We all knew the 2020 Dakar was going to be challenging – there were so many unknowns with the event moving to Saudi Arabia.
But the second day of competition threw up some massive challenges for many of the competitors, even the top runners. And the result is a number of surprises in the results.
- After leading much of stage 1 Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy Honda) dropped to 12th on the second stage.
- The usually highly competitive Yamaha riders Xavier De Soultrait and Adrien Van Beveren struggled to make back the time they both lost in stage 1 and have yet to find their way into the top 10.
- Equally consistent Laia Sanz, who has shifted from KTM to Gas Gas this year, crashed and lost 20 minutes.
- Bolivian rider Daniel Nosiglia Jager, who was looking for a top 10 finish after his 11th last year, crashed after 141 km and suffered a minor head injury. He was transported to hospital by the medical team.
- And Ross Branch (BAS Dakar KTM) who finished 13th as the best newcomer last year, has won the stage!
All 5 Australians made it through Stage 2, but the biggest shock of course was last year’s winner Toby Price dropping way down the results.
After winning Stage 1 Toby was on top of the standings going into day 2. Admittedly, a 2 minute penalty for missing a waypoint meant he only had a 5 second lead over US rider Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy Honda), but he still held the overall lead.
Toby says “Navigation today was really difficult and the conditions were tricky with so many lines to choose from!” Both he and Ricky Brabec lost well over 5 minutes in the early part of the stage, eventually finishing 12m13s behind stage winner Ross Branch (BAS Dakar KTM).
Toby Price now sits 9th overall, 7m34s behind overall leader and team mate Sam Sunderland.
After 2 days of competition Rodney Faggotter is sitting 18th overall on his Yamaha WR450F, 36m32s behind the leader. Rodney’s steady and consistent approach to the race so far is putting him in a good position to pick up valuable places should any of the top runners drop out of the event – and they will!.
Similarly, Ben Young seems to be steadily progressing in his “race against himself”. Ben said before the event he isn’t interested in the standings, and wanted to “battle it out against himself in the most spectacular scenery” – and he’s succeeding in that.
Our two rookies – Trevor Wilson and Matthew Tisdall – have taken a safe and steady approach in their first Dakar.
Completing each day without damage and injury is the first step to completing the overall challenge of the Dakar.
Trevor says he had a bit of an issue when the handlebars came loose mid-race yesterday (stage 2), but he managed to make it to a fuel point and tighten them. He’s also happy that after 2 days of racing he has made no navigational errors or fallen of the bike.
Trevor currently sits 121st and Matthew 130th in the overall standings.
Trevor’s outgoing nature made for a good interview on the start podium too, which was then used during the first episode of the TV coverage on SBS.
The competitors are now in Neom and stage 3 involves a 77 km liaison and 427 km special, returning to the same bivouac. It’s the second part of the Super Marathon stage for the elite competitors.
Also later today is the start of competition in the 2020 Africa ECO Race, where Albury rider Andrew Houlihan is taking on the biggest challenge in his off-road racing career on his way to the 2021 Dakar.
You can follow Andrew and find race reports from the Africa ECO Race at roadtodakar.com.au.