Categories: Motorcycle News
January 11, 2021
| On 2 months ago

Dakar Rally Day 7: SS6: There’s No Rest for the Wicked

The 43rd edition of the Dakar Rally is underway in Saudi Arabia. We’ll be sharing daily updates from our friends at WESTx1000. Stay tuned. 

Begin Press Release: 


SS6: There’s No Rest for the Wicked

A climactic End to a Most Memorable First Week Offers Teams Zero Comfort

Saudi Arabia is both everything and nothing you expected. Yes, the stretches of desolate wastelands and awe-inspiring dunes hold true. The insane driving, prayers over public loudspeaker, Bedouin camps on the side of the highways and the fairer sex hidden in plain sight… They’re what you got right (sort of) in your assumptions. But what you might have underestimated was, for one, the kindness and enthusiasm of the locals. The plentiful amount and variety of fruits, veggies, snacks and western comforts. The subtle diversity of landscapes and camels – black, white and, yes, even camel-colored camels. As of today, the teams have traveled 4,571 kilometers – over half the total distance of the race. Due to the sheer difficulties encountered on Stage Five, the organization showed mercy and delayed the departure for the final stage of the first half of Dakar. Subsequently, they cut the total length of the route by 100 kilometers hoping to reduce difficulty to a simmer. But that’s not giving them a hall pass to skip the dunes. Nor will the navigators sit back while drivers rely on well-worn tracks. This stage is still demanding, and there are certain expectations for those who want to finish in good time. With SS6, the ASO requests one last, massive effort from the teams before a much-deserved rest and catch-up day in Ha’il. Although, anyone who knows the event intimately, knows there no rest for the wicked.

Bikes set off later than they have most of the competition. Starting at around 5 o’clock in the a.m., Spaniard Joan Barreda Bort (#88, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA) concluded Phase One of the rally strongly with another (record-breaking) win under his belt. Although, with so much yo-yoing going on amongst the premier riders, his worse times, balanced out his best times and so, despite winning four stages – more than any of his peers, Barreda is still sitting in 7th overall. But can he keep it up for another five stages? The return of racing after rest day is usually a turning point for the athletes and crew. Either it finally “clicks,” and they’ll ride harder, drive faster, navigate more efficiently and never give up – leading to a triumphant end. If luck will have it. Alternately, this is when many competitors tend to drop out of the race. The machines may fail them. Perhaps their discipline is weakened, and willpower shattered under the massive burdens carried out on the racecourse. During Stage One alone, there were three withdrawals in Bikes. A total of 28 vehicles have clocked out, for whatever reason, before round deux and you can guess there will be many more who join them. And this number doesn’t include those teams who are still in the race… But not really. For another edition, the Dakar Experience class covers the asses of many racers whose fortunes ran out before the finale and gives them the opportunity to continue with the challenge without the pressure of a score. Not that this is preferred, but when you’re dropping real estate money on entry fees and your engine blows up in the dunes… It can let a lot of people down: the sponsors, your wife, yourself. Many people only have the capacity to attempt a finish at Dakar once, ever. So, with a second chance, entrants can prove to themselves, their loved ones and the dollars who give their support.

2020 Champ Ricky Brabec (#1, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA) knows a little something about second chances – in his case a second wind. Placing well at the Prologue, the trials have not treated him too well since, only being present in the Top Five, Top Ten, a couple of times during Week One. But, if it hasn’t been grinded in enough, this is Dakar, and we still have six more specials. Finding himself 4th in the stage, Brabec’s pendulum might once again be swinging in a favorable direction.

The day was good, finally a day I felt comfortable on the bike and navigation. Finally, a day where I could start where I have been trying to start all week. Very happy with the day but it could have been a better result. Nonetheless, it was a good day and a good position for stage 7. We have time to make up, but we’re not completely out of [the running]. Still a lot going on and now the tires are going to be a problem. After today we’re hoping to keep the momentum for the next 6 stages” Ricky Brabec #1, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA

Aside from a 10-kilometer section of plains underneath a thick layer of Coke can sized rocks – with the occasional rogue stone cantaloupe to ruin your day – the entire journey was covered in sand. Sandy straights and sandy hills, sand mountains and sand washes, sand in cracks and between canyons, wet sand, dry sand, sandy sand. Sand. (There’s not a lot of sleep going on over here…) I digress. With another set of complex navigation, some pilots went around in circles. Bikes even joined forces to complete the puzzle. UTVs had their own sort of free-for-all, merely trying to survive the heavily rutted areas where a recent storm had soaked the sand. Wayne Matlock and Sam Hayes (#420, POLARIS RZR FACTORY RACING) made decent time; all things considered. Approaching this special, teams anticipated smooth, swift dry sandy parts, and they had some of that. For some, like Wayne and Sam, the rock bit came out of nowhere and brought their Polaris RZR to a crawl. No to risk a flat and clock an unpredictable amount of time… Low and behold, they saw Cristina Gutierrez Herrero and Francois Cazalet (#387, RED BULL OFF-ROAD TEAM USA) waving them down. Apparently, they ended up with a puncture and, of course, their lift broke so there was no way for them to lift the car for a tire change. Upon arrival, someone noticed #420 also had a flat which further held up the SSVs. And while the quartet dealt a few mishaps, rookie and fellow American Seth Quintero and co-pilot Dennis Zenz (#383, RED BULL OFF-ROAD TEAM USA) were having close to a flawless run.

“Today went really well. We started off really strong. I ended up catching the leaders before the fuel stop, and then unfortunately I noticed we had a slow leak at the fuel stop. After the fuel stop, we had to hop out and fix that, then I was trying to put a really hard charge into the finish. I ended up beating Al-Attiyah at the end, but I’m not sure by how much. There are only two cars at the finish and a lot more to come in, but as of right now we’re sitting in position one, so I couldn’t ask for a better day. Now we’re here at the rest day six days in, I’m super stoked with how everything has been going. We’ve been trying to just keep a steady pace the whole way and be there at the end and keep chipping away at the leaders. I think we’re doing just that. As a rookie, with that car I couldn’t ask for a better first week. We’re going to rest up and hope it will be even better next week. My best moment has been right now. I’m really happy with the way I drove today, really happy with how my navigator did. We absolutely killed it; he was spot on all day long. I think my worst moment was obviously stage one. We had two flats and had to ease it into the finish and that cost us a lot of time, but overall, it’s been an awesome week.” – Seth Quintero #383, RED BULL OFF-ROAD TEAM USA

Their efforts led to a history-making victory, with Seth at 18 years old being Dakar’s youngest ever Stage Winner. Fellow countryman Austin “AJ” Jones and navigator Gustavo Gugelmin (#408 MONSTER ENERGY CAN-AM) has been giving an impressive performance, with no more than one brief departure from the 1st, 2nd or 3rd (he’s taken each) in the SSV class since initially firing up his CAN-AM in Saudi Arabia at the Prologue. Similarly, the Quad category hasn’t seen much change in the General Classification. The front-runners established themselves early on and refused to let anyone new join their “Mile High” club atop the placement pyramid. Leading the charge has been a role shared by just about four men alone. Between Alexandre Giroud (#152, TEAM GIROUD), Giovanni Enrico (#159, ENRICO RACING TEAM), Nicolas Cavigliasso (#150, DRAG’ON RALLY TEAM) and Manuel Andujar (#154, 7240 TEAM) the Number One position has been full, leaving vacancy only long enough – once – for Argentine American Pablo Copetti (#163, MX DEVESA BY BERTA) to sneak in and sit on the throne for a night.

Trucks are in the same boat, or Camion, rather. With a few exceptions, the dominant athletes were determined immediately. The KAMAZ-MASTER team, as a whole, originally started peeling back the seal slowly, but after the second stage, busted open that can of whoop-ass they’ve been serving up. MAZ-SPORTAUTO had looked hopeful at times, but the Russian team practically invented garbage truck rallying – or you’d think, from the way they’ve staked their claim on the podium since arriving to the scene over a decade ago. Now Autos, matching their dynamic brethren on motorbikes have been dizzying with their dance in and out of the spotlight. If it’s not Peterhansel, it’s Sainz, if not Sainz, then Al-Attiyah, and don’t forget about Loeb, Lategan, Al Rajhi and wildcard Baragwanath. The top and second step seem fairly certain, but the battle for the final step is the one to watch. Due a serious crash, Henk Lategan and Brett Cummings (#332, TOYOTA GAZOO RACING) exited stage left, luckily without a more severe injury. A fractured collarbone is a gift compared to how much is at risk behind the wheel of a rally car. This leaves Saudi native Yazeed Al Rajhi and his German co-driver, Dakar veteran, Dirk Von Zitzewitz (#303, TOYOTA OVERDRIVE) who are happy to take 2nd seed before the break; and South African hopefuls Brian Baragwanath and the “Desert Rose” herself, Taye Perry (#339, CENTURY RACING) who finished her first attempt in Saudi Arabia the previous year on her rally bike. Perry went from grasping her handlebars to mastering the passenger seat in just 12 months, while Baragwanath had already won 3rd in a former Dakar effort – so uniting them as a team seems like a promising way to fly home with accolades.

It’s been a hard week of hustling to reach Ha’il with a solid platform to step onto the second week of tests, be it on the course, in the mind or from the chest. The Dakar takes everything you have, strips that away and molds you into something brand new. It takes you to foreign lands to discover commonality with locals and exchange knowledge where you differ. An event which can breathe life into you as fast as it can be taken away. What is true for every racer, at every race, on arguably every stage… Dakar transforms you. Revealing your true self: Beast or Man? Wolf or Lamb? Winner or Loser? In exactly seven days, this truth – as always – will reveal itself, but will the competitors be ready to accept it? Let’s give it a rest and restart the examination on the 10th of January.

KEY NOTES

Ø Liaison > 344 km – Special Stage > 448 km; Al Qaisumad > Ha’il | 55% Sand; 10% Dirt; 35% Dunes

Ø The road to Ha’il will be 100% smooth and sandy. The course of this stage features dunes in all shapes and colors, testing the competitors’ ability to tackle them forwards and backwards! Bikers will face their greatest challenge here and even the toughest riders will end up with their arms like jelly. Some may even get to know the desert after dark – and have to settle for a very short rest day.

Ø Little change in the quad race – Alexandre Giroud is holding steady ahead of Giovanni Enrico. After stretching his lead to almost a minute over the Chilean, the Frenchman is now 34’’ ahead after 303 km. It looks like being a close battle for victory, all the more so with Nicolás Cavigliasso lying in third, just 2 minutes behind. Should either of the leading duo make a mistake, the general standings leader could pip both of them at the post!

Ø At the tender age of just 18 years old, Seth Quintero has held off Khalifa Al-Attiyah to win his very first special stage victory. This is a historic success for the American, who has become the youngest competitor on the Dakar to achieve such a feat!

Ø Tough times for López – Chaleco López has suffered a mechanical problem after 233 km, meaning the Chilean has lost almost one hour to the stage leader. It is a harsh blow for the winner of the category in 2019 and will do him no good at all in the general standings.

 Ø Serradori unlucky again – Mathieu Serradori and his co-pilot Fabian Lurquin have again had a brush with misfortune. As if yesterday’s problems were not enough, the Century duo has this time lost a rear wheel and are now awaiting their assistance team.

Ø Sainz wins the sixth special – Carlos Sainz has achieved his second victory of the year on completion of the day’s special finishing near Ha’il. The Spaniard was the quickest driver at the first intermediate point and went on to open the gap over his pursuers who were not able to catch him. All in all, a fine performance from the Mini driver!

Ø Sara Jugla and Alexandre Bispo have not been able to reach the start of the special in time and will have to miss out on the day’s stage. However, they can still play their joker and switch to the “Dakar Experience” formula, allowing them to resume the rally on Sunday. They will be included in the day’s results but will no longer feature in the general standings. A good number of competitors threw the towel in at the end of stage five yesterday. In the bike race, official Yamaha rider Jamie McCanney exited the race due to a technical problem. Rookies Mohammed Jaffar, Lorenzo Piolini as well as Davide Cominardi also feature on the list of absentees this morning.

Ø Sainz wins the sixth special – Carlos Sainz has achieved his second victory of the year on completion of the day’s special finishing near Ha’il. The Spaniard was the quickest driver at the first intermediate point and went on to open the gap over his pursuers who were not able to catch him. All in all, a fine performance from the Mini driver!

Ø So far this year, Chaleco López has been on the podium of four specials including the prologue and had displayed exemplary consistency until the start of the sixth stage. However, the Chilean, who opened the way for his rivals, unfortunately suffered a mechanical problem just after the midway point of the stage. The delay incurred lasted for almost one hour and the price he paid was a heavy one, because he now finds himself at the foot of the provisional podium more than 36’ behind his successor Aron Domżała at the top of the general standings. It was certainly not the result López was wishing for before the rest day on his tenth Dakar, but it also most certainly will not be the Can-Am driver’s last word on the matter…

Ø Kamaz took pride of place on the sixth special that finished near Ha’il. After taking the lead just after the midway point, Airat Mardeev managed to hold on and pick up his first success since 2018. More importantly, he offered the Russian team their 150th stage victory in the history of the Dakar, drawing them level with Mitsubishi and behind KTM, who are well ahead with 224 triumphs. In this collection that began in 1999, the majority were won by the “Tsar” Vladimir Chagin, the record holder in the truck category with seven titles and 63 stage victories obtained between 1999 and 2011.

Quotes:

2ND Overall Cars, Nasser Al-Attiyah #301, TOYOTA HILUX: “It was not easy. We had two punctures. The tires still aren’t helping us, like last year. I am really disappointed with the BFGoodrich tires. Normally we have good tires for this year and this Dakar. Compared to the buggy, it’s completely, totally different. Still, we are second overall and next week we will try to do our best. It’s not been an easy week for everybody. A lot of people made mistakes and we are lucky that we didn’t make any big mistakes. Now I’m in a good position, in second place overall and next week will be very important. We’ll try to do our best.”

1st Overall Bikes, Toby Price #3, Red Bull KTM Factory: “Today they cut 100 kilometers out of the stage, so it definitely helped us a little bit there, because we were tired at the end, but these two boys behind me, they led out all day and were absolutely on fire, the pace was crazy. Big credit to those boys. They led the whole day, so it’s pretty damned wild. We’re at rest day now, so this is the main thing. We’ll try and re-gather ourselves back up and cruise along. Like I said, the boys put the pace down today and Kevin and Nacho did a great job. It’s been a mixed bag of everything really, so it’s been up and down everywhere. All in all, we’re still in the fight, we’re still there in the race. Anything can happen, there’s a long way to go. We’re looking forward to week two already. I think yesterday was our worst moment, but also probably the best moment. I finished in a pretty good spot, but for the navigation I was quite disappointed with myself yesterday. We made a lot of mistakes. All in all, we’re still in the race, like I said, but we need to clean those things up a little bit and then we should be good to go. Everything is good, the bike is good. I had one little crash there today just coming out of a corner and broke a shroud, but other than that, everything with the bike has been really good this week. Yesterday we had a brake pedal come off, but nothing major. Everything is good and hopefully the bike will get us through the second week.”

3rd Overall Bikes, Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo #4, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021: “Today the plan was to do a team job with my team-mate Kevin. He started first and me second. We didn’t want to lose too much time to the guys behind us, so the plan was to push and if I caught him, we would switch and that’s what we did. We did a little bit of shake and bake out there, switching positions and pushing. We know Toby was eventually going to catch us because he’s really fast, but when he caught us, we kept pushing and I think we did a pretty good job. We opened the whole stage together. It was all sand and dunes and that’s not easy. I think we did it at a very good speed. I don’t know the result, but I’m happy with what we did today. We started the rally maybe in not the best way. On day one and day two I made some dumb, very stupid mistakes and I knew I could do better. On day two, even with that mistake I did well. After that, I had the speed, I was focused already, and I started to do some solid stages. I think we’ve finished a pretty solid first week. We’re right there in the battle for top spot in the general standings, so I’m very happy with the rally until now. Now, it’s a good time to rest and to start to think about next week. My worst moment for sure was stage one – my suspension set-up wasn’t very good for the conditions here and I made some mistakes because I wanted to go fast, but it was very tricky navigation, so I made a lot of little mistakes that cost me a lot of time. So, for sure, day one was my lowest and my best moment was maybe yesterday or today opening the stage and being there in the top spots on the stage, it’s not easy, so maybe yesterday was my top moment of the week.”

SS6 RESULTS

MOTORCYCLE

  1. #88 Joan Barreda Bort (ESP), MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021
  2. #18 Ross Branch (BWA), MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA RALLY TEAM
  3. #21 Daniel Sanders (AUS), KTM FACTORY TEAM
  4. #1 Ricky Brabec (USA), HONDA ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021
  5. #52 Matthias Walkner (AUT), RED BULL KTM FACTORY TEAM
  6. #42 Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA RALLY TEAM
  7. #3 Toby Price (AUS), RED BULL KTM FACTORY TEAM
  8. #27 Joaquim Rodrigues (PRT), HERO MOTORSPORTS TEAM RALLY
  9. #5 Sam Sunderland (GBR), RED BULL KTM FACTORY TEAM
  10. #2 Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), ROCKSTAR ENERGY HUSQVARNA FACTORY RACING

TOP FIVE GENERAL STANDINGS

MOTORCYCLE

  1. #3 Toby Price (AUS), RED BULL KTM FACTORY TEAM
  2. #47 Kevin Benavides (ARG), MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021
  3. #4 Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (CHL), MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021
  4. #18 Ross Brand (BWA), MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA RALLY TEAM
  5. #12 Xavier de Soultrait (FRA), HT RALLY RAID HUSQVARNA RACING