April 24, 2024

Dakar 2021: De Soultrait shows that consistency is the key

Xavier De Soultrait (HT Rally Raid Husqvarna Racing) - Stage 4 of the Dakar 2021 (Photo credit: A.S.O./A.Vincent/DPPI)

Toby Price almost did it – he almost broke what seems to be “the curse” of leading the field out in the 2021 Dakar Rally.

He led the field of 96 riders out on the special at 9:10 am local time and at the second timing point 80km in, he still had the lead.

But a navigation error soon after that cost him just over five minutes and dropped him 20 places.

Although he lost more time relative to the leaders during the rest of the stage, he maintained his place and finished today in 21st position, dropping him to 8th overall.

Toby says that despite the errors today, the bike and tyre are in good shape and he’s still happy.

We’ve seen the top placed riders from the previous day lead the field out, struggle with navigation errors almost instantly and then drop down the placings.

It had happened to Joan Barreda, but today was his day to strike back.

He started 30th after falling to “the curse” yesterday, but immediately started setting a cracking pace.

And by the first timing point he was leading the stage. He dropped to second place at the second timing point then regained the top spot and held it to the end of the day.

That’s moved him into second place overall.

Barreda’s Monster Energy Honda teammate, Ricky Brabec, finished today in 18th position.

He was consistently about five minutes off the pace of the leading bikes all day and then seemed to be riding conservatively towards the end.

Was he being strategic?

It means he’ll be a bit down the starting order for Stage 5, which is widely being touted as the toughest stage in this year’s event, and he will have the advantage of following some of the other riders.

Maybe in this year’s event the best place to be positioned each day is just outside the top three or four.

It seem to work for Xavier De Soultrait today.

He started sixth, maintained a steady pace all day, finished fifth and now leads overall!

Australian Andrew Houlihan was having a great day until approximately 40km before the end of the special.

He had tracked with Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure teammate Pablo Guillen for most of the day, but just before the end of the special the mousse in his rear tyre blew.

The tyre mousse is a ring of flexible foam (no, not a fluffy chocolate dessert) that is placed inside a tyre before it is fitted on the rim.

In the event of an air leak and loss of pressure, the mousse expands to fill the void, giving a pressure almost equal to that of a properly inflated tyre.

He manage to limp into the next checkpoint, but the tyre totally shredded on the 200km liaison into Riyadh.

Despite the tyre drama, Andrew managed to pick up a couple of places today and now sits 67th overall.

Pablo Guillen also had a good day, picking up a couple of places to be 65th overall.

At the end of the fourth stage, the overall placings are:

  • 1. Xavier De Soultrait (#12 HT Rally Raid Husqvarna)
  • 2. Joan Barreda (#88 Monster Energy Honda) +0:00:15
  • 3. Ross Branch (#18 Monster Energy Yamaha) +0:05:24
  • 4. Kevin Benavides (#47 Monster Energy Honda) +0:05:24
  • 5. Skyler Howes (#9 BAS Dakar KTM Racing) +0:05:26
  • 8. Toby Price (#3 Red Bull KTM) +0:07:47
  • 14. Daniel Sanders (#21 KTM Factory) +0:14:08
  • 38. Michael Burgess (#80 BAS Dakar KTM Racing) +2:39:58
  • 65. Pablo Guillen (#35 Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure) +6:37:34 
  • 67. Andrew Houlihan (#62 Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure) +7:37:22

Motorcycle Life is supporting Andrew Houlihan and Pablo Guillen in their rookie year at the 2021 Dakar Rally.

For updates on their progress and more behind the scenes news, follow them on Facebook and Andrew’s website – The Road To Dakar 2021.

Andrew is also posting a daily diary on Speedcafe.