As always at the Dakar, racing has been unpredictable. With organisers presenting all competitors with one of the toughest routes in recent years, navigation, endurance and machine reliability have all come into play in deciding each day’s results.
Despite some mixed fortunes during the first half of the race, Toby Price’s pace is unquestionable. With two stage wins, the reigning champion has shown he means business and, lying third in the standings, the Australian is still very much in the hunt for overall victory.
Matthias Walkner has shown both maturity and a strong pace in Saudi Arabia. The Austrian rider’s consistency has paid off, and with the toughest six stages left to race he is confident of a strong final result. Currently sixth in the standings, just eight minutes down on Price, Matthias knows the most critical stages are still to come.
Riding in only his third Dakar Rally, Luciano Benavides has also maintained a solid pace, no matter the terrain. Making the minimum of errors despite having raced for over 24 hours, the young Argentinian lies seventh in the overall standings and is fully focused on fighting for his best Dakar result to date.
Jordi Viladoms – KTM Rally Team Manager: “Up until now the rally has been incredibly tough, especially in terms of the navigation. With so many pistes and a mixture of terrain, competitors have found it very difficult to know which route to follow. On the long stages this makes things extremely tiring and the riders have to focus for so long that mistakes and crashes can happen. It’s nothing new and we are used to this at the Dakar.
“Luckily all the riders are in a position where they can attack on the second week. We unfortunately lost Sam of course, which was a shame as the terrain we’re facing now often favours him. Toby, Matthias and Luciano are all in good positions and the gaps are manageable – we just need to stay focused as a team and work out our strategy for the important days to come. This time last year, Toby was very close to stopping the race due to his injury. This year he has some stage wins and definitely has the pace to challenge for the win.
“On the sportive side, the race has been a huge success. We were promised tough terrain and navigation and that is certainly what the organisers have given us. I think it is very good for the sport and we have a lot more to explore here in Saudi Arabia over the next few years. Looking ahead, we will have a lot more of the stages ridden in the dunes but there are still some more technical, rocky sections that will test everyone. I think the marathon stage will be the real decider in this year’s race – at the end of stage 11 we should know who has a good chance to take the overall win on the final day."
The six final days of racing at the 2020 Dakar Rally continue with the 741-kilometre stage seven. Including the longest timed special of the event at 546 kilometres, the mixed-terrain leg will lead riders south from Riyadh to Wadi Al Dawasir. Navigation will again prove incredibly tough with riders also battling fatigue on the extensive route.
Provisional Standings (after stage six) – 2020 Dakar Rally
1. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 23:43:47
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 24:04:43 +20:56
3. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 24:09:26 +25:39
4. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHL), Honda, 24:09:28 +25:41
5. Joan Barreda (ARG), Honda, 24:16:45 +32:58
6. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 24:17:26 +33:39
7. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 24:22:49 +39:02
8. Skyler Howes (USA), KTM, 24:48:37 +1:04:50
9. Stefan Svitko (SVK), KTM, 24:51:36 +1:07:49
37. Mario Patrao (POR), KTM, 30:02:04 +6:18:17