With stage eight of the rally cancelled in memory of Paulo Goncalves, the motorcycle class returned to action early this morning with the 886-kilometre stage nine from Wadi Al Dawasir to Haradh. Crossing the Saudi Arabian ‘Empty Quarter’ riders were faced with a wide variety of terrain including dirt, sand and stony tracks as they navigated around canyons and riverbeds.
Following an extremely tough stage seven on Sunday, Toby Price did his best to regroup and focus for today’s stage nine. Seventh into the 410-kilometre special, Price was immediately on the pace – posting the quickest time to the first checkpoint. With the stage proving to be relatively straightforward, times at the top between the front runners were very tight. Ultimately placing second at the finish, Toby was just under two minutes behind stage winner Pablo Quintanilla.
Toby Price: “It’s been a long day today and with it being so fast, it’s was really difficult to make up any time on the others as we’re all so close on these full-gas stages. Obviously, it’s been a really tough day mentally but we’re still cruising along in the race and the main goal as always is to make it safely to the finish line. We entered the Empty Quarter a little today but to be honest we only had 30 kilometres or so of dunes. I’m hoping these next few days will feature more. There’s definitely a lot of kilometres left to go so we’ll just try and keep it on two wheels.”
Once again showing great consistency, Luciano Benavides carefully navigated through the hard-packed stage of day nine to finish seventh, just over six minutes down on the leader. As a testament to his speed, the young Argentinian lies seventh overall in the provisional rally standings. With three days left to race, Luciano is looking forward to tomorrow’s opening half of the marathon stage.
Luciano Benavides: “We started really early this morning, so it’s been a long day on the bike. It’s definitely been tougher mentally today, the stage itself was not too hard. I tried to clear my mind this morning and focus just on the racing. I enjoyed the stage, it started off really technical and reminded me a lot of Morocco, where I have done well. Later on, we had some fast river sections and I took it a little easier through there. Ricky Brabec passed me and from then on we rode together to the finish, with me just ahead on the last few kilometres. All-in-all I’m happy with my day today and looking forward to the marathon stage tomorrow.”
Matthias Walkner had a tougher time on the day’s special – eventually bringing his KTM 450 RALLY home in 10th place. Taking time to feel comfortable, the Austrian initially chose to concentrate on his navigation to avoid any mistakes on the challenging terrain. With a change of surface also bringing renewed confidence, Matthias was able to push on. Despite a small navigational error costing him some time in the latter part of the stage, the 2018 Dakar Champion was able to safely complete the day in 10th.
Matthias Walkner: “I think the toughest part of today was the 318 kilometres of liaison this morning – it felt really long and very cold. Over the first 60 kilometres of the special I didn’t feel too good – I struggled to find a good rhythm on the broken, stony pistes. Afterwards the terrain changed a little with small round rocks through riverbeds and I felt a lot more comfortable there. I rode most of the second half of the special on my own and only made one small mistake that cost me a couple of minutes. It wasn’t the best day for me but I’m happy to get to the finish. We’ve got three long days to go, so I’ll continue to do my best.”
Continuing to put in solid rides each day of the rally, KTM Factory Racing’s Mario Patrao completed stage nine as 25th fastest. The experienced Portuguese rider was happy with his performance and now looks ahead to the gruelling marathon stage of days 10 and 11 where he will be present to assist his team to the best of his abilities.
Mario Patrao: “It was a good stage today despite it being very cold from the start. I found it hard to concentrate at the beginning but was able to eventually feel a little more comfortable again. The bike has been great and is perfect for tomorrow’s marathon stage.”
Stage 10 of the 2020 Dakar Rally marks the first half of the second week’s marathon stage. Riders will first complete a 534-kilometre timed special on Wednesday before staying overnight in the marathon bivouac at Shubaytah and returning on Thursday to Haradh. No outside assistance is allowed on the marathon stage so competitors must conserve their tyres and machines in order to complete the challenging two days without incurring a penalty.
Provisional Results Stage Nine – 2020 Dakar Rally
1. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 3:30:33
2. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:32:27 +1:54
3. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 3:33:15 +2:42
4. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 3:34:28 +3:55
5. Ross Branch (BWA), KTM, 3:36:03 +5:30
7. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:36:41 +6:08
10. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 4:40:39 +4:17
25. Mario Patrao (POR), KTM, 3:57:28 +26:55
Provisional Standings (after stage nine) – 2020 Dakar Rally
1. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 31:59:29
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 32:20:22 +20:53
3. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 32:26:12 +26:43
4. Joan Barreda (ARG), Honda, 32:27:45 +28:16
5. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHL), Honda, 32:28:58 +29:29
6. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 32:36:45 +37:16
7. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 32:40:40 +41:11
9. Skyler Howes (USA), KTM, 33:23:53 +1:24:24
10. Stefan Svitko (SVK), KTM, 33:30:04 +1:30:35
35. Mario Patrao (POR), KTM, 39:12:06 +7:12:37