2017 Dakar Rally
Course: 801km (revised)
Special: 161km (revised)
Dakar leader Red Bull KTM’s Sam Sunderland lead out the opening stage of week two, a revised 801km course whose new 161km special was a combination of the cancelled sixth stage and the planned seventh. But it was the factory Honda squad determined to make up for the severe penalties they copped at the end of last week who were on the charge with three HRC riders finishing in the top four of the stage rankings.
American rider Ricky Brabec (Honda) celebrated his first-ever stage win, 1m44s clear of his Portuguese teammate Paulo Gonçalves. Sunderland, who suffered navigational woes just 38km into the special, recovered to finish 4m43s behind Brabec’s time and ahead of Spanish charger Joan Barreda (Honda).
“Last week was rough for me and rough for the team with our penalty,” said Brabec. “As a whole team we made a mistake, but I think we still have a good chance with just five days left of racing. A lot can happen. I feel good. Joan feels good and looks good.”
Sunderland’s effort was enough to keep him at the top of the overall rankings, 17m45s clear of Portuguese rider Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) who finished the day’s stage in ninth place. Likewise, third overall is still held by Frenchman Adrien van Beveren who, along with teammate Xavier de Soultrait, suffered a crash at the end of the day but both remounted to finish 11th and fifth respectively.
“I’m happy,” Sunderland said. “I think, sure, I lost some time today because it was a sandy stage and the guys from the back can see the tracks cleanly. We’ll just keep ticking along.”
Australian Dakar first timer Todd Smith rode the stage of his life to finish seventh overall, ahead of Red Bull KTM’s Matthias Walkner and Quintanilla. The results moves the Condobolin rider to 15th in the overall standings, one place behind stage winner Ricky Brabec.
Aussie privateer Matthew Hart’s finishing time was 54th fastest, a strong ride which sees the Husqvarna rider remain in 62nd place overall, and he’s ranked 14th of the 26 riders attempting Dakar for the first time.
Brabec (USA) 1st 14th
Sunderland (GBr) 3rd 1st
Gonçalves (Por) 2nd 8th
Van Beveren (Fra) 11th 3rd
Quintanilla (Por) 9th 2nd
Smith (Aus) 7th 15th
Hart (Aus) 54th 62nd