Half way update
Dakar riders have taken stock of their progress so far during the first half of Dakar 2019, tried to regenerate their bodies and rejuvenate their machines, during their well-earned Saturday rest day at the Arequipa bivouac.
In reality though it was far from a rest day, as riders did not have much time to relax, instead they had to study their road-books and plan for the remainder of Dakar 2019. Then at 1700 in the evening they had to then set out for the new bivouac in Camaná, some 175 kilometres from Arequipa, from where they will begin the final assault with the Dakar heading into the home straight for the conclusive week. Competitors were barely able to savour more than a few hours relaxation on Saturday.
So far it has been a series of ups and downs for the Honda camp at Dakar 2019.
Paulo Gonçalves was forced to retire from the race with a head injury and a suspected broken right hand. Stage one winner Joan Barreda had also made a premature exit. Thus before the midway point of Dakar two of Honda’s main strike force are out of the running. At the opposite end of the ledger though, Honda currently leak Dakar 2019 thanks to the efforts of 27-year-old American Ricky Brabec.
Raul Castells – Monster Energy Honda Team Manager
“We have five days left where everything can happen, it is a cliché but it is true. Even if we are ahead, everything can happen. We will take it day by day. We will look to finish each day as far forward as possible to have a chance of victory. We are focused on not making mistakes and in which all the riders can return to the bivouac each stage. Nacho is riding a very good race, he lost a little time but he is still doing a very good bit of team work. Kevin took the first part a little more calmly to figure out which way the race was going, which I think is a very successful strategy. On the other hand, Ricky has pushed from the first day and now is leading the overall standings. The two are doing very well and have options.”
Ricky Brabec – P1
“Rest day is always good. It’s good to recharge the batteries. I’m leading the Dakar. I’m one of the only American riders to ever have led the Dakar except for maybe Robby Gordon. It feels pretty good. It’s going to be a big fight between me and Kevin as the week goes on. The two Monster Energy Honda Team riders want to win. I think it will be a battle between us until the end.”
Sam Sunderland’s stage win on Friday elevated him to second overall, just less than one minute from the lead. Feeling fit and confident, the 2017 Dakar winner is ready to push during the second half of the rally.
Sam Sunderland – P2
“So far, the race has been really, really hard. The navigation, the nature of the stages with the Fesh-Fesh, the rocks, mass-start days and all the little changes they have thrown into the mix – it’s all come together to make it a very different Dakar and seriously tough. The final five days are going to be the same or even trickier, strategy is difficult as you don’t know what the next stage is going to bring. All we can do is take each day as it comes and go from there. Coming into the race I expected many more kilometres in the dunes, but the organisers have certainly thrown everything else at us as well. I’m happy with my position, second overall going into the second week is of course great, but the nature of the race has made everything very close. I am still feeling good and the bike is great so if I can keep on doing what I’m doing, hopefully that will put me somewhere close next Thursday.”
Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla has so far been a force to be reckoned with during this year’s event. Following a well calculated plan, the Chilean rally star has arrived at the Rest Day holding on to a solid third position in the event’s provisional overall standings. Enjoying a well-deserved day of rest today at the Arequipa bivouac, Pablo is excited to keep battling during the second week of the Dakar, which starts tomorrow.
Pablo Quintanilla – P3
“I am really happy with my performance during the first week of this Dakar. I’ve had some good results in some stages. For me it was also important to reach the Rest Day inside the top five and have a good starting position for stage six. It looks like my strategy from Friday worked out quite well, now I have a great starting position for tomorrow. This gives me the opportunity to make up a lot of time in the overall and I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s stage. My bike is running great and I’m enjoying my riding here in Peru. I really like the landscape and the terrain here. A podium result would be good but, honestly, I’m focused on the overall victory. This is my main goal for this Dakar and I am motivated to keep fighting to make it happen.”
The 2019 Dakar Rally has been a tough one for Toby Price. Despite nursing a wrist that he broke only a few weeks before the Dakar, the determined Aussie has gritted his teeth and ridden through the pain to place fourth overall at the rally’s halfway point.
Toby Price – P4
“So far my favourite part of the rally has been today, the rest day! No seriously, it’s been a good rally so far. I’m still in the fight and in fourth, just three minutes off the lead – if you told me that a few weeks ago I would have been quite happy. It’s been tough, every day I’m riding in pain a little and I suppose the injury is always in the back of your mind no matter what. The simple fact is, you’ve always got to be in it to win it, you can’t quit, you can’t stop, you can never give up. It doesn’t really matter where I finish, top 10, top five or on the podium, I know I will have given it my all and ridden my hardest.”
Overcoming the added pressure of the first few days, Adrien Van Beveren is now looking to show his full potential on the second week of the Dakar. Enjoying a mistake-free race, Adrien is now fifth overall and less than seven minutes behind the provisional overall leader.
Adrien Van Beveren – P5
“Everything is working well for me at the moment. I’m very satisfied with my results from the first week and I’m looking forward to the second one. I’ve felt fatigued on the first few days, but that was mostly due to the pre-race stress. Once I got over that, I could start racing the way I know. This Dakar is different to any other in the past. The pace is really fast and in many stages we’re racing alongside each other for pretty much most of the day. These are quite stressful conditions but I’m managing the pressure quite well. Physically I’m strong at the moment. For the second week, I want to retain that same momentum so that I can be able to fight for the big goal that is to win the Dakar. We all know that the second week will be even harder, but I am confident in my abilities.”
30-year-old Argentinian Kevin Benavides has been enjoying a steady rally thus far and has managed to keep his nose clean enough to rank sixth on the leaderboard at this midway point of Dakar 2019.
Kevin Benavides – P6
“He finished the first week with a good balance and now we are preparing everything for the second. It will be five very hard days of navigation and off-piste. We will have to be vigilant and know where to attack. We will try to be as focused as possible to be able to do our best and achieve my goal, which is to win the Dakar. The seven riders in front of us are have times very close to each other, so we all have the option of winning.”
Enjoying a successful rally so far, Matthias Walkner currently lies in seventh overall with a stage win under his belt. A hard landing from a drop-off on stage four couldn’t even slow his pace. The defending champion is happy with his performance so far and keen to attack the second week of racing.
Matthias Walkner – P7
“The Dakar Rally is like no other and this year we have seen it’s different again. The average speed on the stages has been high and it has made strategy tricky to work out. Opening the piste has been tough as we have seen, but at the same time it’s important to keep an eye on your competitors to see what they are doing, too. The first week has been good, day three was beautiful. The weather was good and the route took us through some beautiful valleys and over the dunes. The stages in general have been good, dusty in places and very, very fast. Now on the second half of the rally we will go back and cover some of the areas we have ridden already. I think it will affect the pace again as you can’t always follow the tracks on the ground, you have to rely on your road book completely. If the rally finished now with me in seventh place, of course I would be unhappy with my position but I would be happy with how I have ridden – I have done my very best on every single day and that feels good.”
Delivering Yamaha its first stage victory at this year’s Dakar by winning stage three, Xavier de Soultrait is now eighth in the provisional overall. Physically and mentally strong, the rider from France is looking to take advantage of his acute navigational skills as the race enters it hardest part this coming week.
Xavier de Soultrait – P8
“So far I’ve won one stage and finished second in another one and I’m really happy about that. I might have lost some time on stage four, but this is part of the game. I feel I’m in a great place right now for the rest of the race. I’m doing quite well with my navigation and I think this is my strong point this year. During the second week, we’re all expecting navigation to be even trickier and I want to turn this into my advantage. The race is intense and there are stages where it’s hard to make passes. Fortunately, I’ve had zero issues so far. I’m strong physically and my bike is running great. If everything goes according to plan, I know I can fight for the overall victory and that’s where my eyes are set.”
In just his second participation in the world’s toughest rally, Andrew Short has battled with many of the motorcycle class’ top contenders. Securing a career best fifth place result on the second day of the marathon stage, the American racer is currently 10th in the provisional overall standings.
Andrew Short – P10
“The first part of this rally went quite well for me. I expected more sand dunes, but it turned out to be more tricky than that. There was a lot of fesh-fesh and some technical bits in the mountains. My body is in a great shape right now and I’ve recovered well from some crashes I had during the first week. I’m looking forward to the second part of this rally. Hopefully I can stay smooth and steady and keep my momentum to finish strong. Today I’m preparing for the upcoming days and it’s quite important to have a strategy for the stages to come. It’s also crucial to rest. My position at the moment is decent and hopefully I can improve on it during the second week of racing here in Peru.”
Laia Sanz has put in strong performances on the first five stages and is looking to better her position during the latter half of the race. Despite recovering from illness coming into the rally, Sanz has ridden extremely well to lie just inside the top 20 at the halfway marker.
Laia Sanz – P19
“The main thing I have learned this Dakar is that I can still surprise myself in what I can accomplish when I put my mind to it. I wasn’t 100 percent coming into the race and the first couple of days took me a while to feel comfortable and get into a good rhythm, the last three days have been great though. My pace has improved and I am much happier on the bike, despite the stages being so tough. My goal for next week is to continue as I have been and hopefully, I can improve my position a little. It’s going to be tough for me, the conditions this year don’t suit me so well as the stages are often about speed and not so much the navigation. I’ll try my best and as we know anything can happen at Dakar so if I can make it into the top 15, I’ll be happy.”
Sunday’s stage, which heads out from the bivouac in Camaná, will have a total of 839 kilometres before reaching the camp in San Juan de Marcona. On the way competitors face 317 kilometres against the clock.
Jordi Viladoms (KTM Rally Team Manager)
“We knew from the very beginning the 2019 Dakar Rally would be one of very high intensity. Obviously, that has been the case, all the riders are really close and many different things happen each day that can throw off our strategy. Opening the piste is a big disadvantage and can result in a lot of time lost, we need to be mindful of that and adjust things. The race is so unpredictable, following a plan like that simply isn’t possible so we have to take each day as it comes. We go into the second half of the rally with Sam near the front, some guys in the middle and some further back so we have the positions covered. In my opinion the next three stages are going to be extremely important, the final two are a lot shorter and will make it harder to make up time if we need to. We’ll have a good idea of where we are after day eight. Every single one of our riders is performing very well. Sam is fit and I think can push next week and really fight for the win, Matthias the same – he’s so strong on his navigation and he has found a great rhythm, Toby is hurting but is so strong physically and mentally, we just need to make sure he doesn’t risk too much. Luciano and Laia are riding very well and of course Mario has been brilliant. The marathon stage is always a very important part of the rally and Mario was great assisting with all the bikes and attending the briefings. He’s taken on the father’s role for the riders, so a big thank you to him. We are definitely in a good position to fight for the podium places and the win of the rally. The next few days will be crucial, but we will do what we do best and hopefully we’ll be successful.”
2019 Dakar Rally Outright Standings after Stage Five
- RABEC Ricky 15 USA Monster Energy Honda Team Honda 16:51’34
- SUNDERLAND Sam 14 GBR Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +00’59
- QUINTANILLA Pablo 6 CHI Rockstar Husqvarna Factory Racing Husqvarna +02’52
- PRICE Toby 3 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +03’21
- VAN BEVEREN Adrien 4 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +06’36
- BENAVIDES Kevin 47 ARG Monster Energy Honda Team Honda +09’01
- WALKNER Matthias 1 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +09’17
- DE SOULTRAIT Xavier 18 FRA Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team Yamaha +18’37
- SVITKO Stefan 11 SLO Slovnaft Team KTM +26’28
- SHORT Andrew 29 USA Rockstar Husqvarna Factory Racing Husqvarna +27’54