The folks at West X1000 give us an in-depth look into the 41st rally standings as it’s panned out thus far for Dakar 2019.

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Special Stage 5 Dakar Rally Round-Up

And the Rest Day That Isn’t So Relaxing

The 41st Annual Dakar Rally is firmly underway, and yet there are still five more specials left for competitors to prove their worth… Or get buried in the fesh-fesh. But before returning to the action, bikes and quads left on an afternoon liaison to a mini-marathon bivouac in Camaná near the start of the next special.

“I don’t know if it’s a dream or if it’s reality. It’s pretty wild. I would like to have a big margin overall, but it’s only one minute right now. So, I’ve just got to manage that for the next few days and just make it to the motocross start on the ninth day. The Dakar is never easy, but I never thought that I actually could be in the overall physical lead. I have high expectations, and I’ve put a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of money into training in the last couple of months for this race. It’s clearly paying off, and I’m happy with the bike. My comfort on the bike and in myself is really good right now. I’m really happy with my result [during SS5] so that way, the day after the rest day, I’ll be in a good position to push.

I’m hoping and crossing my fingers that I can win the stage after the rest day and make up some time, just trying to make it to the motocross start with a good lead. It would be making history on two counts: 1, being the only American to win the Dakar. And 2, breaking KTM’s winning streak for so many years. There’s a lot of weight on my shoulders there, but I’m not going to let it get to me. I just want to go and have fun, enjoy the moment and hopefully, we can make it happen over the next five days.” – Ricky Brabec #15, Monster Energy Honda Team, USA (Statement obtain by the ASO)

Day Five was full of twists and turns, and we’re not talking about the racecourse. For those following the footage via the live tracking feature on Dakar’s web pages, the (first set of) bike results were a surprise. Then, boom! there was an update – with no clear explanation. And finally, hours later, the finals tallies were in and the current standings were clarified. The initial motorcycles to physically cross the finish line, and fill in positions One through Ten, started with Xavier de Soultrait (#18), followed by Matthias Walkner (#1), Lorenzo Santolino (#63), Adrien Van Beveren (#4) and American Andrew Short (#29) at his heels. But in a turn of events, Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider, Sam Sunderland (#14), was granted minutes off his time for assisting Paulo Gonçalves (#2) after his race-ending crash which elevated the Brit to a stage win and slightly shuffled the bunch below him. Although this isn’t where it ended. Furthermore, a penalty for Walkner reordered the group one last time. (See “KEY NOTES” for updated standings.)

Special Stage Six has been so notorious this week some competitors were overheard offering each other intel on the coming challenges: the terrain, the technical road book, and also whom might be the most competent teams to follow in a bind. In a video interview recorded after Part Two of the Marathon Stage, Skyler Howes (#73) even mentioned one clever tactic – typical among the elite, we presume – where riders might stop short of the finish to let others pass, sacrificing their day’s standings, so as not to be first couple of riders off the line on Sunday. A strategy Howes admits might have helped him break the Top Ten on Friday. (Hey, it still counts!)

“…Unfortunately, Rest Day’s getting cut a little short. We’re heading to Camaná tonight – we have a 177-kilometer ride. And then after that, we’ll sleep on some little foam mat – whatever they give us to sleep on, get up early in the morning, and we have another 260-kilometer liaison to the start of the special. Looking forward to Stage Six. And hoping to keep it on two wheels and continue to progress in the overall standings.” – Garrett Poucher #71, Garrett Off-Road Racing team, USA

“Rest” is not the word many might use to describe the scheduled break from racing at the Dakar. When it comes to the media, bandwidth becomes as priceless as gold as members of the press, photographers and social media reps flood the internet with uploads, downloads, postings and updates. Add in the organizers, plus everyone else on campus trying to use gigabits, and networks start to move frustratingly slow. With every participant of the event back in the bivouac at one time, the digital highway there is akin to a traffic jam on SoCal’s I-405 during rush hour on a Friday. (You get it.)

For the mechanics, it’s a time for meticulous scrutinization of the machines – checking every bolt, changing fluids, fixing any problems the vehicles had endured during the difficult marathon stages, Part 1 and Part 2, in previous days. Teams attend to the chase vehicles, repack for the 11-hour transfer, clean up their camp to welcome current and potential sponsors and make sure their riders or drivers are rested, fed and ready for their next move. Most of the competitors enjoy a full night’s sleep – the only they’ll receive before the rally’s conclusion in Lima. But there’s no “rest” for the wicked. And as soon as eyelids started to peel open this morning, racers needed to work on their road books and prepare for an afternoon liaison for the night’s mini-marathon bivouac. With hopes to relax as much as possible for a reportedly technical, maybe quite arduous Special Stage Six.

Every day the stages seem to escalate in difficulty. Predictably, many competitors fall out of the race, for whatever the reason, but it’s those whom can endure which draw us in tightly. What seems to captivate us most. It’s that challenger’s ability to – over and over again – fall off the “horse,” dust themselves off, climb back on and continue riding into the sunset… At full speed.

KEY POINTS:

Ø Unfortunately, we didn’t see a couple of the rally’s more inspirational figures yesterday since withdrawing at Special Stage Four: female Malle Moto hopeful, Sara Garcia (#98) from Spain and Italian paraplegic rider, Nicola Dutto (#143).

Ø 100 kilometers from the finish, Rookie Skyler Howes (#73) suffered a road book malfunction which essentially forced him to ride for 50KMs blind – only following the tracks in the ground. When he reached the dunes, he stopped to wait for a friendly face, Sam Sunderland (#14) in this case, to help guide him to the finish and avoid unforeseen dangers.

Ø After speaking with Team Speed co-pilot Max Eddy Jr. (#346), some clarification was offered. Gordon (#316) and Potts (#346) will continue the race on Sunday alongside third driver Blade Hildebrand (#367) despite experiencing some major incidents. Gordon, as well as Potts, seemed to have withdrawn from the race in SS4 but the ASO made a statement Friday morning announcing Gordon would in-fact race Part Two of the Marathon stage. Cole Potts and navigator Max Eddy Jr. will start again with the cars during SS6, however, it’s confirmed they are no longer in contention.

Ø A statement from the ASO: “It is still not the year for Paulo Gonçalves, who started the Dakar enthusiastically, after having doubted he would take part following an operation on his spleen several weeks before the rally. The Portuguese rider was sixth in the general standings this morning, but once again crashed severely after KM 155. With a head injury and a suspected broken right hand, he was forced to drop out of the race for the 5th time out of 12 participations in his career on the Dakar. After the premature exit of Joan Barreda, this mishap is not good news for Honda, even if they are leading the race at the half way point thanks to Ricky Brabec.”

Ø Rankings of Americans after SS5

MOTO
6th Andrew Short #29 – 04h 16’ 24”; 10th in the General Classification
12th Ricky Brabec #15 – 04h 18’ 34”; 1st in the General Classification
10th Skyler Howes #73 – 04h 17’ 48”; 18th in the General Classification
35th Garrett Poucher #71 – 05h 03’ 03”; 48th in the General Classification
60th Nathan Rafferty #104 – 06h 16’ 41”; 58th in the General Classification

CAR
44th Blade Hildebrand, Bill Conger #367 – 09h 16’ 06”; 43rd in the General Classification
63rd Robby Gordon, Kellon Walch #316 – 34h 00’ 00”; 62nd in the General Classification
DNF Cole Potts, Max Eddy #346

SIDE-BY-SIDE
5th Casey Currie #343 – 07h 15’ 10”; 6th in the General Classification

Ø Standings for Women after SS5

MOTO
20th Laia Sanz #17 – 04h 27’ 09”; 19th in the General Classification
57th Mirjam Pol #55 – 06h 13’ 07”; 64th in the General Classification
72nd Anastasiya Nifontova #56 – 07h 14’ 29”; 87th in the General Classification
97th Gabriala Novotna #57 – 12h 40’ 24”; 97th in the General Classification
DNF Sara Garcia #98

CAR
49th Camelia Liparoti, Rosa Romero Font #371 – 08h 59’ 00”; 52nd in the General Classification
55th Andrea Patricia Lafarja Bittar, Eugenio Arrieta #426 – 10h 27’ 00”; 56th in the General Classification
57th Cristina Gutierrez Herrero, Pablo Monero Huete #351 – 12h 02’ 19”, 38th in the General Classification
58th Fernanda Kanno, Alonso Carrillo #411 – 12h 43’ 39”; 59th in the General Classification

SIDE-BY-SIDE
20th Annett Fischer, Andrea Peterhansel #385 – 27h 29’ 34”; 16th in the General Classification
19th Olga Rouckova, Daniel Zelenka #435 – 27h 29’ 34”; 23rd in the General Classification

Ø Top Ten Stage Finishers in Motorcycles

1st Sam Sunderland #14 – 04h 11’ 48”; 2nd in the General Classification
2nd Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo #10 – 04h 14’ 13”; 14th in the General Classification
3rd Xavier de Soultrait #18 – 04h 15’ 11”; 8th in the General Classification
4th Lorenzo Santolino #63 – 04h 15’ 48”; 11th in the General Classification
5th Adrien Van Beveren #4 – 04h 16’ 14”; 5th in the General Classification
6th Andrew Short #29 – 04h 16’ 24”; 10th in the General Classification
7th Luciano Benavides #77 – 04 16’ 24”; 13th in the General Classification
8th Stefan Svitko #11 – 04h 16’ 53”; 9th in the General Classification
9th Toby Price #3 – 04h 17’ 33”; 4th in the General Classification
10th Skyler Howes #73 – 04h 17’ 48”; 18th in the General Classification