Winning a stage on the Dakar seems to come with a price, and no I’m not referring to Toby.
But it does seem that winning a stage and having to lead the field out the next day is a tough thing to do in the 2021 Dakar Rally.
In the past teams were given their roadbook the night before, but under the new rules for 2021 the roadbook is handed out 15 minutes before the stage begins.
That doesn’t give riders much time to figure out where the tracks are, and that’s what the organisers intended. It’s one of the ways they’re trying to even the playing field for all competitors.
And it does mean the lead riders are finding it very challenging, and consequently they are dropping down the order the very day after they’ve made it to the top of the leaderboard.
It happened two days ago for Toby Price and it happened again yesterday for Joan Barreda, Ricky Brabec and Ross Branch.
They were on top of the overall standings at the end of the second stage, but lost significant amounts of time yesterday.
Barreda led the field out and by the first checkpoint was 19 minutes and 40 places down. Most of those positions were lost in the first 40km or so.
It was a similar story for his Honda teammate Ricky Brabec. He was in 34th position by the first checkpoint.
Out of the 3 leaders, Ross Branch lost the least amount of time early on but was down to 18th position. He had the advantage of seeing the errors of the two riders ahead of him.
Further back in the field riders who were starting to see tracks form in the sand had an advantage and were making up time.
Toby Price, who was sitting 15th overall at the end of Stage 2, got himself back up to 2nd position by the first timing point and then maintained that until he took the stage lead – and ultimately the stage win – with about 100 km to go.
Kevin Benavides did the same, getting himself up to the lead but losing it to Price in the final stages.
Although out of overall contention after a clutch failure yesterday, Matthias Walkner showed that he still has speed and finished third in the stage.
But at the end of the day, and in fact at the end of the event, it’s often overall consistency that brings you the win.
And Skyler Howes (#9 BAS Dakar KTM Racing) found that yesterday.
With the fourth fastest time in yesterday’s special he has taken the overall lead in the rally.
It now remains to be seen whether he can hold that during stage four or will he, like our previous leaders, struggle to open the road.
Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure rider Andrew Houlihan is maintaining consistent pace despite some minor setbacks in Stage 3.
He was stuck in the sand for a short time on one of the first big dunes and had a small off on a rocky section about 320 km into the special.
The impact was enough to activate his airbag vest, and the air canister had to be replaced at the next checkpoint.
Andrew and teammate Pablo Guillen also missed a checkpoint yesterday, and were hit with a 20 minute penalty each as a result.
The teammates rode together for quite a while yesterday, and taking penalties into account Andrew has finished the stage in 72nd position and Pablo 73rd.
Overall that places Pablo in 67th and Andrew 69th – commendable results at this stage of their first Dakar.
Fellow Australians Daniel Sanders (KTM factory) and Michael Burgess are continuing their steady progress.
Burgess currently sits in 40th place overall after a strong performance in yesterday’s third stage. He finished just 38 minutes behind the leaders.
And an 8th place yesterday has moved Daniel Sanders to 16th overall.
At the end of the third stage, the overall placings are:
- 1. Skyler Howes (#9 BAS Dakar KTM Racing)
- 2. Kevin Benavides (#47 Monster Energy Honda) +0:00:33
- 3. Xavier De Soultrait (#12 HT Rally Raid Husqvarna) +0:01:28
- 4. Toby Price (#3 Red Bull KTM) +0:01:52
- 5. Sam Sunderland (#5 Red Bull KTM) +0:05:27
- 16. Daniel Sanders (#21 KTM Factory) +0:16:46
- 42. Michael Burgess (#80 BAS Dakar KTM Racing) +2:11:58
- 67. Pablo Guillen (#35 Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure) +5:40:45
- 69. Andrew Houlihan (#62 Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure) +6:12:52
Motorcycle Life is supporting Andrew Houlihan and Pablo Guillen in their rookie year at the 2021 Dakar Rally.
Andrew is also posting a daily diary on Speedcafe.