DAKAR 2018 REPORT #2

After six days it's still anyone's game in the 2018 Dakar with the top-six seperated by just ten minutes

Friday 12th January 2018

WHO LEADS?

Kevin Benavides (Monster Energy Honda) leads, but not by much. The sand dunes in Peru certainly leveled the playing field, only can we say that? These were giant dunes at 2000m altitude. Anyway, after the first six stages the top six are separated by just 10-minutes. That’s close!

Day 4 San Juan de Marcona – San Juan de Marcona

What a day! A 330km special in the sand dunes with a mass start down a 17km long beach. And a day dominated by the blue of the Yamalube Yamaha Rally Team. Xavier de Soltrait got the 17km holeshot and then lead the first 200km, before teammate Adrien Van Beveren took over. The pair ran away from the pack at such a speed that Van Beveren jumped from 7th to 1st overall. The day’s bad news was the retirement of Sam Sunderland (Red Bull KTM) after he injured his back (thankfully not too seriously) when landing heavy from a jump.

Day 5 San Juan de Marcona – Aquipa

The last day in the incredible sand dunes of the Ica region and Joan Barreda (Monster Energy Honda) attacked, in the 266km special he pulled 10 minutes out of his nearest rival to jump nine places in the standings (up to 4th). Van Beveren finished 5th to hold onto the overall lead by just a minute from Benavides. Pablo Quintanilla (Rockstar Husqvarna) – second overall at the start of the day – rode well but was delayed by a breakdown just a handful of kilometres from the end, finally placing 16th and nearly half an hour behind Barreda, dropping to 9th overall. 

Day 6 Aquipa – La Paz

Crossing into Bolivia – at altitude, the route reached 4700m (14,000ft) – the Dakar totally changed its look as the sand dunes made way for rough tough fast mountain tracks. Oh, and rain and bike-swallowing puddles (so much in fact the stage was shortened), some of the riders might well have wished for a return to the sand dunes. Not Antoine Meo (Red Bull KTM) though, he took his turn for a win, edging both Benavides and Toby Price (Red Bull KTM) by 30 seconds. Barreda and Van Beveren were left 3:30 minutes in Meo’s wake. Benavides efforts rewarded him with his first ever lead in a Dakar Rally, by 1:57 over Van Beveren.

SO, WHAT’S THE STORY?

Six down and eight to go. First to 8th place are separated by just 16 minutes, which is insanely close – by comparison over in the cars Stephane Peterhansel has a clear 27 minutes over second placed Carlos Sainz, and the gap to 8th is a yawning 2hrs29 minutes…

It’s been an amazing time in the monstrous yet soft sand dunes of Peru, it’s been tough yet the attrition rate hasn’t been so high, the only notable casualty in the Elites has sadly been Sam Sunderland. So far 29 solos have withdrawn from the 139 starters.

For the manufacturers it’s still all-square. KTM have three works riders inside the top eight, Honda have two and Yamaha (showing a marked step-up in form) have two. No one rider is dominating, the wins so far: Sunderland 2, Barreda 2, Van Beveren 1, Meo 1.  

Full marks to Barreda for pulling himself back into the running after suffering a 30-minute loss when he got lost on day three. Watch out for Toby Price, he’s playing a canny game this year. And hold onto your seats when it comes to Antoine Meo and Xavier de Soultrait, these two are on a mission!

WHAT’S NEXT?

After a day’s rest and acclimatising in La Paz, the riders will enter into the back-to-back marathon stages (7 & 8). These are long mountainous stages too, 727km on Day 7 and 582km on Day 8 – and the shorter second day won’t be easy with altitude of 4800m plus a return to some sand dunes – at 3500m. Question is: with there being no team service overnight in Uyuni, will the riders risk an attack or ride safe?

 

OTHER NEWS…

The Dakar organisers have at last started listing the withdrawals on their website (hooray!), but they haven’t yet sorted listing the standings in the Malle Moto class (boo!). We understand this class is being led by Frenchman Olivier Pain (Team Top – 41st overall) by around 48 minutes from Brit Lyndon Poskitt (Races to Places – 46th overall). Check out this video for an insight into the Malle Moto (no-assistance) class.

And check out how just much these guys race this ultimate endurance event. This quote from Xavier De Soltrait after his charge on Stage 4: “It was full, full, full attack! I think we finished first and second with my teammate. I started in the first wave on the beach and went out full throttle. I was in front during the first two hundred kilometres, but then Adrien caught up with me and we continued together through the dunes. When we ride together like that, I think that the riders following us need to do their utmost to hang on, because we couldn’t go any faster.”

2018 DAKAR RALLY

Top-10 overall after six stages

 

1 Kevin BENAVIDES ARG Monster Energy Honda Team  16:33.20

2 Adrien VAN BEVEREN FRA Yamalube Yamaha Rally Team  +1.57

3 Matthias WALKNER AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team  +3.50

4 Joan BARREDA BORT ESP Monster Energy Honda Team  +9.33

5 Toby PRICE AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team  +9.39

6 Antoine MEO FRA Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team  +10.42

7 Xavier DE SOLTRAIT FRA Yamalube Yamaha Rally Team  +11.24

8 Pablo QUINTANILLA CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team  +16.42

9 Gerard FARRES GUELL ESP Himoinsa Racing Team  +29.11

10 Stefan SVITKO SLO Slovnaft Rally Team +30.34

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