Categories: Motorcycle News
January 13, 2021
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Dakar Day 10: SS9: Mortal Combat

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: 


SS9: Mortal Combat

Beginning a Pilgrimage for Glory to Better Remember a Legend 

Adventure: an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity. This is the Dakar Rally in a nutshell. A contest to test the limits, offering barely more than the glory of being the best in the world. An odyssey to far-off lands, encountering foreign cultures and mindsets and bringing home insight. This isn’t just a race. It’s the modern “hero’s journey” – a concept discussed in Joseph Campbell’s work “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” (first published in 1949) which he observes a mythological structure of the journey of the archetypal hero found in world myths. Throughout history, mankind has challenged themselves through by venturing into the unknown, facing their fears and returning from their epoch enlightened. Whatever way we define it contemporarily, we – even the era of technology, comfort and entitlement – need adventures to find ourselves, to grow. And there’s no doubt that each man and woman who enters this most infamous competition, exits at least a little bit transformed. Some for the better; others for the worse; always indefinitely.

January 12th marked the one-year anniversary of HERO MOTOSPORTS all-star athlete, and everyone’s good friend, Paulo “Speedy” Gonçalves death. He tragically lost his life as a result of an accident while chasing his dreams at Dakar. Although many are honoring him this year, his brother-in-law, and pupil of sorts, Joaquim Rodrigues (#27) is racing with HERO MOTOSORTS TEAM RALLY in respect and remembrance of Paulo. But don’t shed tears for him any longer; celebrate him. Because he was a warrior and racing was his passion, a choice, just as it is for every participant here. For most people who believe in this sport (surely Paulo would agree) this experience – to include the danger, heartbreak, pain, et al – is part of their being. No rhyme or reason, it just calls to them, sense or no sense. There’s nothing natural about pinning your throttle, looking down – turning your gaze away from oncoming perils – and maintaining speed. It seems counterintuitive to stay on the gas while sliding down a steep, 400-meter dune slope. Or standing in death’s way as a KAMAZ-MASTER truck teeters over a sandy crest, blind to what’s below it, just for the perfect picture. These people who showed up to registration last week, have something else stronger than common sense driving them. They’re fearless…or idiots. But you can’t say they don’t have gumption. Newcomer to rally raid, but a legend in World Enduro, David Knight (#101, HT RALLY RAID HUSQVARNA RACING) came to Saudi Arabia because the hero’s narrative never ends. Landing a respectable 19th place after SS9, Knight was seeking fresh obstacles to overcome.

“Just steady, I passed a few guys in rocky sections. I tried to stay safe. It was really tough to go fast through the dust all day long. I just rode smooth and steady and tried to navigate well.” David Knight #101, HT RALLY RAID HUSQVARNA RACING

Not everyone fared as well as Knight. About 11 kilometers past the DSS, the elite bikers rode by at a confident rate. Toby Price (#3 RED BULL KTM), in particular, was flying – likely enjoying the smooth, swift, sweeping attributes of the course at that point. It wasn’t unusual, he typically looks fast in these sections. Who could have guessed that less than 150 kilometers away, the Aussie favorite would succumb to a brutal crash? Price reportedly broke his collar bone and possibly sustained damage to his wrist and arm. Worse still, he was only one minute behind Cornejo, who leads the General Standings. But that’s what these men and women signed up for. A statement from Toby Price in anticipation of the 2021 Dakar Rally, “The landscapes we saw were as vast as the potential they bring to the rally. I’m absolutely sure it’ll be even better this year. I’m still gunning for first place, so I’ll give it my all.”

With big adventures, come big consequences. Playing with the high rollers costs a pretty penny, and every twist of throttle, push of the pedal, crest of the dune in this game adds chips to the stack, value to the wager. Some bets turn out well: an upswing from a poor start in the race, becoming a strong contender for the overall win, breaking Top Ten as a privateer for the second year in a row… But where there is success for some, there are failures for others. In this case, the stakes didn’t seem higher than normal, but fate took its pound of flesh and thensome from the teams today. With Price being airlifted to the hospital, it was with even heavier heart the event loses Rockstar Energy Husqvarna racer Luciano Benavides (#77), also to enduring an off-bike and airlift to Tabuk for treatment. As well as Monster Energy Yamaha athlete Ross Branch whose game ended from irreparable damage to his engine. Many greats have already fallen in this iteration of the Dakar – Franco Caimi (#6), Xavier de Soultrait (#12), Adam Tomiczek (#20) and two additional riders were forced to withdraw in Special Stage 8 alone. And this figure only represents the motos!

“Today we had Toby go down and hit the dirt. He’s a little bit injured, I think it’s his left shoulder and left arm. He hit pretty hard on the left and didn’t really know where he was. He asked me probably seven times where he was and who I was. I came across him and just hung out with him until the helicopter got there. What we do is dangerous, so it’s unfortunate that he is out. We hope he’s okay. It’s something we have to think about every time we put the gear on each morning. It could be any of us. This day last year we lost a really good friend in Paulo and today Toby crashed and went out of the rally, but he’s going to be ok. For sure, going on for the rest of the day was really difficult. The guys sent me on right behind Joan and Daniel Sanders, so I was stuck in the dust and I was really angry because I wasn’t in the dust before I came across Toby. There was a three-minute gap, and we were just doing our own thing. I got stuck in the dust for a while and it kind of made me angry, so I just pushed and got around it. Then I kind of opened the stage with Joan the rest of the way. Me and Joan took turns opening and it was really fun. But things are shaking up, we’ve all got smoked tires. There’s three days left, and stage 11 is going to be the longest one. Hopefully, we’ve finished okay today.” – Ricky Brabec #1, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA

Kevin Benavides (#47, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA) was already working his way to Winner’s Circle, but with KTM out of contention and teammate Ricky Brabec and KTM Factory pilot Sam Sunderland about 20 minutes behind, it’s a sure victory for the Argentinian. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (#4, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA). Someone we haven’t heard from much during this event, Adrien Van Beveren (#42 MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA) took an opportunity to carry on, finding himself in 3rd place by the A.S.S. As volatile as this race is, competitors didn’t become comfortable in their seats for long. The 20-minute gap between Brabec and Sunderland and the leader at the end of the special was drastically altered when the organization returned to them time which they’d spent assisting Toby. Although, 15 minutes reimbursed still won’t put either Ricky or Sam man on the top step tonight. But it’ll get them close. No matter how it pans out for bikes in the end, the outlook appears grim for any teamsters in Orange to take back the podium. But hey, Sunderland and Matthias Walkner (#52) have beat the odds before. And so has Nasser Al-Attiyah and Matthieu Baumel (#301 TOYOTA GAZOO RACING), who at the moment, trails behind Stéphane Peterhansel and Edouard Boulanger (#302 X-RAID MINI JCW TEAM) by over 18 minutes largely due to changing two tires along the rocky bits.

“For sure this stage was a really complicated one. From the beginning we saw that the day would be long, so we decided to not be on full attack but more to manage the tires and be clean with the navigation. At the end we overtook Carlos and also Nasser. We overtook him two times because he had a puncture. It was a real Dakar stage, a little bit like in the past in Africa, where it was not only a question of speed, but it was also a question of strategy, just to adapt the speed to the condition of the tracks. For sure, normally in such conditions I was always not so bad, so it’s still good for me.” – Stéphane Peterhansel #302, X-RAID MINI JCW TEAM

Or perhaps someone else is more equipped for battle? Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz (#300 X-RAID MINI JCW TEAM) have been putting in work to hold onto their title with several hurdles to cross. But a puncture and brake issues slowed the pair way down in the ninth special wedging an even wider gap between him and the top step. Mathieu Serradori and navigator Fabian Lurquin (#308, SRT RACING) have played a spectacular show as well, making Peterhansel earn his place on the pedestal until, as destiny does, car #308 broke down after 385km. Yazeed Al Rajhi and Dirk Von Zitzewitz in the #303 vessel and South African car #339, driven by Brian Baragwanath and Taye Perry (CENTURY RACING) had a good run of things. Baragwanath took a firm step into 5th and although they’d prefer to achieve higher, Rajhi drove the pair into 4th in the Stage. Trucks were both exciting and unmoving. At the final section, Martin Macík (#503, BIG SHOCK RACING) and his truck nicknamed “Charles” were in the lead, but only by three seconds in front of Airat Mardeev (#509, KAMAZ-MASTER). With Ales Loprais (504 INSTAFOREX LOPRAIS PRAGA) trailing by 1’18’’. Yet you wouldn’t know there was scuffle by just looking at the scoreboard no one has budged out of their SS8 positions. Excitement is lost when you can predict the winning lineup this early. We just hope the Big Boys on the racecourse are willing to push just a bit hard as we head down home stretch.

Expeditions like these are meant to thrill, surprise and bewilder at times. And that’s exactly how the UTVs served each other dishes: cold. Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez Contardo and Juan Pablo Latrach Vinargre (#401, SOUTH RACING CAN-AM) once again stole the show, while the ants below Cloud Nine scurried about frantically. Disappointment finds relief for the United States as citizens watched their favored athletes lose to circumstance. Americans Austin “AJ” Jones and Seth Quintero (#383) endured several hardships which added the burden of time to their clocks. Jones and co-driver Gustavo Gugelmin (#408, MONSTER ENERGY CAN-AM) dealt with a double-flat around KM 70 and took a much (much) slower approach for about 400 more kilometers of sharp rubble in their way. The move sunk them into the 10th position. Quintero with Dennis Zenz on the other hand broke down, taking them out of the running, likely for good. They aren’t listed as withdrawn, but they can’t be found in the standings. It’s not all bad. In fact, it’s quite… Promising. Wayne Matlock and Sam Hayes, premiering Polaris RZR’s factory effort, have been hanging around mid-pack all week, but without really intending it, found themselves in an impressive place. And this is not only their first Dakar Rally, but the first time they’ve competed in a rally raid, ever! In both the Lightweight and SSV categories, the All-American team gained 6th place finish. Now holding the 12th and 11th positions despite a puncture early in the day. If they finish in the Top Ten, this could be the underdog tale the fans have been waiting for.

When heroes have fought their foes and finally reached the climax of their story, what do they do? They begin again. There are unlimited subsets of expeditions, adventures, journeys, missions within the great saga of life. A hero’s job is never over until its over; and even then, it’s those who loved and respected them who help to turn these protagonists into legends and live forever as immortals. Much like with our friend Paulo, whose kindness, determination and bright spirit will live on forever because of those who remember him, as they themselves take off on their own crusades for wisdom, and to be remembered as heroes. So, in seeking eternal life like Paulo, you must take the pilgrimage to Dakar and use speed as your sword, wit as your shield and friendship as your beacon – at whatever cost.

KEY NOTES

Ø Liaison > 109 km – Special Stage > 465 km; Neom > Neom | 30% Sand; 61% Dirt; 5% Tarmac; 4% Stones

Ø The special will get going on the shore of the Red Sea and start with a ramble along the seafront. It will not be all smooth sailing, however, as the course takes the field to tracks that are sometimes fast but often too sandy to push the pedal to the metal. This stage’s length and variety place it among the toughest of these two weeks of racing.

Ø Stat of the Day: Represented at the top of the standings in two categories out of five on the Dakar, Chile took pride of place today thanks to Chaleco López and Giovanni Enrico, who both won the special in the lightweight vehicle and quad categories, respectively. With Chaleco López and Nacho Cornejo, two Chileans occupy first place in the general standings, in the lightweight vehicle and bike categories, respectively. Thanks to their wins on stage nine, López and Enrico have increased their country’s number of stage victories to 64 on the Dakar. The only fly in the ointment was the 13th best time achieved by Ignacio Casale, title holder in the quad category, who nonetheless is enjoying an honorable debut in the truck race, with finishes in the top 10 on seven stages out of nine to date.

Ø At kilometer 155, RED BULL KTM FACTORY all-star Toby Price suffered several injuries, to include his left arm and shoulder, after a severe off-bike incident. He was in contention for the lead, with only a minute separating him and 1st overall. This was a huge blow to Price and to the men in orange.

Ø Yamaha team rider Ross Branch didn’t find today’s stage any better than the last. Losing time in SS8 after a fall, his engine decided to quit on him in SS9, officially ending his 2021 Dakar effort. His first as a Yamaha Factory team member.

 Ø Although brother Kevin Benavides has been excelling at this iteration of Dakar, taking another stage win, #77 Husqvarna athlete Luciano Benavides was forced to withdraw by helicopter when he sustained an injury after a crash. Another disappointing loss for the premier pack.

Ø Today was heaven for photographers but hell for the riders and drivers! The seaside played host to the start of the special looping around NEOM where it both started and finished. The contrast between the blue sea and the shores’ shades of brown was striking from an aerial viewpoint. However, the competitors did not have much time to admire the scenery and, beneath their helmets, it was the rocks in the middle of the special or the jumble of tracks at its end that attracted the attention of the riders, drivers and co-pilots. In so doing, Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al Attiyah lost valuable time, while the navigational difficulties played into the hands of Nacho Cornejo, whose talents continue to come to the fore when strategy is of paramount importance. All along the 465 kilometers of the special, the majestic landscapes encouraged calm and the day’s winners were those who grasped this notion.

Ø This year, Chaleco López is taking part in his tenth Dakar. With a roll of honor as impressive as his, suffice to say that the Chilean is among the most experienced members of the field in the lightweight vehicle category. Thanks to a win on each of the marathon stages, López had already regained new impetus in the fight for the title. However, he could have easily lost all hope on the sixth special during which he lost almost one hour due to a mechanical problem. Nevertheless, behind the wheel of his Can-Am, he gave his utmost to score three consecutive stage victories. Taking advantage of Seth Quintero’s mechanical mishap and a below-par performance from Austin Jones today, López returned to his place at the top of the general standings with Jones as his nearest pursuer, more than 12 minutes behind. With three days left until the finish in Jeddah, “Chaleco” has a great opportunity to take the title… if he continues in this vein.

Ø The three times winner of the Dakar suffered a significant time loss due to several punctures on the loop around Neom. He now trails Stéphane Peterhansel by 17’50’’ in the general standings.

Ø Today was heaven for photographers but hell for the riders and drivers! The seaside played host to the start of the special looping around NEOM where it both started and finished. The contrast between the blue sea and the shores’ shades of brown was striking from an aerial viewpoint. However, the competitors did not have much time to admire the scenery and, beneath their helmets, it was the rocks in the middle of the special or the jumble of tracks at its end that attracted the attention of the riders, drivers and co-pilots. In so doing, Carlos Sainz and Nasser Al Attiyah lost valuable time, while the navigational difficulties played into the hands of Nacho Cornejo, whose talents continue to come to the fore when strategy is of paramount importance. All along the 465 kilometers of the special, the majestic landscapes encouraged calm and the day’s winners were those who grasped this notion.

Ø In the car category, the ability to take his time also paid dividends for general standings leader Stéphane Peterhansel, who posted the day’s best time and more importantly avoided any setbacks, whilst Nasser Al Attiyah and Carlos Sainz suffered punctures that took their objectives of victory further out of their grasp. Needing to close the gap on his French rival, the Qatari instead lost 12 additional minutes.

Ø Though the duel continues between Manuel Andújar and Alexandre Giroud in the quad race, the Argentinean still leads and obtained 15 extra seconds today, on a special dominated by Chilean Giovanni Enrico. Another Chilean, Chaleco López, struck a major blow and returned to the top of the general standings by winning the stage in the lightweight vehicle category.

Ø In the truck race, there was a minor revolution, with a stage success for Czech driver Martin Macík. His victory 2’27’’ over Airat Mardeev has not affected the category’s boss, however, as Dmitry Sotnikov continues to lead the general standings as he has done since the rally left Jeddah.

Ø This year, Chaleco López is taking part in his tenth Dakar. With a roll of honor as impressive as his, suffice to say that the Chilean is among the most experienced members of the field in the lightweight vehicle category. Thanks to a win on each of the marathon stages, López had already regained new impetus in the fight for the title. However, he could have easily lost all hope on the sixth special during which he lost almost one hour due to a mechanical problem. Nevertheless, behind the wheel of his Can-Am, he gave his utmost to score three consecutive stage victories. Taking advantage of Seth Quintero’s mechanical mishap and a below-par performance from Austin Jones today, López returned to his place at the top of the general standings with Jones as his nearest pursuer, more than 12 minutes behind. With three days left until the finish in Jeddah, “Chaleco” has a great opportunity to take the title… If he continues in this vein.

Quotes:

1st Overall Bikes, Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo #4, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA: “Today was tough, it was always going to be a long day and it was. Toby started right behind me. We were fighting for the overall victory and it’s very bad that he crashed and got injured. I hope it’s nothing serious. That’s the last news we want to hear, that one of us has crashed or is out of the race. Toby’s a legend, he’s a very good rider and also a very nice guy, so I wish him a fast recovery. Hopefully, he’ll be right back on the bike soon. Today I had to open the whole way. It was tough. They let me know at the first refueling point that Toby had crashed and I lost focus a little bit and made a few mistakes, but other than that I did a good job. All day pushing by myself was mentally exhausting. It needed a lot of self-motivation and self-conversation to keep going. We’ll see how the guys behind me have done. Hopefully, they haven’t caught too many minutes on me and hopefully I’ll increase the overall lead a little bit, but we’ll see. Everyone is starting to push, to play their last cards, to try to advance or to get overall victory. Everyone wants it, you know, so I understand them. When you push to the limit, sometimes you make mistakes, and this discipline is just like that. You have to be careful and try to control the danger as much as you can, but sometimes too many things happen: rocks, you’re navigating, going fast… it’s tough to finish without any crashes.”

1st Place Bikes, Kevin Benavides #47, MONSTER ENERGY HONDA: “Just now I’ve received the news that my brother crashed, so I am so disappointed with that and I hope he is ok. Also, today was a special day for me, one year on from Paulo… So, I tried to push all day, to stay focused, to keep the speed up and not make mistakes. So, I think it was a good stage. Nacho did a good job. At the end I heard Toby also crashed, so it was a really dangerous day today. I am happy to be here okay and so is the bike. We have three more days to go and to continue fighting. We have a lot of kilometers left, so I think the strategy is to continue to be focused because everything can change in one second. For me, I’ll take it day by day.”

2nd Place Cars, Nasser Al-Attiyah #301, TOYOTA HILUX: “The navigation was no problem, but we had three flat tyres, three punctures and we didn’t have any spare wheels, so we decided to just to get to the finish and Stéphane passed us. It was not easy for us today. But what can we do? We can’t change anything with the tires. That’s life, I’m not disappointed. What can I do? I have done my best and I’m here at the finishing line. Still, everything is possible.”

TOP TEN STAGE RESULTS

MOTORCYCLE

  1. #47 Kevin Benavides (ARG), MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021
  2. #1 Ricky Brabec (USA), HONDA ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021
  3. #4 Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (CHL), MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021
  4. #5 Sam Sunderland (GBR), RED BULL KTM FACTORY TEAM
  5. #42 Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA RALLY TEAM
  6. #52 Matthias Walkner (AUT), RED BULL KTM FACTORY TEAM
  7. #88 Joan Barreda Bort (ESP), MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021
  8. #15 Lorenzo Santolino (ESP), SHERCO FACTORY
  9. #21 Daniel Sanders (AUS), KTM FACTORY TEAM
  10. #9 Skyler Howes (USA), BAS DAKAR KTM RACING TEAM

TOP FIVE GENERAL STANDINGS

MOTORCYCLE

  1. #4 Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (CHL), MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021
  2. #47 Kevin Benavides (ARG), MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021
  3. #5 Sam Sunderland (GBR), RED BULL KTM FACTORY TEAM
  4. #1 Ricky Brabec (USA), MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021
  5. #88 Joan Barreda Bort (ESP), MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021