As the 46th edition of the Dakar Rally entered its single rest day, the Monster Energy Honda team was positioned well in the motorcycle category, with CRF450 RALLY-mounted American Ricky Brabec sitting first overall and teammates Adrien Van Beveren and Jose Ignacio “Nacho” Cornejo also in the top five positions.
Friday marked the completion of the “48 Hour Chrono” stage, which was won by Frenchman Van Beveren, a sand specialist. A new addition to the Dakar Rally, the two-day stage took place in the dunes of Saudi Arabia’s desolate Empty Quarter and featured a remote overnight, with no contact with the outside world and no technical support. Making it through the 519-mile stage in a strong position was expected to be a key to earning the overall win, so Honda completed an important hurdle as the rally cleared its midway point.
At the time of writing, riders had completed eight days and 2,560 miles in the event, which takes place entirely in Saudi Arabia. Following Saturday’s break in Riyadh, a total of six stages and 2,309 miles remained, with the rally set to finish in Yanbu on Jan. 19.
“There was a lot of time in the dunes, but I didn’t mind that as the challenge of going for many hours and kilometers made it a lot of fun,” Brabec said at the end of the 48 Hour Chrono stage. “Camping with the boys was a blast; we had a really good time last night, although we didn’t get much sleep. The stage was 100% dunes, but it was really cool, and I hope they do something like this again. Rocks and open deserts are a bit better for me, and with the dunes I really pushed, but I also played it safe towards the end, as I didn’t want to ‘open’ stage 7. I’m in a good place going into next week, so let’s see what happens in the next six days.”
Brabec had a 51-second lead over second-place Evan Ross Branch, with his teammate Van Beveren a bit over 9 minutes back and Chilean Cornejo a little over 14 minutes behind the American. Chilean Honda rider Pablo Quintanilla sat in 11th overall after losing time when he ran out of fuel in the Chrono section. As is common in the Dakar Rally, the team has unfortunately been reduced in the first week, with two riders withdrawing from the race: American Skyler Howes with a technical issue and Spaniard Tosha Schareina after fracturing his wrist in a fall.
“I’m gutted to have to exit the rally early,” Howes said. “After a less-than-ideal start, I was looking forward to the Chrono stage and the second week to claw back the time that I lost in the first couple of days. The issue that took me out is nobody’s fault — not mine, mechanics or the team. When you’re pushing at the maximum level for this many days, luck has a big part to play, and yesterday I drew the short stick. Sometimes this happens in racing, and all we can do is learn from it. Now I’m looking forward to the year ahead and focusing on being better. Failure and adversity can be the best teacher — one I’m familiar with.”
The rally resumed on Sunday, with a 542-mile stage from Riyadh to Al Duwadimi.