Kevin Benavides was the first to start the day’s special after completing the 450 km of link stage for the morning as riders recommenced the 2020 Dakar Rally following the cancellation of Stage 8 in respect for Paulo Goncalves. Argentinean Benavides set off three minutes ahead of Joan Barreda who was in turn followed 3 minutes later by Matthias Walkner.
Competitors would need to complete a 886-kilometre stage nine that led the field from Wadi Al Dawasir to Haradh. Initially faced with an arduous liaison, riders then entered the timed special that presented all with a challenging route made up of rocky tracks and stony riverbeds.
Overall standings leader Ricky Brabec meanwhile started the ninth special of the rally in fifth position, behind Luciano Benavides, with Toby Price and Pablo Quintanilla setting off later and able to take advantage of the tracks left by the first riders to put in a strong performance. Toby Price was notable the fastest rider to reach the special, but it wasn’t too last…
A herd of particularly lively camels also made an appearance in a canyon 76 km into the special, with a helicopter quickly able to disperse them, ensuring they didn’t interfere with competitors.
Ricky Brabec took an early lead in the special, pulling ahead of Joan Barreda and Toby Price, with Barreda slowed by a minor fall.
Kevin Benavides was the first rider of the day to reach the 34 kilometre long neutralised section of the stage, heading pace with Barreda and Walkner, who set off after him.
Australian Ben Young, sitting 63rd in the general standings heading into Stage 9, had had a relatively trouble-free Dakar until today, suffering a fall on the first part of the special. He raced half of the 2019 Dakar Rally with a broken hand on his first appearance in the event last year following a fall on the fifth stage.
With as little as 30-seconds splitting the top riders at times for the day, it was Pablo Quintanilla who claimed top honours, ahead of Toby Price, with both putting pressure on overall standings leader Ricky Brabec, who trailed the leader by less than four minutes and was in fourth position.
“It was a strange feeling this morning after what happened to Paulo, but I think it was good to get riding again. There was a long liaison this morning and it was very cold, but I felt better when we hit the special and I was able to push right away. In the end, I won the stage, which was a fitting way to honour Paulo. But now, with stage eight cancelled, my strategy is more complicated. My goal from here is to push and try to make up as much time over the final three days as possible.”
“It’s been a long day today and with it being so fast, it’s was really difficult to make up any time on the others as we’re all so close on these full-gas stages. Obviously, it’s been a really tough day mentally but we’re still cruising along in the race and the main goal as always is to make it safely to the finish line. We entered the Empty Quarter a little today but to be honest we only had 30 kilometres or so of dunes. I’m hoping these next few days will feature more. There’s definitely a lot of kilometres left to go so we’ll just try and keep it on two wheels.”
Joan Barreda meanwhile was third fastest for the day, while Ross Branch completed the top five.
“A good sporting day. I started out second and already by the refuelling I was opening track and overtook Kevin. Then the dunes arrived and there was a confusing area of navigation. Finally we were able to maintain good pace and make it to the finish line well. I’ve been opening track and moving forward for several days and it’s not easy. There are two stages with sand, then a shorter one, so it won’t be easy to reduce the time. We will try to take it day by day and cut the time down as much as possible.”
Kevin Benavides and Luciano Benavides were sixth and seventh, with Jose Cornejo eighth, while Andrew Short and Matthias Walkner completed the top-10 for the day.
Aussie Rodney Faggotter remained strong and consistent, with 18th place just shy of 15-minutes off leading pace.
“Today I did 880+ kms! Solid day. Bike is down on top speed of the factory bikes but I’m happy with everything else, riding hard in the rough stuff to stay fast. Last few stages have been pretty boring track/racing wise and super fast but the scenery is magic! Like moonscape in places.”
The provisional standings following stage nine still see Ricky Brabec in the lead by almost 25-minutes, with Pablo Quintanilla second overall, and Jose Cornejo in third. Toby Price is fourth in the combined standings, ahead of Joan Barreda.
“We feel pretty good. We are here at a windy bivouac. We are another day closer to the American dream of winning the Dakar. There’s three days left and tomorrow is the marathon. We have a lot of racing to do. The main goal now is to focus and stay positive after the incident that happened a few days ago. Right now we are going to rest and make sure our bikes are 100%, get some food, pack our bags for the marathon and try to stay positive. There’s a 21-minute gap in the general. So tomorrow Quintanilla and Toby start in front of me so the plan is to maybe catch them or maybe keep them in my sights. That way they will start in front of me for the next few days. I’m not really sure what is going to happen so we are just going to stay focused and not lose the twenty-one minutes. The marathon stage is really cool and is very relaxing. You don’t have to see the team and it’s only the riders in the bivouac. You can really soak in the camp life, because by now it’s stage ten or eleven and it’s nearly time to go home. It’ll be nice.”
Rodney Faggotter retains his 13th place standing following the days efforts.
Provisional Stage 9 Results – Dakar Rally 2020