With a Head-to-Head Start this Foggy Friday Morning, Competitors Prepared for an Epic Battle
Leaving the start at 8a.m. local time in waves, or rows, of ten at five-minute intervals, the racers knew they were in for an all-out attack within the first several kilometers of Special Stage Five. But for the most ambitious competitors, the war waged until the close, and those who couldn’t soldier on fell victim to the dust.
Departing in the second lineup at 8:05a.m., Rockstar Husqvarna Factory rider Andrew Short (#29) jumped into second place while teammate Pablo Quintanilla (#6) quickly caught up and took first. Another American, rookie Skyler Howes (#15) too broke through the pack into third. Maybe they’d taken advantage of the fresh tracks laid down by the first group? But all’s fair in Love and War, and the special stages at Dakar can stretch across hundreds of kilometers of battle field for the rally’s respective warriors looking to finish each day victorious.
The top guys have been zig-zagging in and out of the premier positions all morning. Quintanilla seemed comfortable leading until something set him back nearly a minute behind Kevin Benavides (#47) who managed to overtake the group by WP4. The Honda rider bested Adrien Van Beveren (#4) by only 6 seconds and Toby Price (#3) by 8 seconds. Furthermore, fourth-placed rider, Lorenzo Santolino (#63), trailed by only 9 seconds. Part Two of the Marathon stage here at Dakar has been wild! Launching in waves, the competitors, especially in the front, have been at each other’s throats all day long!
On another note, the inspiring story of Nicola Dutto (#143), paraplegic motorcycle racer at Dakar, has concluded this morning in Moquegua. The Italian rider has been announced as a non-starter on the day’s special, just as his companions in this adventure, Pablo Toral (#144) and Julián Villarrubia (#146). In a surprising turn of events, front-runner, official Honda racer, Paulo Gonçalves has ended his 12th Dakar journey far short of the finish line, enduring a severe fall after kilometer 155. It’s possible he’s suffered a slight head injury and a broken hand.
Meanwhile, the ASO retracted their previous statements about driver Robby Gordon’s (#316) withdrawal yesterday. Apparently, Gordon made it to the race course, albeit among the last group to start. But Team Speed still tolerated yet another huge blow when their second car driven by Americans Cole Potts and Max Eddy Jr. (#346) officially withdrew during Special Stage Four, noted early this morning. Although, word around town is the organization will let them rejoin the race on Sunday – a statement still needing confirmation. However, it’s US driver Blade Hildebrand and co-pilot Bill Conger #367 who’ve kept up a solid pace all day, hitting WP1 00:35:41 behind front runner, Carlos Sainz (#300) though they are yet to land at the finish line.
Quintanilla regained the lead after 227 km, 14 seconds in front of his team-mate Andrew Short, as they crossed WP5. With Van Beveren and Price hot on their tails. Howes is keeping his head up in an ocean of sharks, by the final Waypoint reaching the 6thseed and fighting for a 9th place finish in a triumphant effort from the navigation novice!
In the last kilometers of an incredible special, mayhem unfolded as Xavier de Soultrait (#18) came out of the woodwork to secure his second first-place finish at the 2019 Dakar Rally. Matthias Walkner (#1) predictably wound up in the winner’s circle at 2nd with Lorenzo Santolino 28 seconds behind, claiming 3rd. This Part Two of the Marathon special, five strong riders came out on top.
Update: At the conclusion of Special Stage Five, we saw Xavier de Soultrait (#18) at the front with Walkner (#1), Santolino (#63), Beveren (#4) and Short (#29) at his heels. But after consideration from the ASO, Sam Sunderland (#14), whom had stopped today to assist Paulo Gonçalves (#2) after his game-ending crash, reportedly awarded Sunderland extra minutes off his resulting time, elevating Sam to first place. Meanwhile, Walkner incurred a 3-minute penalty, subsequently reordering today's results.
The time removed from Sam's score was surely appreciated as the #14 Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider had slowed once more in the last leg of the special to offered guidance to rookie Skyler Howes (#73) whose road book had split 100 kilometers from the finish, leaving him blind. Motorcycles are trickling into the bivouac in Arequipa after a long Marathon and another roughly 200 kilometers of liaison. Just another exciting day at Dakar!"
American Ricky Brabec arrives at the rest day of the Dakar in Arequipa, as race leader. Today the Monster Energy Honda Team rider handled the stage with intelligence after having taken command at the top of the general rankings.
“Today the riders will complete the marathon Stage. Ricky is riding to plan. We have a day off and then the second half of Dakar starts. This is a critical point where they will really test the riders’ navigation skills. We will keep pushing and crafting in the following days!” – Johnny Campbell, HRC’s Team official
With a rest day ahead, the second half of Dakar will surely not disappoint… At least its fans.
By Kyra Sacdalan, Justin W. Coffey. www.westx1000.com