WESTx1000 keeps bringing the coverage as the end of Dakar 2019 come into sight. As stage eight has already begun, we’ve received word that Ricky Brabec is out of the race with a broken engine on his factory HRC Honda. 

Begin Press Release: 


SS7: It’s All Downhill from Here

Only Three Days Left, But Can We Trust that It’ll Be Smooth Sailing?

dakar 2019

No matter what the outcome this Thursday, the finale of the 2019 Dakar Rally will make history. Whether we see four Americans seeded under 50th. Two US riders in the Top Ten. One standing on the podium with our National Anthem playing in the background. Or, some other combination of conclusions… It will be a proud moment. Because of those 12 individuals competing, all have fought valiantly.

Special Stage Seven offered yet another 800-ft mountain of sand. Only this time, the racers pointed their headlights downward, surfing the face of this tsunami-sized cliff. From a spectator’s point of view, the vehicles looked as if they were gliding – pushing apart the soft terrain like wake from a ship as they dove towards level plains at alarming speeds. A driver with lesser experience might begin to doubt themselves at the halfway point then, foolishly, hit the brakes, slowing the rear wheels and sliding sideways until the inside tires – now perpendicular to their original path – dig deep enough to catch and thrust the vessel into a tumbling descent. Terrifying. But exhilarating. Because the secret to overcoming the dunes, is gas. Just like the key to an epic fail… Also gas.

“Today was really, really tough. You know, it was 323K’s of what we’ve already ridden, so the track got really rough and ratted up. And the cars and the trucks obviously brought up all the rocks, so it was really dangerous…” (Pause) “I started enjoying halfway through when we got into the dunes. It was a little more fun, a little bit more technical on the navigational side of things. …All in all, you know, we stayed in one piece, kept the bike together, which is the main thing. And we’re still enjoying the rally. Still good to be in the mix of things. And looking forward to the last couple of days.” – 17th overall, Ross Branch #114, BAS Dakar Team, BWA

Understandably, Pablo Quintanilla’s (#6) performance was less than ideal for the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team rider. But as first out the gate, he faced both the typical disadvantage in that he had no tracks to follow. And the added dangers left behind from the previous days of rallying. Grassroots racer, Garrett Poucher (#71), has had a few of his misfortunes go viral. Many of us have seen the video(s) of Poucher forcing a stage finish on a rubber-less rim. Or more recently the picture of him going full ostrich, head buried in the sand, bike swinging overhead in a direction that could only lead to “more ouch.” Yet, each day Poucher has pushed himself to the end and continues to force himself up the ladder – today clinching 36th in the stage. Fellow Yankee Nathan Rafferty (#104) has also had his fair share of mishaps which he too has had to overcome, which the BAS Dakar Team racer described in full on Instagram:

“Spent the whole night stressing as the organizers said today’s 100KM dune section was even tougher [than in Special Stage Six]…Turns out the dunes today weren’t nearly as tough as yesterday…Thought I did have the worst…wreck of my life…[with] what I thought might be a broken wrist. In the end, I slipped a few places today but am happy to still be upright.”

Team Speed’s three cars trickled into the bivouac as late as 4a.m. after suffering a variety of mechanical issues during Special Stage Six. Not to mention heavy fog and low visibility – a common characteristic of these last couple of stages. But all of which they championed, eventually. With just a couple of hours to spare before hopping back into the cockpits by 7a.m. local time, to do it all over again. With fog rolling in toward the end of the day, the ASO cut the race course out from kilometer 227 to 255, giving many teams an opportunity to eat dinner before midnight… If at all. Circumstances throughout the event have put each man to the test, but USA-natives Robby Gordon (#316), Blade Hildebgrand (#367) and Cole Potts (#346) and their respective co-pilots Kellon Walch, Bill Conger and Max Eddy Jr. have all kept their chins up and are keen to make it to the finish.

Ricky Brabec (#15) may not have won the stage, but he’s back on top in the general standings. Adrien Van Beveren (#4) continues to hold his spot in line, keeping a close eye on the podium with less than 9 minutes away from snagging the spotlight from Ricky. While the other fast-guys are as little as four minutes from tasting victory. Countryman and comrade, Andrew Short (#29), has decided to step up from 10th to 9th in the general standings with a tactic which won the Tortoise his race. Could Short surprise the world, slowly but surely – casually making his way to the podium? Will Brabec hold onto the first seed over the remaining three specials and do what’s so far been the impossible for Americans: arriving to Lima a winner and leaving it a legend.

“I was just catching up with the group on the dunes when I saw them turning around in circles. I realized they were unable to find the WP, so I pulled away and validated the waypoint, but Matthias saw me, and the rest followed him. I could’ve hit the jackpot today, but unfortunately, they saw me. I still managed to put time into everyone except Ricky, so it was a good day. It wasn’t easy to hide that I’d validated the waypoint. We’re getting near the finish, so we have to stay focused. I’m doing my best every day and I really hope it’s going to pay off.” – Adrien Van Beveren #4, Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team, FRA

2019 could wind up a most historic year for American motorsports enthusiasts. With two of their own firmly seeded in the Top Ten, one of which is favorite to take the championship. Not only that, but the few US privateers in the Moto class have been exceeding expectations, all of whom are elevating to new heights – and positions – each stage, with only minor setbacks. What we can expect over the next few stages? As with every special so far, we can expect nothing… But blood, sweat, tears… and triumphs.

KEY POINTS:

Ø With Toby Price still firmly among the first five seeds, and Laia Sanz just outside the top 15, so far it seems Price might get a big wet smooch and get to keep his trailer-chic locks.

Ø The defending champion is sitting seventh overall at the end of stage 7, a shade below his level of last year, but he is also aware that everything can change in a heartbeat. “It was really hard. In the sand, if somebody takes the wrong line, everybody gets lost. I got a little bit confused with some notes and lost a little bit of time. The last days are always very difficult. Normally, in the mass starts, not that much changes, but what is ‘normal’ in the Dakar?” (Statement provided by the ASO.)

Ø “Chaleco” López will keep great memories of stage 7. The Chilean driver claimed his third S×S stage win by more than 22 minutes over Reinaldo Varela —good enough to come within striking distance of the Brazilian, who now leads the race after Gerard Farrés went through CP2 with a deficit of almost 2 hours! (Statement provided by the ASO.)

Ø Stéphane Peterhansel still holds a margin of about 3 minutes over Nani Roma at WP5. Things are tighter 10 minutes behind the Frenchman, with Carlos Sainz, Cyril Despres and Giniel De Villiers within seconds of one another. (Statement provided by the ASO.)

Ø Sébastien Loeb is still gaining time on the leader of the special. The Peugeot driver recovered after losing almost 40 minutes due to an electrical problem in the first few kilometres and is clearly the fastest man on the track. He now trails Peterhansel by 31’13” after clawing back eight minutes. (Statement provided by the ASO.)

Ø Rankings of Americans after SS7

MOTO

3rd Ricky Brabec #15 – 03h 58’ 11”; 1st in the General Classification

6th Andrew Short #29 – 04h 03’ 10”; 9th in the General Classification

36th Garrett Poucher #71 – 05h 00’ 41”; 45th in the General Classification

72nd Nathan Rafferty #104 – 06h 42’ 28”; 57th in the General Classification

DNF Skyler Howes #73

CAR

45th Blade Hildebrand, Bill Conger #367 – 08h 13’ 19”; 45th in the General Classification

 After SS6: 61st in Stage; 45th in the General Classification

48th Robby Gordon, Kellon Walch #316 – 08h 33’ 54”; 56th in the General Classification

 After SS6: 60th in Stage; 58th in the General Classification

DNF Cole Potts, Max Eddy Jr. #346

SIDE-BY-SIDE

3rd Casey Currie #343 – 04h 29’ 04”; 6th in the General Classification

Ø Top Ten Stage Finishers in Motorcycles

1st Sam Sunderland #14 – 03h 51’ 41”; 4th in the General Classification

2nd Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo #10 – 03h 53’ 32”; 12th in the General Classification

3rd Ricky Brabec #15 – 03h 58’ 11”; 1st in the General Classification

4th Adrien Van Beveren #4 – 04h 01’ 21”; 2nd in the General Classification

5th Luciano Benavides #77 – 04 03’ 00”; 11th in the General Classification

6th Andrew Short #29 – 04h 03’ 10”; 9th in the General Classification

7th Xavier de Soultrait #18 – 04h 04’ 53”; 10th in the General Classification

8th Toby Price #3 – 04h 06’ 00”; 3rd in the General Classification

9th Stefan Svitko #11 – 04h 08’ 02”; 8th in the General Classification

10th Matthias Walkner #1 – 04h 08’ 19”; 7th in the General Classification