January 25, 2021

Dakar 2021: Kevin Benavides puts Honda in the lead

Kevin Benavides (Monster Energy Honda Team 2021) during the 5th stage of the Dakar Rally 2021 (Photo credit: DPPI/F.Le Floc'h)

The brief for Stage 5 of the 2021 Dakar Rally was that it would be the toughest stage so far. And they were right!

Very early in the stage many of the top riders lost their way and significant amounts of time.

And by the end of the day the gruelling stage had taken 15 more riders out of the competition.

Joan Barreda, Pablo Quintanilla, Daniel Sanders, Ross Branch, Adrien van Beveren and his team-mate Franco Caimi were among the many riders who found the navigation difficult.

Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure rider Andrew Houlihan took a different approach.

“About 40ks in I came over a dune to see about 50 bikes and quads lost and buzzing around in all directions”, he said. “I decided none of these guys have got it right, so I’m not following them.”

Instead he took off in the general direction of the cap heading and eventually saw two quads roaring around the corner flat out.

He figured that if they were going that quick and in the general direction of the cap, they might be on the right path. So he followed them along a gully which eventually lead to the correct track.

That smart decision bumped him well up the field.

After starting 70th, by the first waypoint he was 37th and by 74km into the special he was up to 29th.

Eventually the other riders clawed back some time, but what Andrew had done was enough to give him his best finish yet in the rally – 57th on the day and now 63rd overall.

At the head of the field Monster Energy Honda teammates Kevin Benavides and José Ignacio Cornejo (aka Nacho) were taking charge of the stage.

The pair exchanged the lead several times until Benavides eventually took the stage win by one minute.

As well as the stage win, Benavides took away a broken nose as a souvenir of the tough stage.

He said he jumped over one big dune, but then hit the next one with his front wheel.

“I banged my head like this and broke the GPS and everything”, he explained. ”My nose is broken and also I broke the helmet.”

”I think I’ll be okay for tomorrow. I’m in pain … But it’s like that, this is the Dakar”.

Toby Price steadily worked his way up the field to finish third, which has moved him up to 4th overall just one second behind Nacho Cornejo. That was a pretty good effort given that for the last 120km he didn’t have any rear brakes.

Toby posted a photo on his Facebook page showing the brake lever missing.

“No brakes for the last 120km, that was scary in the dunes!”, he explained.

Daniel Sanders dropped from his starting position of 2nd to 23rd by the first waypoint. 

He fought his way back up to 15th and that was enough to move him up one place in the general standings to 13th.

Michael Burgess said he had “a tough day on the bike.”

The Boy from Bendigo crashed just 700 metres into the special and broke his roadbook, then had to manually scroll it for the rest of the day. He is still 38th overall.

Stage 6 promises to be almost as tough and incredibly demanding through the sand dunes where “even the toughest riders will end up with their arms like jelly”.

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

  • 1. Kevin Benavides (#47 Monster Energy Honda)
  • 2. Xavier De Soultrait (#12 HT Rally Raid Husqvarna) +0:02:31
  • 3. Nacho (José Ignacio) Cornejo (#4 Monster Energy Honda) +0:03:42
  • 4. Toby Price (#3 Red Bull KTM) +0:03:43
  • 5. Sam Sunderland (#5 Red Bull KTM) + 0:06:06
  • 13. Daniel Sanders (#21 KTM Factory) +0:24:45
  • 38. Michael Burgess (#80 BAS Dakar KTM Racing) +4:09:35
  • 62. Pablo Guillen (#35 Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure) +9:56:52 
  • 63. Andrew Houlihan (#62 Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure) +10:27:24

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.