Australian Toby Price has taken the lead of the 2021 Dakar Rally after overnight leader and last year’s winner Ricky Brabec got lost early in the special stage today.
The error has cost Brabec 18 minutes. His Honda teammate Joan Barreda and Husqvarna factory rider Pablo Quintanilla also conceded over fifteen minutes for similar reasons.
Brabec led the field of 101 bikes out this morning at 4:15 am local time. Opening a stage is always a challenge as there are no tracks from previous riders to follow, so it’s often easy to get lost.
Price started today from ninth and also lost some positions early in the special stage. But by about halfway through the stage he was steadily gaining places and by the 135 km checkpoint he had taken the lead.
Kevin Benavides and Matthias Walkner were the other big winners today, finishing second and third about half a minute behind Toby Price.
After Ricky Brabec’s error, Benavides is now the highest ranked Honda rider and the only one in the top 20.
Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure riders Pablo Guillen and Andrew Houlihan have made massive improvements in their position throughout today.
Pablo, who started today from 77th position, had picked up at least eight positions with just under 50 km left in the special stage.
Andrew Houlihan was penalised yesterday when an electrical glitch prevented his bike from registering two waypoints in the prologue. He started today from 97th, and has gained almost 30 positions by the third checkpoint situated 177 km into the special stage.
The other two Australians competing are both in the top 35 at the end of today’s stage.
KTM factory rider Daniel Sanders has finished today in 24th position, one position behind Ricky Brabec and 19 minutes 51 seconds behind teammate Toby Price. This is Daniel’s first Dakar.
Michael Burgess is in an incredible 34th position and just over 38 minutes behind the leaders. He is also in his first Dakar Rally.
The also rally seems to have claimed its first two casualties.
Colombian rider Jhon Trejos is likely to withdraw after hurting his right wrist in a crash at the 98 km mark. And Frenchman Xavier Flick (Husqvarna) has crashed and hurt his leg. He has managed to get back on his bike and at this stage is continuing, but will almost certainly make a decision about his future in the event later today.
Yes, there is a very long way to go in this event, anything can happen and it usually does.
But for Brabec, Barreda and Quintanilla the challenge is most definitely on.