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DAKAR HIGHLIGHTS: STAGE 2 | Off-Road | Sport

The stage proved to be a fast one with 90% of the special off-piste and just 20% in the dunes. The mótards started out behind the cars and side-by-sides, but the potential problems that the top riders had expected failed to materialize. All the bikes made it safely back to the bivouac at San Juan de Marcona after a long link section, on a day that had included 342 kilometres of timed special out of a total of 554 km.

Ricky Brabec very nearly stole the stage victory, but the American had to settle for second place, coming home just 22 seconds adrift of the eventual stage winner. Joan Barreda, who opened the special alone, posted third, 1’41” seconds behind Walkner.

“Days like today are really important. When you start out in first position, winning is very difficult,” said Barreda. “Open the track without making any mistakes throughout the day is really complicated, but these are the days that you really make progress on. At first I doubted as to whether to follow the tracks or not, but in the part on the beach I saw that they were catching me up and following the tracks I was able to push hard with good pace. In the end it turned out to be a perfect stage, with a very good starting position for tomorrow.

Following his solid ride on the short, opening day’s stage, Matthias Walkner was the seventh rider to enter today’s timed special. Feeling comfortable on his KTM 450 RALLY, the reigning Dakar Champion opted to push right from the beginning. For the majority of the stage Walkner chased down Ricky Brabec ahead of him, only to head the American rider in the last 40 kilometres and ultimately claim the stage win by a narrow 22 seconds.

Matthias Walkner: “That was a long and really, really fast stage. It was hard to judge the pace of the riders in front, so early on I decided to push and give my best. It was enough to set the fastest time, which is great but I’m not too keen on stages like that – two or three in a year is enough for me. Crossing the tracks left by the cars on such a tricky stage can be quite daunting sometimes and I’m glad to reach the finish safely.”

Despite a small mistake that caused him to get stuck early on in the stage, Toby Price went on to post the fourth fastest time of the day, three minutes behind stage winner Walkner. Although still riding in pain due to his injured wrist, Price now sits fifth overall in the provisional overall standings and is determined to maintain his strong pace as the rally progresses.

Toby Price: “Day two was long, 342 kilometres on my wrist was really tough. It didn’t help that I got stuck in a dune around the 50-kilometre mark and had to pull the bike out and turn around. That hurt my wrist a little more but I managed to live with it for the rest of the stage, even though it was really bumpy after the cars had been through. All in all, I’m pretty happy with my time and looking forward to tomorrow.”

Also flying the flag for Australia, Ben Young finished 102nd and is 103rd in the overall standings while James Ferguson was a few positions back in 115th, he is 116th overall.

John Maragozidis is the only Australian in the Quad class and came in 24th position, 03H28M behind the leader. He is 23rd overall.

Tomorrow, the third stage of the Dakar will take all the participants to Arequipa where they will contest the longest stage in the opening half of the rally. The day will be made up of 331 kilometres of timed special out of 799 total kilometres which will take the competitors from San Juan de Marcona to Arequipa. Riders are scheduled to arrive at the bivouac around 16:00 hrs local time.