Sam Sunderland has won a hard-fought stage five of the 2019 Dakar Rally. After stopping to assist an injured rider during the day’s special stage, Sunderland was then credited with the time he’d lost, ultimately winning the stage by over three minutes. All four Red Bull KTM Factory Racing riders completed the stage inside the top-10 with Luciano Benavides sixth, Toby Price ninth and Matthias Walkner 10th after receiving a penalty.
The second half of the two-day marathon stage started with a motocross-style mass start on the beach. Riders set off in groups of 10 according to their finishing positions from the previous day’s stage four, each group split by five minutes. From the beach, competitors headed into the Ilo dunes for the remainder of the 345-kilometre timed special. With a number of riders racing together on the stage, split times were close to every waypoint.
Starting in the first group, Sam Sunderland got off to a solid start, opting not to push straight away and risk a mistake or incident with a fellow competitor. Coming across a fallen rider, Sunderland stopped and assisted until the medical team arrived, setting off again after 10 minutes. Pushing hard to make up time the sand specialist demonstrated the skill he is known for, almost catching the front group before the finish. With the time lost awarded back to him, the Brit had done enough to win the stage and move up to second in the provisional overall standings.
Sam Sunderland: “Obviously the first thing is to wish Goncalves the best after his accident – it’s always scary when you see that happen in front of you. I stayed with him for over 10 minutes but it’s difficult to gauge how long you’re actually stopped for. A lot of riders passed us and so when I got going again, I just pushed as hard as I could. It’s so difficult when you are behind like that, to know if you are gaining on the guys in front or losing ground. I saw the group just before the finish so I knew I had made up some time. I’m lying second now and it’s been a good first half to the race, but I know if the next five days are going to be anything like these we’ve just had, it’s going to end up as a seriously tough rally.”
It was another strong stage for defending Dakar Champion Matthias Walkner. After clearing the group that had formed following the morning’s mass-start, the Austrian was able to increase his pace and put in an excellent performance on the latter half of the special. Walkner was the first to cross the line, posting the third fastest time just over three minutes down on teammate Sunderland. Unfortunately, a three-minute speed penalty then dropped Matthias to an eventual 10th.
Matthias Walkner: “It’s always fun to set off motocross-style on the beach like that, but I didn’t get the best start and then as we hit the Fesh-Fesh I found myself in clouds of dust and wasn’t able to do anything about it. It carried on like that for around 200 kilometres and it was really frustrating. Things improved towards the end of the stage where I was able to get in front and open the piste. I pushed hard then and made up some good time and was actually the first to finish. My ankle is still sore but I don’t think it is affecting my pace, especially when the adrenalin is flowing. I just need to be careful that I don’t put my foot down and twist it more when I’m riding. Now I am looking forward to the rest day tomorrow.”
Enjoying his best ride of the Dakar Rally to date, Luciano Benavides piloted his KTM 450 RALLY to sixth place, earning himself an excellent start position for Sunday’s stage. The Argentinian continues to gain important knowledge and experience and is keen to improve his overall position even further during the second half of the event.
Luciano Benavides: “Today was a really good day for me, my pace and rhythm were a lot better and I felt very comfortable for the whole stage. I am pleased with my result, and it is great for my confidence going into the rest day and the second half of the rally. Physically and mentally I feel fine, I was able to focus a lot better today and I think it showed in my pace. It’s great when everything comes together like that.”
Toby Price again put in an extremely brave performance to place ninth on the tough stage five. Despite aggravating the injury to his wrist, the 2016 Dakar Champion was able to maintain a solid pace throughout the timed special and goes into the rest day in a very creditable fourth place overall.
Toby Price: “It was a really, really tough day for me today. Starting in groups of 10 on the beach means that you not only have to fight for position with other riders, you have to keep an eye on your navigation while dodging the rocks and dust thrown up by the guys in front. My pace today was good but I cased out on one drop and that put a lot of strain through my wrist again. I was able to continue, but I am really thankful for the rest day now. I am happy to have reached the halfway stage of the rally so hopefully after a day off I will be ready to go again on Sunday.”
Despite losing a little time with just five kilometres to go, Laia Sanz completed the fifth stage in 20th position, and now sits 19th in the overall standings. Happy with the pace on her KTM 450 RALLY, Laia is glad of tomorrow’s day off but is looking forward to the remainder of the rally.
Laia Sanz: “My day went well today, I am happy with my speed and rhythm especially with everyone riding together and the times being so close. I’m not so keen on the mass-start, it’s more difficult to judge things when you are riding in a group like that. I did lose a little time today right near the end of the stage when a rock got stuck in my rear wheel but overall it was another good day. I’m pleased with how the rally is going so far, but I’m definitely looking forward to the rest day tomorrow.”
As an excellent mechanic, Mario Patrao is a valuable asset to have in the team, especially on the long two-day marathon stage. With no outside assistance allowed at the bivouac Mario is there to give assistance to any of the KTM Factory Racing team who need it. Mario completed the second half of the marathon stage in 29th position and lies 21st overall.
Mario Patrao: “The marathon stage has gone very well. It feels good to be able to help and support the team and as everyone arrived safely at the finish today with no problems it means we did a good job. I had a good ride today and enjoyed the stage, unfortunately I did lose a little time right near the finish but thankfully not too much. Tomorrow is our rest day and then it’s full gas again.”
Saturday January 12 is a rest day for all 2019 Dakar Rally competitors. Riders will relax in Arequipa for the day before heading out to the bivouac on Saturday evening to prepare for Sunday’s stage six that will take them back to San Juan de Marcona.
Provisional Results Stage Five – 2019 Dakar Rally
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 4:11:48
2. Xavier de Soultrait (FRA), Yamaha, 4:15:11 +3:23
3. Lorenzo Santolino (ESP), Sherco, 4:15:48 +4:00
4. Adrien van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 4:16:14 +4:26
5. Andrew Short (USA), Husqvarna, 4:16:24 +4:36
6. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 4:16:24 +4:36
7. Stefan Svitko (SVK), KTM, 4:16:53 +5:05
8. Toby Price (AUT), KTM, 4:17:33
10. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 4:15:20 +4:00
20. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, 4:27:09 +11:58
29. Mario Patrao (POR), KTM, 4:34:29 +19:18
Provisional Standings after Stage Five – 2019 Dakar Rally
1. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 16:51:34
2. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 16:52:33 +0:59
3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, 16:54:26 +2:52
4. Toby Price (AUT), KTM, 16:54:55 +3:21
5. Adrien van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 16:58:10 +6:36
7. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 16:57:51 +6:17
9. Stefan Svitko (SVK), KTM, 17:18:02 +26:28
13. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 17:40:16 +48:42
19. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, 18:23:24 +1:37:50
21. Mario Patrao (POR), KTM, 18:44:19 +1:52:45