Saturday saw the Dakar Rally 2021 kick off with the prologue, Maurizio Gerini marking the first biker to enter the 11km stage travelling from Jeddah to Jeddah, however it was last year’s winner Ricky Brabec who stamped his authority on the day.
“Today was good. Pretty short – just a ten-kilometre prologue. Nothing to really lose or nothing to gain. Just enough to shake the bugs out of the bike and the body. We’re now ready for the actual start. Tomorrow we start nice and early. We came away with first and second place in the prologue for me and Joan. So tomorrow Joan and I will open the way and hopefully it will go well. It’s a long race but I think strategy will start to play in, but as of now, it’s time to get lunch, get the gear off and time to focus.”
Joan Barreda looked like an early shoo-in for the win, with Aussie Daniel Sanders in close proximity, however Brabec proved fastest overall, just 13-seconds separating the top three.
Joan Barreda was actually the first of the favourites to get to grips with the motorbike special, with the occasion marking his eleventh Dakar, boasting 17 stage wins under his belt, showing immediate speed. He was outpaced by Brabec by six-seconds, with Sanders a further seven-seconds in arrears.
“I am happy with this first day. It was a pretty quick prologue and it wasn’t easy. The first part was in an open river and it was complicated because we had to validate each note within an 80-metre radius. From there we entered a very stony mountainous area which was very quick and quite difficult. I hesitated over some of the Roadbook validations but didn’t really waste too much time. I am quite happy with this first contact.”
The 2020 Dakar champion, Ricky Brabec, was of course the last biker to start the special, but that proved no hurdle.
Ross Branch was fourth fastest, followed by Sebastian Buhler, Andrew Short, Kevin Benavides, Pablo Quintanilla and then Australian Toby Price in ninth 22s off pace, with Joaquim Rodrigues completing the top 10. Price’s teammates, Matthias Walkner and Sam Sunderland both also finished within a minute of the leader.
Michael Burgess was the next fastest Australian in 39th, 1m14s off leading pace, while Joseph Houlihan came home in 72th, 2m46s off the leader.
Sunday, sees the first stage of the Dakar 2021, which will be contested entirely on-track between Jeddah and Bisha. Competitors can expect 277 kilometres of special timed out of a 622-kilometre total trek. The route will pass through several valleys with several sections requiring deft roadbook reading skills. Some of the stony sections could prove detrimental to the tyres.
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