DAKAR DAY 1: BRABEC 2nd, SHORT 9th
The 2020 Dakar Rally officially started today in Saudi Arabia. After a day of racing that included 433 kilometers of liaison and a 319-kilometer timed special, defending champion Toby Price holds the lead with American Ricky Brabec in second. Today’s route led competitors north from Jeddah along the Red Sea coast to Al Wajh. With a mixture of fast, rocky pistes and soft sand dunes, the first day of racing in Saudi Arabia gave the riders a taste of what is to come in this new chapter of the Dakar.
Carrying the number one plate, reigning champion Toby Price had the advantageous position of being the 23rd rider to enter the day’s stage. The Aussie posted the second fastest time to the first waypoint. A small issue with his navigation equipment resulted in a seized road book and made navigation difficult. He was able to tag on to the back of teammate Matthias Walkner and the pair brought their KTMs home safely and in good time, with Price fastest overall.
Toby Price: “I had a really good day today up until about 140 kilometres where my road book started to play up a bit. Something had got in there and jammed the rollers and so I was left without a road book for a while. Luckily, I caught Matthias after he lost a little time and I was able to stay with him towards the finish. My result looks good on paper, but it turned out to be quite a tricky day. I’m also opening the stage tomorrow, so hopefully that’ll go well, too.”
Monster Energy HRC Honda rider Ricky Brabec started the day in 15th position and had the fastest time though the first two checks. Navigating from the front is always more difficult, and it will be a chess game tomorrow with Price and Brabec starting back to back. Andrew Short used the day as a warm-up to adjust to the terrain. He finished in ninth and will have excellent position tomorrow.
Ricky Brabec: “The start of the Dakar Rally with the new roadbook things were looking tough. It came full of notes and was coloured already for us. My starting position wasn’t the best. I had all the KTM, Yamaha and Husky boys behind me. It was hard for me to judge how fast they were going. I tried to do my best and not make any big mistakes. I was very fortunate to have a solid day. I hope to keep the speed all the way to the end. It’s only the first day – we have eleven left. I’m hoping the pieces come together and we can have a good finish.”
Andrew Short: “I took today as a bit of a warm up. I wanted to get a good feel for the bike and the terrain and make sure I didn’t make any big mistakes early on. I might have set off a little on the slow side but I soon felt comfortable and was able to push on towards the end of the stage. There is so much in front of us I think it’s foolish to go flat out right from the start. I really enjoyed the stage today, it started off quite stony with lots of crossing tracks but soon opened out into the dunes with some nice flowing lines. The terrain here in Saudi certainly seems unique and it looks like we’re set for a good adventure.”
Stage two of the 2020 Dakar Rally introduces the first ever ‘Super Marathon’ stage. Riders will not only be forbidden from having outside assistance from their teams at the end of the stage, they will also only be allowed to work on their own bikes for a maximum of 10 minutes. Of the 393 kilometres covered, 367 will be timed special as the route takes competitors from Al Wajh to Neom.
2020 Dakar Rally – Stage 1 Provisional Classification
1. Toby Price (KTM) 3:19:33
2. Ricky Brabec (Honda) 3:21:38
3. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 3:22:13
4. Kevin Benavides (Honda) 3:24:04
5. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 3:24:48
9. Andrew Short (Husqvarna) 3:28:36