Stage 7 proved a tough one with 701 km to be covered between Riyadh and Al Dawadaimi with a 402 km timed special. Australia’s Daniel Sanders didn’t however arrive at the special start, with a crash before reaching it leaving the Aussie in hospital.
It was a day of upsets for GasGas with Sam Sunderland also struggling and finishing in 28th, knocking him out of the overall lead.
Jose Ignacio Cornjeo recorded the fastest time of the day, 44s ahead of Kevin Benavides with teammate Joan Barreda third. Luciano Benavides was fourth, with Sherco’s Lorenzo Snatolino fifth. Top and sole remaining Australian was Toby Price in ninth for the stage, 10m37s off the lead, seeming to play the long game.
The overall standings have also seen a reshuffle after Stage 7, with Adrien Van Beveren moving into the head, five-minutes ahead of Matthias Walkner, with Kevin Benavides third. Sunderland is now fourth, with Santolino fifth. Top Honda is Pablo Quintanilla in sixth, with Toby Price now sitting 11th, 29m29s off the lead. That’s a gap he’s been slowly but steadily whittling down.
Disaster for Daniel Sanders – Toby Price remains consistent
Unfortunately for Daniel Sanders the 2022 Dakar Rally is now over following a fall from his GASGAS RC 450F during today’s opening liaison, which resulted in a fractured left elbow and wrist.
With two stage wins to his name at this year’s event – a competition the jovial Australian has unquestionably stamped his mark on – Dakar 2022 was shaping up to be a super successful rally for the Aussie. Lying third in the provisional standings at the time of the incident, Daniel will remain in hospital overnight tonight while undergoing ongoing medical checks, ahead of expected surgery on his elbow tomorrow.
Putting in a solid day seven performance from his eighth-place start position, Toby Price knew the special would throw up a few surprises and so focused on accurate navigation for the entirety of the stage.
Completing the initial dune section as one of the fastest riders, Toby showed more caution as the terrain got technical in the latter half of the stage. Bringing his KTM 450 RALLY home in ninth place, Price moves up one more place in the overall rankings to 11th with five stages left to contest.
Toby Price – P9
“Not a bad stage for me today, there was one really tricky bit of navigation in the middle there, so I took my time through that section to make sure I got through ok. I’m here safe in one piece, so can’t complain at all. On the whole, it’s been a really good day today, so we’ll focus on tomorrow now and hopefully more of the same.”
Honda’s Cornejo tops Stage 7
Young Chilean José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Cornejo took advantage of a good starting position this morning to set a lightning pace throughout the stage. With the terrain in optimal conditions, the rider from Iquique registered the quickest times at almost every waypoint en route, reaching the finish-line with the top marker after taking three-and-a-half hours to complete the special. Nacho now lies in ninth in the general standings, 26’37” behind the leader.
“Today was a good day. I started from a nice position, so I hoped to take the opportunity to attack, make up some time in the general classification and maybe even the stage victory. In the end, I achieved both of them. I tried to stay calm, to keep my concentration and not get lost with the navigation and that’s the way it worked out. I’m happy for my fourth victory in the Dakar, the first of this 2022. The bitter taste of the first days is behind us and we are highly motivated for the week to come. We will fight until the end.”
Finding the mixed terrain very much to his liking, reigning Dakar Champion Kevin Benavides made the very best use of his 13th place start position to work his way up through the field to ultimately complete the stage in second. The result gives the number one plate holder a huge boost in the overall standings, moving him from eighth up to third, just over five minutes behind the leader.
Kevin Benavides – P2
“I really pushed today, and it feels good to have that hard work pay off with a strong result. Navigation was tricky, especially later on, and I did make a couple of mistakes that cost me some time, but I was able to fix them quickly and keep a good rhythm going to the finish. I’ll be up near the front tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Joan Barreda once again pulled off an epic performance and was able to finish the stage amongst the frontrunners in spite of a shoulder injury – an arduous feat given the demanding terrain. Bang Bang reached Al Dawadimi to the applause of the entire Monster Energy Honda Team, gritting his teeth throughout the entire stage, with surprising speed, to eventually post third. The Spaniard now occupies seventh in the Dakar, 8’30” behind the leader.
Joan Barreda – P3
“I tried to start with some pace. At the beginning it was hard, with a rocky terrain that made me suffer a lot. I got a bit stiff when I was forcing my arms until I was able to relax a bit more in the faster sections. From the 100th kilometre onwards, I was able to push. I realised that the harder I pushed, the more confident I felt physically. I had some good feelings and I couldn’t have asked for anything better considering all I’ve been through.”
Luciano Benavides has put in his best performance of the 2022 Dakar Rally to date with an excellent ride to finish in fourth place on the technically demanding 404-kilometre special on day seven.
Luciano Benavides – P4
“I had a really good feeling with the bike today and because of that I felt really comfortable pushing hard all through the stage. For sure, it’s my best day of the rally so far. I did make some mistakes later in the stage with my navigation, but thankfully I was able to get back on track quickly and didn’t lose too much time on the others. After a difficult start to the race and being forced to try and make up time on every stage, getting a result like this is really good for my confidence. I’m looking forward to tomorrow now and a strong second week to the rally.”
Joaquim Rodrigues was in great form and he finished the stage in the sixth-place. The rest day prior to this stage allowed him to recover from his crashes earlier in the rally, where he had hurt his back.
Joaquim Rodrigues – P6
“The stage had very difficult navigation, especially after the refueling. We often had to stop and try to find the route as many were washed out. I took my time, and was able to find my way through the stage without losing too much time. I am happy with this result and we have 5 more stages to go, so I am going to take it one day at a time, and focus on getting my Hero Rally 450 to the finish line each day.”
A positive stage not only for Monster Energy Honda Team’s Cornejo and Barreda, but also for Ricky Brabec and Pablo Quintanilla. In addition to pulling back precious minutes in the general standings, their starting positions for tomorrow’s stage will allow a more gung-ho approach as they attempt to claw back even more time in the rankings. On the day Ricky finished seventh and Pablo eleventh, with the pair now holding thirteenth and sixth respectively.
Ricky Brabec – P7
“It was a good day for the team. It was long and rocky, but it was good. Some mistakes by other drivers allowed Pablo and I to open the last part of the special. It was a good team effort. We made up a good amount of time and we just have to keep pushing. The results are crazy, there are five days left and hopefully we can stay this strong and make it to the finish line. I’m outside the top ten, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can get on the podium in Jeddah.”
Pablo Quintanilla – P11
“It was a very good day for the team, and I want to congratulate Nacho for the stage victory. For me, personally, it was a good day to pull back some minutes in the overall standings. It was not easy. After refuelling I realised that Sam and Mathias were lost and we took the opportunity to attack. The navigation was super-complicated and the roads were not visible, so we had to be very precise with the distances. I didn’t lose much time and I made up a few minutes on the guys in front. I’m very pleased.”
Consistency, speed, and a focused approach throughout the Dakar Rally is certainly paying off for Adrien Van Beveren who now leads the 44th edition of the event. Delivering a masterclass in navigation today when many of his rivals struggled with some of the tricky notes found in the roadbook, Van Beveren delivered a strong result on stage seven to put himself on top of the provisional overall classification with five days of racing remaining.
Adrien Van Beveren – P10
“Today was a great day for me. There was some really tricky navigation and I didn’t make any big mistakes, which was good and where I felt I could push, I really pushed where it was possible to do so. It feels great to be leading after everything that has happened to me over recent years but I know all too well that the race is far from over. I’ll continue to focus on each day and keep fighting to the end.”
As the 16th rider to enter stage seven, Andrew Short was focused on securing a strong finish, riding his way to an eventual eighth fastest time. After posting impressive results since day two of the event, the Yamaha WR450F Rally mounted rider has continued to work his way up the overall leaderboard day-by-day, and now lies 10th in the provisional standings.
Andrew Short – P8
“It took a while to get going today after having a day off yesterday with the rest day, but I started getting back into the swing of it as the stage went on. There was a lot of tricky navigation today, especially with some valleys and canyons thrown in there as well as a lot of sand that had been washed into them. But overall, it’s great to tick another stage off and play a part in a positive day for the team with Adrien now leading and Ross back in the race as well.”
Aaron Maré started strong and was successful in leading a pack of 4-5 riders through a long section of heavy dust and rocks. However, a small navigation error towards the latter end of the stage cost him some time. He finished 18th in the RallyGP class.
Aaron Maré – P18
“I started the stage pretty well, and was able to catch up to some of the riders before the refuel point. After refuel, it was quite rocky and dusty, and it became quite difficult to manage the navigation. I was leading the stage quite a few times for a pack of 4-5 riders, but it meant that every time I would make a small mistake, I would have to go back into the dust again. Finally, I found some rhythm and was pacing ahead up until around 300kms or so, where I lost quite some time searching for a particular waypoint. It was a disappointing end, but I’m learning from my mistakes, and looking forward to making up for the lost time in the next stage.”
After catching and passing the one rider setting off ahead of him, Matthias Walkner soon found himself opening the technically demanding stage. The Austrian was able to maintain a good pace through the 100-kilometer dune section at the beginning of the special, keeping the chasing pack at bay. But when the terrain changed to the slower, rocky tracks later in the stage, a couple of small errors resulted in several minutes being lost for the KTM 450 RALLY rider. Despite finishing in 24th place, just over 10 minutes down on the stage winner, Matthias remains in second overall and will now enjoy an advantageous start position for Monday’s long 830-kilometer stage eight.
Matthias Walkner – P24
“It was a super tricky to navigate stage today. I think with the rain that we had here last week it’s washed a lot of the pistes away, so it’s difficult to know exactly where you are sometimes. There was one waypoint that was especially hard to find, and I know I lost a lot of time on that one alone. Other than that, the stage went well, I was opening for a lot of the first half until I got lost a little and I’m happy with my pace. Stages like that are especially tiring, it takes a lot out of you, so I’m looking forward to getting some rest now and attacking again tomorrow.”
Sam Sunderland overcame a seriously tough stage to put in a champion’s performance and navigate superbly. Completing the stage by losing a minimal amount of time to his rivals, Sam now lies fourth overall in the provisional standings, just under six minutes adrift of the new overall race leader.
Sam Sunderland – P28
“A bit of a rough day for me today. It was a difficult stage, made even more challenging by leading out. After the rain that had fallen recently, it had washed sand onto many of the tracks, which made navigation even more difficult as you couldn’t always see the track beneath the sand. Starting up front was really difficult, but I managed the stage the best I could. It was the same for everyone though and I’m glad to have not lost too much time. Also, I want to wish Daniel all the best – he had a big one today.”
Successfully completing another stage at his debut rally, Danilo Petrucci finished 30th, 27 minutes down on the day’s winner. Still a little hurt from his stage six crash, Danilo continues to tick off each stage with solid rides on his Tech3 KTM machine, and now has his sights set firmly on the finish line in Jeddah on January 14.
Ross Branch returned to action today after crashing out on stage six. Able to re-join the race and gain vital Dakar experience, despite riding in pain he enjoyed the 401-kilometre stage despite its navigational challenges to place 12th.
Ross Branch – P12
“It’s nice to be able to line-up again and gain some more experience at the Dakar. My leg is pretty painful but with the team we decided to give it a go today and I’m glad I did. It was a fun stage but pretty difficult with navigation and I made a couple of small mistakes out there. It’s great to be back racing and I hope my leg is a little less sore tomorrow.”
Tomorrow’s Stage 8
With a total of 830 kilometres by the end of the day, tomorrow will be the lengthiest stage of the 2022 Dakar Rally. After setting off the Al Dawadimi bivouac, there will be a liaison to reach the start of the special. Awaiting will be “just” 395 kilometres of special stage with a lot of sand and dunes through the valleys of the south of the country, arriving at the Wadi Ad-Dawasir bivouac after another very long liaison by road.
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