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 yesterday, 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.
José Ignacio Cornejo (STAGE: 2ND OVERALL: 12TH): “Today was a good day, but the stage was tough. At first we passed over tracks made on previous days, so we had to be careful in some parts, but in general it was a very fast stage. In the second part, there was more sand and dunes and I knew that there I would be able to push harder because the first riders have lost time looking for a waypoint in the middle of the dunes. I minimized errors and I was able to maintain a good pace, so I am very happy with today’s stage. I almost got the victory, but I think it’s better not to have to open the track tomorrow.”
Ricky Brabec (STAGE: 3RD OVERALL: 1ST): “I feel good. I need the day to go well. I knew I had messed up a bit yesterday. Tomorrow is going to be hard to maintain the gap. The day was more my style like where I live. It was fun and comfortable. We were all riding together and enjoying it. Tomorrow I didn’t want to have to open. So it’s good that people finished in front of me. We’ll see how tomorrow goes.”
Kevin Benavides (STAGE: 12TH OVERALL: 6TH): “Today was the most difficult stage of this Dakar in terms of navigation. I came out in second position and caught Quintanilla, and between the two of us we opened most of the stage. But at the end of the special, in the dunes, many pilots arrived from behind and between us and it was hard for us to find a waypoint, where we lost several minutes. In the final few kilometres there was fesh-fesh, dust and a lot of wind and it was quite dangerous. I have finished twelfth but it is fine for tomorrow to leave behind. We will see how the stage goes, with the cars and trucks ahead; If there is a lot of fesh-fesh, it will be difficult to overtake.”