Marking the second half of the event’s Super Marathon stage, day three at the 2020 Dakar Rally proved a tough one for all competitors. The 504-kilometre looped stage featured 427 kilometres of timed special that wound its way through the canyons and up into the mountains in the north of the country.
A GPS issue that affected all competitors and resulted in many of the front runners being unable to find a waypoint resulted in the event organisers taking the results from kilometre-389, rather than the final 427-kilometre mark as originally planned.
Eighth to enter the day’s stage, Matthias Walkner completed the majority of the special without issue. The experienced Austrian racer chose to focus on his road book and navigation rather than push too hard on the technical terrain and risk mistakes. The decision paid off for the 2018 Dakar champion who ultimately posted the fourth-quickest time of the day to move up to third overall in the provisional standings.
Matthias Walkner: “I rode well today so I’m happy about that and the bike is performing really well too, which is great. Right from the start today, navigation was really tricky and you have to concentrate on the road book a lot. I came close to hitting some big rocks hidden in the sand today – it’s difficult to find the right balance between maintaining good speed and the navigation. The missing waypoint caught everyone out so that caused some issues toward the end of the stage. All-in-all I feel good and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Also making the most of his experience when the going gets tough, Toby Price completed the shortened stage as fifth fastest, just seconds down on teammate Walkner. The stage one winner moves up to sixth in the general rankings and will enjoy a strong start position for Wednesday’s stage four.
Toby Price: “It’s been a tough day, but not too bad. Things were going well in the morning – a few mistakes here and there but nothing too bad. I just tried to stay on two wheels, ride safe and bring it home. Obviously the issue towards the end threw us all a bit, but it’s nice that the organisers acknowledged that quickly and rectified the results. The stage was really beautiful – lots of canyons and camels – I’m feeling good and keen to get going again tomorrow.”
Continuing to set a solid, consistent pace, Luciano Benavides put in an excellent ride on stage three to finish as seventh fastest. Despite a couple of navigational mistakes and an injury to his hand, the young Argentinian brought his KTM 450 RALLY home safely, just minutes behind teammates Walkner and Price. Luciano now sits seventh in the provisional overall standings.
Luciano Benavides: “It was a tricky day today, I felt good for the first half and only made one small mistake. The bike is feeling really good here in Saudi Arabia, we have it set up very well for the changes in terrain and that helps to give me a little more confidence. Unfortunately, when everyone got lost with the missing waypoint a stone flew up from another rider and hit my hand – I’m hoping it’s not too badly hurt and I’m ok for tomorrow.”
Second on stage two, Sam Sunderland found himself opening the day’s special after overtaking the early leader. Navigating well throughout the mixed terrain, Sam enjoyed a strong pace right until the neutralisation. A small mistake then cost the reigning FIM World Champion a number of minutes before then being the first to encounter the GPS issue later on. Despite his challenges, Sunderland posted the 14th fastest time and lies ninth in the provisional overall standings.
Sam Sunderland: “The stage didn’t start too well for me as I had a small issue with my GPS, but after that I was able to push on and made my way to the front. I think I did a good job of opening the stage and didn’t make too many mistakes. After the refuelling I was the first to come across the missing waypoint and struggled for a long time to work it out, the other riders caught me there and it was a bit chaotic until we worked it out. Thankfully, that has all been sorted now and I can concentrate on winning back some time tomorrow.”
Stage four of the 2020 Dakar Rally will present another long day in the saddle for riders. From Neom, a liaison travelling south along the coast of the Red Sea is then followed by a 453-kilometre timed special that will include a mixture of sandy pistes and faster, gravel tracks. After a total of 672 kilometres, competitors will reach the bivouac at Al-‘Ula.
Provisional Results Stage Three – 2020 Dakar Rally
1. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 3:29:31
2. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHL), Honda, 3:35:27 +5:56
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 3:36:53 +7:22
4. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:37:44 +8:13
5. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:38:06 +8:35
7. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:42:01 +12:30
14. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 3:50:52 +21:21
103. Mario Patrao (POR), KTM, 5:52:03 +2:22:32
Provisional Standings (after stage three) – 2020 Dakar Rally
1. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 10:39:04
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 10:43:47 +4:43
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 10:45:06 +6:02
4. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda 10:50:06 +11:02
5. Jose Ignacio Cornejo (CHL), Honda, 10:50:23 +11:19
6. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 10:51:02 +11:58
7. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 10:53:24 +14:20
9. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 10:56:14 +17:10
45. Mario Patrao (POR), KTM, 14:26:25 +3:47:21