT||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||+0’04|
|5||SHORT, Andrew||USA||Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team||+0’06|
|6||BENAVIDES, Luciano||ARG||Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing||+0’06|
|7||MCCANNEY, Jamie||GBR||Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team||+0’06|
|8||CAIMI, Franco||ARG||Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team||+0’09|
|9||VAN BEVEREN, Adrien||FRA||Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team||+0’10|
|10||BUEHLER, Sebastian||POR||Hero Motorsports Team Rally||+0’11|
|11||BRABEC, Ricky||USA||Monster Energy Honda Team||+0’12|
|12||BARREDA, Joan||SPA||Monster Energy Honda Team||+0’13|
|13||SANTOLINO, Lorenzo||SPA||Sherco TVS Rally Factory||+0’13|
|14||BENAVIDES, Kevin||ARG||Monster Energy Honda Team||+0’14|
|15||DE SOULTRAIT, Xavier||FRA||HT Husqvarna Rally Team||+0’14|
Air bag testing underway at 2020 Andalucia Rally
Away from the musical chairs, the big talking point in the bike class is the introduction of air bags. Adapted from those used in MotoGP, they won’t actually be compulsory on this event but will be on the next Dakar. To let the competitors try them out, no less than five different models are available for competitors to test. Ever since airbags first appeared in road racing, engineers have been looking at ways of adapting them to rally-raid, but the particularities of off-road riding hasn’t made the process straight forward. The man in charge of bring it all together is ASO’s vastly experienced technical expert Thierry Viadot:
“Here in Andalusia all the competitors have the possibility to test airbags that have been approved by the FIM for the next Dakar. These have been adapted for off-road use by incorporating passive security to protect the rider’s chest and back, which will inevitably increase body temperature. That however isn’t the principle hurdle to overcome. For me the major problem is defining the parameters for when the airbag deploys, as a function of the degree of shock and speed. The only way to accumulate the necessary data is to start using them now and in a few months the algorithms will have made considerable progress. Until that data has been collected and processed it is possible that airbags may deploy when not desired. But we just have to accept that if we want to progress.”
Next Up: Stage 1
The bikes go directly into the Stage 1 with David Castera explaining, “We will show the competitors pretty much all the types of terrain they will encounter on this rally. There will be some technical going at the start, a bit of sand over 30-40 kms, some more open tracks, alternating with more narrowing piste. Then in the last property crossed, on the final 40 kilometres, it’ll be more technical again, with some vegetation.”
Wednesday, sees the first full stage of the Andalucia Rally which will feature a total of 240 kilometres of timed special (two specials made up of 130 and 110 kilometres respectively) and a liaison of about 70 kilometres connecting the start and finish in Villamartín.