Results from 2020 Dakar Rally stage six which saw Honda rider Ricky Brabec open a decisive 20 minutes lead over Pablo Quintanilla as reigning champion Toby Price suffers in the Saudi desert.
Stage six of the 2020 Dakar Rally could prove to be a decisive one as American Ricky Brabec takes the stage win while his nearest rival and reigning Dakar Champ, Toby Price hit rear wheel “technical issues” – Andrew Short takes a bullet to help out the Aussie in his hour of need.
As the riders go into a well-earned rest day tomorrow, Sunday, factory Honda rider, Brabec, now holds 20m:56s over new nearest rival, Pablo Quintanilla while old nearest rival, Toby Price, drops to third overall and 25 minutes behind in the general standings.
Ricky Brabec’s performance today in winning the sixth stage could prove to be the defining moment in this year’s Dakar – pending, of course, another whole week of this epic race.
What’s becoming clear is the Honda team and Brabec in particular have been playing their cards well, hitting hard when they needed too and taking fortune when it comes their way.
“Today went well, but it was a long stage with 477km of racing.” Said Brabec with 200km of liaison still to cover to reach tonight's bivouac. “It was a big one and the first real stage of 100% sand.
“I’m just happy to be here and to be leader in the general standings, even if a lot can still happen with six days to go. We deserve some rest and we’ll try to take advantage to plan something for next week.
“Toby had a problem with his rear wheel, I’m not sure exactly what but I think with the mousse tube. I’m thinking it just got really hot.
“My goal today was to catch Andrew (Short), he started one rider in front of me, so I rode with him for most of the day and we had a lot of fun out there.”
The day actually began with snow on the ground in the Saudi desert as riders set off in the dark. The special started at 7:35am with Toby Price leading out to face 477km timed section for the first time on 100% sand.
After a solid stage five, Toby Price opened the track for much of the special along with Pablo Quintanilla. Price came to a halt though at roughly the three-quarter mark where he lost around 10 minutes. The reason? A “technical issue” with his rear tyre and mousse which another rider (Andrew Short) helped to rectify by essentially swapping rear wheels, we understand.
“It’s been a long stage today with long liaisons, definitely one of the toughest so far.” Explains Price. “Leading out was going really well for most of the day – I was navigating good, my pace was good.
“But then at about 390 kilometres I had an issue and had no choice but to stop. Luckily another rider was able to help me out and I got going again. I lost some time, which is frustrating but we’re only at the halfway point now and there’s a long way to go.”
Pablo Quintanilla has had a few ups and downs so far at Dakar 2020 but is clearly coming on stronger as the event progresses. Happy with his performance on stage six, the Chilean heads in to the second week in P2: “I’m really happy with my performance today and with my position in the standings before the rest day.” Says Pablo.
“The stage was really fast with long caps between camel grass and dunes. Towards the final 50 kilometres my body was really starting to feel tired. I’m looking forward to the rest day now and then hopefully I can have a good second half to the rally.”
For his part, Quintanilla’s Husqvarna teammate, Andrew Short sacrificed his overall rally result to help Price out, a noble gesture by any measure: “It was certainly a very different day for me today. I was really fast at the beginning of the stage – I started third and was able to push right away to try and catch my teammate in front of me. Things were going really good, the sand was a lot of fun to ride.
“About 50 kilometres from the end I stopped to help Toby. In situations like today you have to think quickly, I figured I was an hour down already in the overall after a tough couple of stages early on, so I helped my friend. Overall, I’m happy because I rode really well today and was able to mix it with the top guys.”
Laia Sanz found her mojo on the stage six sand, posting her best result of the rally so far in 15th to go 18th overall: “Today was a really good day for me. It was hard, but not too difficult. Just really long, and that made it tough.
“I felt really good from the beginning for the stage and tried to push as much as I could. The dunes were really cool, a nice stage to finish the first half of the rally. Now I’m looking forward to some rest and then what I am sure will be a tough stage seven.” Indeed it will at 741 kilometres on Sunday.
Stage six effectively spelled the end of the race for potentially winner, Kevin Benavides – conversly it also brought the best result of the race so far for Joan Barreda who finished a minute and a half behind Brabec.
It might not be the end for Benavides but the fact he had to be towed home by a fellow competitor with a broken engine, some 3h:37m down on the leaders, means his race is run.
“The race is only finished when the finishing line is crossed” – Matthias Walkner
Benavides’ engine problem today must come as a sobering thought for his teammate Ricky Brabec. As we enter the second week the bikes have already been racing for 24 hours (discounting the transfers) and have clocked 3715 kilometres. Brabec, remember, was also leading comfortably in 2019 when his engine gave up the ghost.
An engine change is on the cards for the Honda team for Benavides with time on their hands tomorrow and with such a lead they could also afford to change Brabec's motor. It's pure speculation on our part and it would incur 15 minutes of time penalties (for the first engine change – it increases if you need another one) but they do have time...
“We’ve seen how quickly it can change day-by-day.” Explains 2018 winner, Matthias Walkner. “For the moment, it doesn’t look close - I think Honda have ridden better than us, but last year it was more or less the same but then stage eight or nine changed everything and even on the last day you can lose 30 minutes so the race is only finished when the finishing line is crossed.”KTM have 18 victories in a row not just because they have awesome rider team, Honda has that too, but because their bikes make it to the finish. Week two is going to interesting.
Check KTM Rally Team Manager, Stefan Huber, talking through their daily maintenance…
Enduro riders catch-up:
Stage six sees Dakar rookies Jaime Betriu and Jamie McCanney both moving up the leaderboard and heading for top 20 results. Betriu remains top rookie but only just from Martin Michek in 15th and 16th respectively.
McCanney clocked 20th on stage six to place 22nd overall but in his first Dakar, every day is a school day: “It was really good to start alone today, the first time for me so far in the race. Before today I’d always been starting together with another rider, which meant that I wasn’t really able to just think about myself. That was different today and I could really just think about what I was doing.
“Things went well from the start, I felt good. I got passed by a rider and followed him. I guess I wasn’t watching my road book as much as I should, because he made a small mistake and I ended up following him. I had some troubles getting a waypoint validated then, and lost five or six minutes, but the end result is one I’m happy with so a good day, generally speaking.”
Unfortunately for Sherco TVS rider, Johnny Aubert it was the end of the rally today. The Frenchman crashed hard yesterday but just two kilometres from the finish today had another get-off and had to be lifted off the stage for further medical assistance. Adrien Metge remains top Sherco rider in 12th.
Tomorrow is a well-earned rest day for all competitors. A time to reflect and recharge for more of the same come Sunday
Dakar Rally 2020, Stage 6 results:
Dakar Rally 2020, overall results after stage 6:
Full results: Dakar.com/rankingsPhoto Credit: Rally Zone + A.S.O./FOTOP/G.Epifanio Jon PearsonEnduro21 Editor and Bike Testerjon.firstname.lastname@example.org