2019 DAKAR: SS9, PURSUING THE PENULTIMATE

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The Country’s Cocktail Isn’t the Only Thing Sour in Pisco

The second-to-last stage is bittersweet. On one end, it marks the conclusion of a long, grueling endeavor for everyone from the riders, their teams, the media and organizers who, since January 7th this year, have coped with sand storms, fesh-fesh, overwhelming heat and using a small filthy telephone booth for a toilet. At the other, it also means the end of an adventure, saying goodbye to friends, coming back to reality and, for a very specific group, facing the results.

Special Stage 9 offered racers their second mass start. Broken into groups once again, they set off on a high-speed chase for the horizon, with only dunes and fesh-fesh between them and the finish line. Being their fourth special to zig-zag through the area, the familiar terrain has been churned and scored so much by tire tread, it acted capricious at best for the competitors. Every day, people would say “the dunes were huge” and today was no exception. But the angles would play a bigger part in the pilots’ demise. One such rider, Gabriela Novotna (#57), spent an hour and a half digging her bike out from the (appropriately titled) depression between two very sharp dunes, shaped akin to a pizza slice.

“Today we raced in one big box. We went back-and-forth, and back-and-forth to the coast…and kind of raced over itself figure-eight style. The tracks were really tough…there’s a lot of fesh-fesh, and the fesh-fesh was chopped up really bad because we’ve raced across it in multiple directions. So, it just made it…abusive so-to-speak.” – Garrett Poucher #71, Garrett Off-Road Racing Team, USA

Another few suffered a similar fate to Ricky Brabec (#15), when engine failure brought on heartbreak for Adrien Van Beveren (#4) whom has remained in the Top Five for a majority of the race. And big news in cars, 13-time champion Stephane Peterhansel dropped out after just 26 kilometers when his co-driver David Castera had hurt his back. On the other hand, Michael Metge (#16) and Daniel Nosiglia Jager (#28) took full advantage of the mayhem, placing themselves comfortably in the first and second seeds of the stage.

News about Brabec’s withdrawal on Tuesday somewhat overshadowed other big events leaving many of us with questions. Namely, what caused the ASO to give Kevin Benavidas (#47) a three-hour penalty? It was confirmed the Monster Energy Honda Team rider had concealed extra notes taped to his gas tank offering alternative routes, or “short cuts,” through some of the more challenging and slower sections of the route – a common practice, apparently, which the ASO banned in 2018. A statement from the Dakar officials:

“Kevin Benavides was sanctioned yesterday with a 3:00’00 penalty after race authorities deemed that the rider had violated one of the new rules established for the race. The team is currently gathering all the necessary information to present an official claim against the sanction.”

This issue directly relates to a statement published on social media by Toyota Gazoo Team co-pilot Dirk Von Zitzewitz criticizing the organization for taking away what he considers to be an essential part of being a navigator: doing their homework. Nonetheless, what Benavidas was caught with is currently against regulations so it’s an opportunity for organizers to set an example, which in this case was an additional three hours for essentially cheating. Kevin is nonetheless sitting at 13th in the General Classification.

Despite losing a few key figures – Brabec, Skyler Howes (#73), Cole Potts and Max Eddy Jr (#346) – to DNFs, the Americans aren’t out of the running for some worthy finishes. Andrew Short (#29) and Casey Currie (#343) both sit in 4th place, eyeing the podium for their respective classes. Robby Gordon with co-pilot Kellon Walch (#316) and Blade Hildebrand with co-pilot Bill Conger (#367), both cars representing Team Speed, have clawed through restrictions and multiple mechanical issues to find themselves in respectable positions, considering the circumstances. And of course, the underdogs: Garrett Poucher (#71), a business man from Santa Clarita, California, who’s finding himself at the heels of factory riders even after enduring some cringe-worthy crashes, gone viral thanks to the likes of Dakar Heroes and Red Bull. And Nathan Rafferty (#104), whom considers himself a ski bum, has found a comfortable spot in the low 50’s. Nonetheless, the race isn’t over yet. And with even a short 111k special ahead of them, challengers can’t expect to take it easy until the podium in Lima.

KEY POINTS:

  • An injured Toby Price (#3) leads the Dakar Rally in Bikes by one minute going into the final stage. “I’d like to finish on top,” said Price, who is still battling the pain of a recently broken wrist. “We’re so close; it’s so tight! I know it’s going to be very hard tomorrow and I’ll give it my best. I know I’m likely to be on the podium tomorrow, and it’s amazing. But I obviously want to win.”

  • Honda’s Kevin Benavides Hit with three-hour Penalty, knocked completely out of contention. Sanctioned for concealing extra navigation notes in unsportsmanlike manner.

  • KTM’s Sam Sunderland (#14) suffered his own penalty during SS8 knocking the podium out of sight by an extra hour. The rule cited has to do with the competitor’s tracking device, stating, “any competitor that intentionally damages the security devices (GPS, Iritrack, Smalltrack, ICO) in order to get the devices repaired and obtain a new starting time will receive a penalty of 1 hour.”

  • Americans Casey Currie and Andrew Short each in 4th going into Final; Either can still get on the podium.

  • Laia Sanz (#17) poised for her best finish yet in 2019. We’ll see if tomorrow’s special sees her breaking into the top ten.

Rankings of Americans after SS9

  • 7th Andrew Short #29 – 03h 50’ 41”; 4th in the General Classification

  • 27th Garrett Poucher #71 – 04h 40’ 39”; 33rd in the General Classification

  • 61st Nathan Rafferty #104 – 06h 52’ 05”; 52nd in the General Classification

  • DNF Skyler Howes #73

  • DNF Ricky Brabec #15

Top Ten Stage Finishers

  • 1st Michael Metge #16 – 03h 46’ 38”; 22nd in the General Classification

  • 2nd Daniel Nosiglia Jager #28 – 03h 48’ 38”; 10th in the General Classification

  • 3rd Pablo Quintanilla #6 – 03h 50’ 06”; 2nd in the General Classification

  • 4th Matthias Walkner #1 – 03h 50’ 07”; 3rd in the General Classification

  • 5th Toby Price #3 – 03h 50’ 07”; 1st in the General Classification

  • 6th Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo #10 – 03h 50’ 08”; 6th in the General Classification

  • 7th Andrew Short #29 – 03h 50’ 41”; 4th in the General Classification

  • 8th Luciano Benavides #77 – 03 51’ 33”; 7th in the General Classification

  • 9th Xavier de Soultrait #18 – 03h 51’ 34”; 5th in the General Classification

  • 10th Oriol Mena #18 – 03h 52’ 36”; *9th in the General Classification


By Kyra Sacdalan, Justin W. Coffey. www.westx1000.com

Chris Glaspell

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