Joaquim Rodrigues made history claiming the stage win yesterday for Hero MotoSports, however today’s Stage 4 was the longest of the 2022 Dakar Rally, including a total trek of 707 km, with a 465-kilometre special, and on Wednesday Honda and Sherco dominated.
Composed of a claimed 79 per cent dirt, 12 per cent dunes, 7 per cent sand and 2 per cent dried-out lake beds, the high-paced stage proved a trial by fire for those involved, with Aussie Toby Price quickly reaching the front but then having to contend with opening much of the stage and suffering as a result.
Sanders meanwhile forged ahead to a P17 result, ensuring he didn’t lose much time on the leaders and remaining within the top-five overall.
Monster Energy Honda had their best day so far, with Joan Barreda taking the stage win despite a one-minute penalty. Team-mate Pablo Quinantilla finished second and Ricky Brabec 10th, making it three riders within the top 10 for the day.
Completing the top three was Sherco Factory’s Rui Gonçalves, with teammate Lorenzo Santolino just a minute behind in fourth.
Luciano Benavides was top Husqvarna Factory Racing finisher in fifth, ahead of GasGas’s Sam Sunderland and KTM’s Matthias Walkner. Top Monster Energy Yamaha was Adrien Van Beveren in 11th.
The overall standings after Stage 4 see Sunderland in the lead from Walkner, Van Beveren in third and Sanders fourth. Price is running 16th, 43m36s off the lead.
Daniel Sanders rocketed forwards from his fifth place starting position on stage four, opening the challenging special from the 158-kilometre mark. With vast, rolling sand dunes in front of him, Chucky skillfully navigated across more than 300 kilometres to successfully reach the finish line in Riyadh to complete the stage as the 17th fastest rider.
Daniel Sanders – P17
“I got off to a really good start today and caught up to the leaders pretty quickly. After refueling there was a group of us opening the stage and then after a tricky spot with navigation it was me and Skyler Howes who broke free initially. Then I pushed on to lead on my own. Near the end I jumped off the top of a dune and I landed on a grassy mound, which wasn’t ideal, and I was really lucky not to crash there. But I cracked on with it and was able to finish the stage without any further issues. So all-in-all, a decent day for me.”
As the third rider into the long special, Toby Price soon found himself riding at the front and opening much of the stage. Despite the difficult navigation and mixed terrain, the two-time Dakar champion was able to stay consistent and lose the minimum of time on his rivals, finishing the day 29th.
“Stage four hasn’t gone too badly. Setting off near the front meant we lost a bit of time, but we expected that, especially after such a long stage. All-in-all I got through the stage pretty well, I made a couple of small mistakes, but was able to keep a good pace and a good rhythm, so happy days.”
Andrew Houlihan’s efforts also continued with a 100th place finish, which nows sees him sitting 104th overall.
Barreda & Quintanilla Honda 1-2
The starting order for the fourth day set the stage for a promising race, particularly for Joan Barreda who came out guns blazing, firmly intent on victory, but also on improving his position in the general standings.
With flawless riding and navigational prowess, the Spanish rider reached the finish-line in Riyadh the clear winner and currently holds seventh position overall, just over thirteen minutes shy of the overall leader.
Tomorrow Stage 5 will see Barreda open the track with his rivals in hot pursuit as a result. He was penalised one minute for exceeding the speed limit in a radar zone.
Joan Barreda – P1
“I’m very happy with today. It was a very good stage and I achieved another win. We did a very good job from the first moment of the special. We had different terrains: sandy tracks, dunes, rocks and with some navigation. I tried to keep calm, follow our course, but pushing hard and I think we did a great job and I’m very satisfied and happy with it.”
Pablo Quintanilla also performed well, an advantageous starting position helped him follow the trail left by his teammate. The Chilean turned out a very steady stage, consistently among the top three, climbing up one position in the order in the latter half of the day. Quinta’ improves on his position in the table and now lies sixth overall.
Pablo Quintanilla – P2
“It was a long special, without too much navigation and with a dune sector of about 50 kilometres. I’m happy with the way I rode today, I tried to push from the back. I was expecting more complicated navigation. I felt comfortable, at ease, with good pace and focused on the roadbook, so as not to miss any tracks and be able to make up some minutes in the general standings.”
Claiming a top-three stage result in not only his first Dakar but his first ever rally-raid is a huge achievement and is testament to Petrucci’s skill and focus. Although the former road racer is not eligible to feature in the classification due to his DNF on stage two, he continues to take every opportunity to deliver his best results and build his experience as the race continues, even if he doesn’t feature on the results.
Danilo Petrucci (Third over line)
“It was a really fast stage today with some very fast pistes. I was able to ride in a group and had a lot of fun, I really enjoyed it. It was such a long stage but fortunately I didn’t make any mistakes and was able to find a good rhythm. I learned a lot today too, so now I’m really excited for tomorrow and the rest of the event.”
Sherco Factory’s Rui Gonçalves and Lorenzo Santolino finished the day in third and fourth respectively.
Luciano Benavides made the minimum of mistakes while moving up through the field to ultimately claim fifth place. The number 77 continues to claw back the time he lost on the tough first stage of the rally and now sits 20th in the provisional overall standings.
Luciano Benavides – P5
“Stage four was a really long stage – the longest of the rally, so I’m happy to finish well and inside the top five. I kept focused on my navigation and it paid off, I was able to catch and pass some riders ahead of me, and I was able to keep a good speed for the whole stage without any big mistakes. The result is really encouraging, especially after such a tough day on stage one where a lot of us lost a lot of time. The bike is perfect and now I’m really looking forward to pushing hard for the rest of the race.”
Sam Sunderland continues to lead the 2022 Dakar Rally with the British racer now enjoying a three-minute advantage over his closest rival in the provisional overall standings. Stage 4 saw him chasing down the leading riders from his 17th place starting position to ultimately complete the stage as the seventh fastest rider.
Sam Sunderland – P7
“Things were going well today until I had a small crash in a riverbed while checking my roadbook. I just clipped a rock and that was all it took to take me down. I was able to get up pretty quickly, just as Barreda came by, so I latched onto him to the finish. I’ll get some rest now and prepare myself for tomorrow.”
Matthias Walkner put in another strong ride, claiming a solid eighth place on the tough special. This result, and Matthias’ string of consistent finishes, moves the Austrian up to second overall in the rally standings – just three minutes exactly from the lead. With an advantageous starting position for Thursday’s stage five, the reigning FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion will be looking to further close that gap.
Matthias Walkner – P8
“The navigation was tricky today. The pace was fast and so the notes in the roadbook were coming really quickly, you had to be really precise on your heading as there were many changes of direction. In the end, I rode in a good group with Kevin Benavides and Adrian Van Beveren, and we kept good speed to the finish without making any mistakes. Overall, even though it was such a long stage it went really quickly because we were pushing for the whole time. It was fun and I enjoyed the day.”
Ricky Brabec, who set off from sixth this morning in Al Qaisumah, had a fairly good day, posting tenth, but also received a two-minute penalty for speeding in a controlled area.
Ricky Brabec – P10
“Today’s stage was good. It was the longest stage of the rally and was supposed to be the most difficult, but as it was the longest it was good to make up or lose a lot of time. Today was a good day for us. We did well. We caught the front group around the second refuelling, so there we rode as a group together. I did a good job. I didn’t lose too much time. I lost some time to my team-mate Joan who was wild. He was on the gas and him and Pablo are doing great. If we were to delete the first day, I think that the team would be sitting one-two-three. It’s rally things, like this happen. I suffered a speeding penalty today – my mistake. I sped into the speed zone a little bit late. I lost huge on the first day and I’m kicking myself. It’s a long race and we have many days left.”
José Ignacio Cornejo finished twelfth, looking more at ease on the bike as the days go by, in spite of a minor navigation mistake earlier in the special.
José Ignacio Cornejo – P12
“Today was a good stage; the longest special stage of the rally. The intention was to push to try to make up time. It was a very fast stage and the gaps were not very big. I made a slight mistake where I lost about three minutes. Apart from that, it was a solid, all-round day and I’m happy about that. I had some good pace and I feel good on the bike, which is working perfectly. We have to hope for some difficult days ahead so that we can take advantage of the navigation to try to recover and move up in the general standings.”
Adrien Van Beveren brought his Yamaha WR450F Rally home in a strong 11th place. Despite the relatively straightforward high-speed special offering little to separate the leading riders, the Frenchman maintained his solid pace throughout all 465 kilometres to secure another positive result.
Adrien Van Beveren – P11
“Another fast stage today and not so much in the way of navigation. It wasn’t my favourite stage, but I’m happy to have completed the longest stage of the rally. I pushed on throughout with a strong rhythm and it’s great to be in such a good position after four stages. I’m super happy with my overall performance so far and the goal is to continue like this, keep focused, and take things day by day.”
Following his unfortunate navigational error on stage one, which affected many of the event’s top competitors, Andrew Short has since delivered impressive results. Stage four was no different for the American who, after a calculated day of racing, secured the 13th fastest time and now advances three spots in the provisional classification to 13th.
Andrew Short – P13
“Today was a good day. Starting up front and knowing it was the longest stage, it was going to be tough. It actually turned out pretty decent though. Brabec caught me and then we navigated together for almost the whole stage, which actually worked out really well as overall I didn’t lose too much time. I feel like I managed the day really well and I’m happy with things so far. Obviously, it’s a real shame about day one, that really set me back, but if I can keep on riding like I did today then we can for sure move up the leaderboard as the rally continues.”
Ross Branch maintains his 11th place ranking in the provisional standings after the conclusion of stage four. Incredibly, the 35-year-old recorded the very same time as his teammate Andrew Short and will be the 14th rider to take on tomorrow’s 348-kilometre stage five special. With a very favourable starting position and rolling sand dunes forming the final 80 kilometres of the special, Branch is hopeful of delivering his breakout stage result of the rally so far.
Ross Branch – P14
“It’s nice to have completed stage four, the longest one of the race, safely and tick off another completed stage. Despite it being a long one, there wasn’t much to separate us riders as the navigation was somewhat straightforward and the terrain wasn’t too technical. Tomorrow though looks like it will be a lot slower early on and then end with a big section of sand dunes so I’m excited to get that one started.”
Maintaining his position inside the top 10 in the standings, Kevin Benavides also delivered a quality ride on stage four to place 16th. Using his extensive skill and experience to navigate through the technically demanding stage, Benavides kept up a strong, but measured, pace to minimize any mistakes.
Kevin Benavides – P16
“It was a really hard day today. For the first 100 kilometres it was really cold out there – my hands were frozen so I couldn’t ride so good. After that I began to feel a little better and was able to push. It was a very fast day again today, but this time with a lot of navigation. The last section of the stage was especially very tough. I think I did a good job and I’m happy with that.”
Faced with the task of starting fourth into the longest stage of the event, Skyler Howes knew a consistent day of racing would be necessary to lose the minimum of time to his chasing rivals. The American star was able to not only do that but also maintain a speed that placed him a commendable 21st when he reached the stage finish. Although he dropped four places in the standings, Skyler still sits in an excellent eighth overall heading into stage five.
Skyler Howes – P21
“Things went well for me today, and I’m pleased with how I rode the stage. After yesterday’s decent result, I started right near the front and the navigation was just tricky enough that we soon ended up in a group riding together. We all took it in turns to open and it meant although we didn’t make up too much time on those around us, we didn’t lose that much time to those behind. I made it to the finish line without having to correct too many mistakes, so I’m happy with that. I lost a bit of time, but that’s understandable, so I’ll regroup and push some more tomorrow.”
Tomorrow’s Stage 5
Stage 5: 214 kilometres of liaison sections, 346 kilometres of special stage, making a total of 560 kilometres on the day. Starting and finishing at the bivouac in Riyadh, competitors will face a new loop on this Dakar, although it won’t be the last one.
The changes of terrain from dirt to stone-littered tracks will put a strain on the physiques of even the toughest riders in the opening half of the special. If that were not enough, then 50 kilometres of dunes will divide the wheat from the chaff.
MCNEWS.COM.AU is a specialist on-line resource that provides motorcycle news for motorcyclists. MCNews covers all areas of interest for the motorcycling public including news, reviews and comprehensive racing coverage.