DAKAR, STAGE 2: SUNDERLAND TO THE FRONT
Red Bull KTM’s Sam Sunderland started today’s stage in fifth place, which, as it turned out, was a significant advantage. He took the overall lead after finishing second to private KTM rider Ross Evan Branch. The pre-colored road books used for the first time this year were only given to competitors 25 minutes before the start of the timed special, making navigation particularly difficult for those who started up front. Also, with the day marking the first half of the event’s Super Marathon stage, riders were only allowed 10 minutes to work on their bikes at the end of the day, with no outside assistance permitted.
His KTM teammate Toby Price had to open the course and struggled somewhat, but still managed 15th overall. As the fifth rider to enter the day’s 367-kilometer special, Sunderland was able to maximize his advantage and push right from the start. He now enjoys a lead of just over one minute in the provisional overall standings.
Sam Sunderland: “It was a really tough day today and it felt very long. There was a huge mix of terrain with high speed tracks and then slower technical sections. In and out of the canyons there were a lot of lines visible and that made navigation more of a challenge. I made a couple of mistakes, but I think everyone did out there today. All-in-all though I had a good run, just trying to stick to a steady rhythm and build up my pace as the race goes on.”
Ricky Brabec managed the situation skillfully and, in spite of having to start the day from second position, was able to post eleventh final place which leaves the American in fifth position overall some four minutes shy of the overall leader.
Ricky Brabec: “The day was good. We knew coming into it that we were going to lose a bit of time. We started up front. It wasn’t too tricky. Up front you have a lot more focus. I lost the way a bit about kilometer 50. We all grouped up and tried to be smart and manage our motorcycles. We have the Super Marathon tonight. It’s not key to wreck your motorcycle as you have no mechanics and no assistance. I’m looking forward to day three. The team’s good and all the bikes are in one piece. We’ll keep pushing. The bikes are really good. Motorcycles don’t really carry any tools or parts, so the only thing we can do is either adjust the lever or zip-tie some things together. Other than that even if you wreck the motorcycles, you have to deal with it. We are very fortunate that all the riders have nice motorcycles for day three. So that’s a plus for Honda.”
Toby Price: “Today was always going to be tough, leading out from the start without having had much time to read the road book. The stage went ok, I lost some time to the others but the most important thing is I looked after my bike and the tires so should be in good shape to close down on the leaders again tomorrow. There’s still a long, long way to go, but the bike is working great, things are looking good and I’m happy.”
Andrew Short enjoyed a strong pace during the first half of stage two. The American rider was able to make up valuable minutes on the riders ahead after setting off ninth into the timed special. Unfortunately, Short suffered a fall during the closing kilometers of the stage, which resulted in a damaged navigation tower. Reaching the finish in one piece and as the 10th fastest rider, Andrew now faces a challenging stage three.
Andrew Short: “My day was going well right up until near the end. I came up on one of the dangers but wasn’t quite able to get the bike stopped in time and ended up crashing. I’m ok but I damaged my road book, which on a normal stage would be fine – we’d just fix it – but as this is the Super Marathon stage that’s impossible. So, tomorrow is going to be really tough. I might be able to follow someone, but it certainly looks like I might lose a little more time on stage three.”
RESULTS, STAGE 2
1 ROSS EVAN BRANCH KTM RACING TEAM 03:29’10
2 SAM SUNDERLAND KTM Factory Racing Team +01’24
3 PABLO QUINTANILLA Husqvarna Factory Rally Team +02’21
4 KEVIN BENAVIDES Monster Energy Honda Team +03’40
5 LUCIANO BENAVIDES ARG KTM Factory Racing Team +03’44
6 JOAN BARREDA Monster Energy Honda Team +04’57
7 JOSE IGNACIO CORNEJO CHI Monster Energy Honda Team +04’58
8 MATTHIAS WALKNER KTM Factory Racing Team +05’59
9 XAVIER DE SOULTRAIT Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team +06’08
10 ANDREW SHORT Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing +07’00
11 RICKY BRABEC Monster Energy Honda Team +08’45
PROVISIONAL STANDINGS AFTER STAGE 2