Ricky Brabec has won Stage 3 of the Dakar Rally, taking the lead over runner-up and team-mate Jose Florimo, while fellow Monster Energy Honda Team 2020 rider Kevin Benavides took out third for a Honda podium lock-out.
The 504-kilometre looped stage featured 427 kilometres of timed special that wound its way through the canyons and up into the mountains in the north of the country, however a GPS issue that affected all competitors resulted in many of the front runners being unable to find a waypoint.
As a result event organisers later amended the results from kilometre-389, rather than the final 427-kilometre mark as originally planned, which saw an reshuffle of the results and standings, while the spread of times across the top-10 was reduced from almost an hour down to just over 15-minutes.
The result catapults Brabec into the lead of the standings after Stage 3, marking the third rider to claim the lead and a stage win in as many stages, after Toby Price and Sam Sunderland took the lead in stages one and two respectively.
Riders once again received the ready-to-use roadbooks just minutes before the race-start, but this was no impediment to Ricky Brabec, as the Americanrider let rip, registering the best times at the various waypoints of the special before reaching the goal back in Neom. The Californian now leads in the general standings, and was the clear leader even before the shortened course was used to determine the results.
“Today was actually really fun. The train was really epic. There were a lot of rocks, lots of stones, a lot of sand, and a lot of tricky navigation. It was really fast, which is what I really prefer. I had a good starting position today. I started a little bit back in twelfth position. I didn’t have too much dust. I past the first rider at kilometre 20. I knew today I could push. It was difficult. Every note that I thought was difficult I slowed down and took my time. I was pushing all day. We had three short specials. I was riding really well and I felt really good today. The roadbook is really good. The information here is really, really nice here. Tomorrow will be tricky. It’s always difficult opening because you have all the riders pushing behind you.”
José Ignacio Cornejo was also feeling at ease on this third stage of the rally in Saudi Arabia. Improving his skills as each day goes by, the Chilean made it home with the second best time of the day, less than six minutes behind Ricky Brabec.
José Ignacio Cornejo
“It went well today. It was a long stage, but an entertaining and complicated one. There were some very complicate areas for the navigation. It went well with a good pace, without making any mistakes but clocking up good partial times. In general, it was a very good day. I moved up a few positions in the overall standings. I felt really good and was comfortable with the bike. So I’m very pleased with the performance.”
Argentinean rider Kevin Benavides climbs positions on the 2020 Dakar overall leader board to second place, just 4’43 shy of his team-mate after a notable showing in the day’s tricky special where he took third place on the podium.
“Today was a very nice stage, but a complicated one for the navigation. I started from fourth place. I caught up with the riders ahead and after I separated from the group and then I opened the way. I had a problem with one of the waypoints at kilometre 392. The roadbook was correct but the waypoint wasn’t there. I arrived there before all the other riders so I lost more time. After that the other riders arrived and we rode together in a group. Nevertheless, I’m very happy with the job done today. I felt very good on the bike. The navigation went really well. I will keep pushing ahead.”
The updated results now have Matthias Walkner fourth, ahead of defending champion Toby price, while Joan Barreda placed sixth ahead of Luciano Benavides.
Eighth to enter the day’s stage, Matthias Walkner completed the majority of the special without issue. The experienced Austrian racer chose to focus on his road book and navigation rather than push too hard on the technical terrain and risk mistakes. The decision paid off for the 2018 Dakar champion who ultimately posted the fourth-quickest time of the day to move up to third overall in the provisional standings.
“I rode well today so I’m happy about that and the bike is performing really well too, which is great. Right from the start today, navigation was really tricky and you have to concentrate on the road book a lot. I came close to hitting some big rocks hidden in the sand today – it’s difficult to find the right balance between maintaining good speed and the navigation. The missing waypoint caught everyone out so that caused some issues toward the end of the stage. All-in-all I feel good and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Toby Price led the Australian contingent, also making the most of his experience when the going gets tough, and completed the shortened stage as fifth fastest, just seconds down on teammate Walkner. The stage one winner moves up to sixth in the general rankings and will enjoy a strong start position for Wednesday’s stage four.
“It’s been a tough day, but not too bad. Things were going well in the morning – a few mistakes here and there but nothing too bad. I just tried to stay on two wheels, ride safe and bring it home. Obviously the issue towards the end threw us all a bit, but it’s nice that the organisers acknowledged that quickly and rectified the results. The stage was really beautiful – lots of canyons and camels – I’m feeling good and keen to get going again tomorrow.”
Continuing to set a solid, consistent pace, Luciano Benavides put in an excellent rideto finish as seventh fastest. Despite a couple of navigational mistakes and an injury to his hand, the young Argentinian was just minutes behind teammates Walkner and Price. Luciano now sits seventh in the provisional overall standings.
“It was a tricky day today, I felt good for the first half and only made one small mistake. The bike is feeling really good here in Saudi Arabia, we have it set up very well for the changes in terrain and that helps to give me a little more confidence. Unfortunately, when everyone got lost with the missing waypoint a stone flew up from another rider and hit my hand – I’m hoping it’s not too badly hurt and I’m ok for tomorrow.”
Opening the day’s special after overtaking the early leader proved a challenge for Stage 2 winner Sam Sunderland, who navigated well through the mixed terrain, enjoying a strong pace right until the neutralisation. A small mistake then cost the reigning FIM World Champion a number of minutes before then being the first to encounter the GPS issue later on. Despite his challenges, Sunderland posted the 14th fastest time and lies ninth in the provisional overall standings.
“The stage didn’t start too well for me as I had a small issue with my GPS, but after that I was able to push on and made my way to the front. I think I did a good job of opening the stage and didn’t make too many mistakes. After the refuelling I was the first to come across the missing waypoint and struggled for a long time to work it out, the other riders caught me there and it was a bit chaotic until we worked it out. Thankfully, that has all been sorted now and I can concentrate on winning back some time tomorrow.”
Early results reported Rodney Faggotter completed the stage in 35th after the waypoint issue, leaving him ranked 21st overall, however updated results have him finishing 13th, and 15th overall in the standings. He also shed some light on the waypoint issue in a comment on social media.
“Possy 13th today! Had a good solid ride and feeling good. Bit of chaos late in the stage with a missing waypoint that wasn’t set up in the motos GPSs, but was in the Quads and cars. Fortunately common sense prevailed and they took the stage times up to that point. Was funny for a while and even had a chat and trail ride around in circles with my ol mate Toby Price. Was funny until we were still searching for that bastard waypoint 1/2 hour later. But all ended well.”
Adrien Van Beveren, who was running 14th after Stage 2, had to withdraw after an early crash during Stage 3, just 3km into the special, and was quickly attended to by the medical team. A further update stated he had broken his collarbone in three places, and is currently recovering, waiting to head back to France.
After years spent faffing around with old Harleys, The Bear rode a Honda XL250 around the world and then decided he might as well keep writing about bikes. Three books and endless magazines later he now spends his time looking for those special bike roads.
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