Stage 9 saw riders completing the Wadi Ad Dawasir loop of 490 km traversing the Arabian Peninsula’s Empty Quarter with a 287 km special, mixing rocky mountain tracks and canyons in, with less sand than the previous stage.
Jose Ignacio Cornejo proved the fastest rider for the day, claiming the stage win from Kevin Benavides who was 1m26s in arrears, while Ricky Brabec, Matthias Walkner and Joan Barreda rounded out the top five. Toby Price finished the day in 16th, 8m35s off the lead.
The results saw Sam Sunderland shuffled back from the lead after opening the stage, which saw him finish 13th. Instead Walkner now leads, by 2m12s from Sunderland, while Adrien Van Beveren sits third, Pablo Quintanilla fourth and Kevin Benavides fifth. Toby Price now sits ninth, 35m14s off the lead, closing down that gap proving difficult.
Yesterday Nacho Cornejo had been left with a bittersweet taste after the eighth stage. A slight mistake towards the end of the special left the rider without the prize he had been ultimately seeking: that of minimising any markings for his pursuers to follow while opening the track throughout the day. Today, he returned to the Wadi Ad-Dawasir bivouac with a smile beneath his helmet after a second win in this Dakar, taking the young Chilean’s total tally to five.
José Ignacio Cornejo – P1
“I think I had a good stage. Yesterday I lost a lot of time towards the end, opening the track, and today I wanted to make up some of that time. I would have liked to make up more, but the stage was very fast and it was difficult to make a big difference. I’m pleased: I did what I had to do, which was to push. There are three days left and we will continue with the same attitude, trying to turn out solid performances and improve in the general standings.”
Right on the pace from the very start of today’s special, Kevin Benavides placed within the top three for much of the stage, despite the times being exceptionally close throughout the top 10. Steering his KTM 450 RALLY to a runner-up result, the reigning Dakar Champion moves back up the provisional rally order to fifth, just over 10 minutes behind the leader.
Kevin Benavides – P2
“Stage nine was a really good stage for me. I felt really good on the bike and was able to push a lot. I expected the navigation to be a little trickier, but in the end, it was quite easy to choose the correct way. The guys in front did a good job of navigating so in the end it just came down to speed, and all the guys at the front ended up being really close on time. I finished second today, which will make tomorrow a little tougher. But I’ll focus on my navigation and with only three days left, my plan is to push all day, every day.”
Monster Energy Honda Team’s American rider Ricky Brabec rode a fine special, pushing hard and posting third place on the day.
Ricky Brabec – P3
“Today went well. I think I rode very well, and that’s positive. The team, the riders and the mechanics are doing an excellent job. I’m slowly realising a couple of things: sometimes there are days when you don’t lose or gain time and sometimes you can gain or lose a lot of time. It’s something we have to study… I’m happy to be able to get to the end of another day with the whole team. There are two tough days left, so we’ll have to keep pushing. I try to go fast every day, to make up time, but maybe I have to do things differently.”
As the third rider into the stage, Matthias Walkner immediately took his time, focusing on his navigation to avoid making any costly errors. However, with the special proving to be relatively straightforward, Walkner knew he would have to push to stay in touch with his two rivals ahead of him. By catching them both by the finish, the experienced Austrian not only moved himself up into the provisional lead of the race, but also lost the minimum of time to his closest competitors while also securing himself another strong start position for Wednesday’s stage 10.
“It was quite a short stage today, but really, really fast. It wasn’t too difficult with the navigation and the boys in front did a good job, so it was quite hard to make up a lot of time. By the refueling I saw that I was a little off the pace, not too much, but I knew I would have to get my head down for the second half of the stage. It all seemed to pay off because I have taken over the lead of the overall and also my starting position for tomorrow is quite good. We’ve got three more really interesting days to come.”
Joan Barreda also completed the day’s stage with a certain degree of normality, a mere 2’10 behind his team-mate. Barreda, fifth on the stage, holds sixth in the general standings, less than 11 minutes behind the race leader.
Joan Barreda – P5
“Today went quite well. I started 10th, with several riders ahead of me. I set a steady pace, making good decisions in terms of navigation. As the kilometres went by, I felt a bit better and in the final part, I was able to push harder. The truth is that the riders in front navigated really well and didn’t make any mistakes, so the pace was pretty high. We weren’t able to pull back much from the riders in front, but the positive thing is that another stage is over and I have a chance to fight for the Dakar, recovering physically by the day. The goal is to reach the finish-line giving it the maximum.”
Completing the high-speed special as the sixth fastest rider, Andrew Short delivered another strong stage finish at this year’s Dakar. With little to separate the riders over the easy-to-navigate terrain, the 39-year-old nevertheless gave his best effort and was rewarded with a return to 10th overall in the provisional classification at the conclusion of stage nine.
Andrew Short – P6
“Today was a really fast stage and it flowed well with a lot of sweeping turns. There was also a small section of massive dunes, which were cool with some nice jumps in there too. So, it was a big change from yesterday, which was nice as that one was long and tough. Today was pretty short, and pretty quick, and even though I had a good result I didn’t make up too much time unfortunately. It’s still tight with times around the top 10 so hopefully through the next three days I can keep doing what I’m doing and break away from the battle a little bit.”
Completing the special four minutes and 21 seconds off the leading time, despite navigating through much of the stage on his own, Luciano’s pace shows the quality of his riding and the performance of his Husqvarna Factory Racing machine.
Luciano Benavides – P7
“Stage nine was a short, fast stage, but I really enjoyed it. It was made up mostly of rocky valleys and canyons with a few sections of dunes, too. The route was really high speed, so it wasn’t the best day to make up time on everyone else. I tried to be as consistent as I could because I think even a small mistake could end up costing you a lot of time today with everything being so close. I think I did a good job – I’m pleased to get two seventh place finishes in a row now, and again it puts me in a good starting position for tomorrow. I’m feeling good, the bike is working well with no problems, physically I am ok too. The team have also been putting in a lot of good work, so I’m really happy with how everything is going. I’m looking forward to pushing once again tomorrow.”
Lastly, Pablo Quintanilla did a commendable job today to set himself up nicely for the final victory battle of this 2022 Dakar. He finished eighth on the day and lies in fourth place overall just 4’41 behind the new race leader.
Pablo Quintanilla – P8
“I’m happy. It was a good day because the goal today was to catch Sam and not to make any navigation mistakes. In the end it was a straightforward day: no mistakes, I caught up with Sam after the refuelling and we clawed back another minute in the overall. I think I have a good position for tomorrow. I won’t have to open the track but I will have fast riders in front and behind. We will try to manage the pressure well tomorrow. The times are very tight and will stay that way until the end. I’m really enjoying the race.”
For Adrien Van Beveren, a controlled ride through the fast stage nine special saw the Frenchman record the ninth fastest time. Such was the simplicity of the stage, Adrien completed the timed special just over five minutes behind the winner. Remaining third in the provisional standings, the Yamaha WR450F Rally mounted rider now looks forward to the final three stages.
Adrien Van Beveren – P9
“The day was good. It was a really fast, which I wasn’t expecting. I expected more navigation, but it wasn’t the case. Everything was ok though, nothing special today. Just a solid pace and another good result. I’m really in the fight now but I will continue with the same mindset, take things day by day and focus on one stage at a time. I’m feeling good and my bike is running perfectly, so I’ll be giving my very best effort over the final three days.”
Stage nine of the 2022 Dakar Rally was a crucial one for GASGAS Factory Racing’s Sam Sunderland. After his impressive stage win yesterday, he faced the arduous task of leading the riders out on today’s 287-kilometer timed special. Digging deep to post a 14th place finish – a result that at first glance might look anything but impressive but in reality is genuinely one hell of a performance – the Brit lost only a minimal amount of time, just over eight minutes in fact, to the eventual stage winner.
Sam Sunderland – P14
“Opening a stage only adds to the difficulty of rally racing and I’m super happy with how the day went for me. On paper you could look at the results and think it wasn’t a great stage for me, but the reality was that leading out means you’re relying solely on your roadbook. Not losing huge chunks of time today means I did a pretty good job. Since my crash last week, I’ve felt better and better every day so I’m looking forward to this continuing through the final three days.”
Another solid performance on stage nine saw Toby Price complete the timed special as 17th quickest, albeit only eight and a half minutes down on the winner. Lying just outside the top 10 overall, Toby hopes to use his start position on Wednesday’s stage 10 to elevate himself further up the rankings.
Toby Price – P16
“It was a good day, I had a couple of little mistakes, but nothing too crazy. I’m starting a little way back tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll be able to grab a little time back then. Other than that, the bike is good, I feel good, we’ll keep on pushing tomorrow.”
Danilo Petrucci once again showed his speed and class on stage nine of the rally, competitive on time and running for most of the day just outside the top 10. Losing a couple of minutes in the very final kilometers of the special, Danilo completed the day as 18th fastest, less than nine minutes behind the winner.
Danilo Petrucci – P18
“I had a good day today. I’m really happy with my riding and was able to match the speed of the top guys for much of the stage. Unfortunately, I did have a small technical issue that caused me to stop a couple of times, but thankfully, I didn’t lose too much time. It might not be too much of a bad thing because I have a good start position for tomorrow now and I hope to be able to really push once again.”
Tomorrow’s Stage 10
With two days to go until the end of the rally, riders can once again expect a navigation-filled day before the 759-kilometre trek is completed. About half the distance – some 375 kilometres – will be against the clock. The crossings and parallel tracks could be the undoing of more than a few bikers.
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