Following the shortened stage three, day four of the 2020 Dakar Rally saw riders leave Neom and head east to Al-‘Ula. Racing over fast, rock-strewn tracks, riders had to focus intently on their road books to avoid mistakes. With the most challenging terrain and navigation found during the last 50 kilometres, the stage was a true test of endurance for the competitors, who raced for close to four and a half hours.
FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion Sam Sunderland faced a tough start to his fourth day at this year’s Dakar. Finishing 15th on the previous stage meant the British rider was forced to chase down and overtake several riders ahead of him in order to make up valuable minutes on the leaders. Despite clouds of dust impairing his vision, and speed, for the first half of the special, Sam kept his head down and was able to push harder over the final 150 kilometres. Fastest on the stage, a five-minute penalty imposed afterward relegated Sunderland to eighth in the provisional results.
Sam Sunderland: “I really had to work hard today. Starting so late there was a lot of dust over the first half of the stage, but luckily I was able to pass a group of riders right before the refuelling stop and after that I could really push on. I kept a good rhythm and concentrated on my notes because navigation was really tricky again today. It’s been a really difficult, difficult day but in the end I was able to bring it home safely and with a good time.”
Putting in a consistent pace throughout today’s stage, Toby Price finished as sixth fastest, just less than three minutes behind the day’s winner. Fourth overall going into stage five, Price will enjoy a strong start position tomorrow and aims to chase down the riders ahead.
Toby Price: “It’s been a good solid day’s riding for me, I made a few mistakes but nothing major. I don’t want to bash myself up or bend the bike so I’ve just tried to ride consistently and stay in touch with the other guys. We’re still in contention and there’s still a long way to go.”
Luciano Benavides showed good speed on the first half of the day’s special, carefully navigating his way through the fast, rocky tracks and canyons. A couple of small mistakes unfortunately cost him some time and upset his rhythm for the final third of the stage. The young Argentinian still sits eighth overall however and is keen to maintain his form on the run into the dunes on Thursday’s stage five.
Luciano Benavides: “I found it quite tough today – the navigation was really tricky, especially as the speeds were high over quite rocky tracks. I made a few mistakes and had one small crash too, which lost me some time. I’m a little disappointed with my position, but with tomorrow looking like quite a similar type of stage my plan is to focus, stay safe and try to finish in a good position.”
Enjoying a strong pace on the high-speed tracks leaving Neom, Matthias Walkner worked his way up to fourth by kilometre-243. The Austrian then made a couple of errors on his road book, which unfortunately cost him over 10 minutes due to needing to re-find his way. Feeling fit and happy with his KTM 450 RALLY’s performance however, Walkner knows he has a good chance to make up that time on tomorrow’s 353-kilometre special.
Matthias Walkner: “Everything was going well today right up until kilometre-290. I missed a couple of notes in the road book and ended up losing a lot of time. It’s frustrating when you can ride really well for five hours and then such a small mistake can cost you so much time. Thankfully, I’m here safe at the finish line because the stage was really fast today with a lot of rocks. The race is long, so I’ll continue to focus and do my best every day.”
Stage five of the 2020 Dakar Rally will take riders from Al-‘Ula to Ha’il. The 564-kilometre route includes a timed special of 353 kilometres that will cover a mixture of dirt and rocks before opening out into the dunes for the latter half of the stage.
Provisional Results Stage Four – 2020 Dakar Rally
1. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHL), Honda, 4:24:51
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 4:25:26 +35 seconds
3. Ross Branch (BWA), KTM, 4:25:46 +55 seconds
4. Paulo Goncalves (POR), Hero, 4:27:02 +2:11
5. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 4:27:39 +2.48
6. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 4:27:50 +2:59
8. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 4:29:40 +4:49
20 Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 4:39:49 +14:58
26. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 4:48:40 +23:49
42. Mario Patrao (POR), KTM, 5:21:29 +56:38
Provisional Standings (after stage four) – 2020 Dakar Rally
1. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 15:06:43
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 15:09:13 +2:30
3. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHL), Honda, 15:15:14 +8:31
4. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 15:18:52 +12:09
5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 15:24:35 +17:52
6. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 15:25:54 +19:11
8. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 15:33:13 +26:30
9. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 15:33:46 +27:03
43. Mario Patrao (POR), KTM, 19:47:54 +4:41:11