Results from Dakar Rally 2020, stage 11 – Pablo Quintanilla and Matthias Walkner rage a war for the win while Ricky Brabec’s lead drops by half as the American eyes the famous trophy.
Ricky Brabec and the Honda Rally team have played the strategic game of chess well during the 2020 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia. Nailing a stage down with blistering pace when they needed to but often as not we have seen different Honda riders placing just in the right places around the lead rider. Brabec has played it fast and cool, ensuring he wasn’t opening the piste and arrived at the second half of the Rally in command.
That is until today, stage 11. When stage 10 was cut short on safety grounds yesterday, the odds were stacked against Honda and Brabec to keep his 25 minute lead and in fact, today the Rally leader had one of his worst results with P10.
Speaking yesterday, Ricky said he was “kind of bummed out a little bit, because I couldn’t really check the times and play around with the times.” In short they would have played for a different finishing position if they’d known the stage was going to end almost 200km shy of the planned finish. Though his Honda teammate, Spaniard Joan Barreda, did his job to blaze the trail for most of the day, they were always going to lose time over rivals.
Under control, fingers crossed
The results show Ricky Brabec finishing 11m:48s behind the stage winner, Pablo Quintanilla, in 10th and with half his previous day's lead – Barreda was 12th almost 15 minutes down.
But for Brabec, everything is still under control: “I rode about 70% just trying to conserve the body and the bike. I'm happy to be here, and now I'm mainly thinking of getting over the finish line.”
The flip-side for Ricky is the good position for the final 374km of special stage tomorrow. Brabec has led the Rally since stage three and, barring disaster, those relatively short kilometres will be all that's left for the American to win his and his country's first Dakar: “We have a good start position for tomorrow so we’ll not necessarily push but just get to the finish line. Tomorrow could be a really big day for us and that’s what we’re crossing our fingers for.”
Quintanilla cements P2
Playing catch-up and following tracks laid down by the riders on the 379km long 11th special stage were the fastest riders today, Matthias Walkner and Pablo Quintanilla who started eighth and ninth respectively.
It was a battle right to the line and one which the Chilean Husqvarna rider won by just nine seconds: “I’m really happy with this stage.” Explained Quintanilla at the timed special finish. “It is always a nice feeling to win a stage. It was really difficult, all the time off-piste but I gave it 100% from the beginning. I took back a lot of time from Ricky, but there is still a bit difference between us. We still have a few kilometres to push tomorrow.”
It might have been a different result but Walkner “ran out of fuel three km before the refuelling station, so I had to stop [and lay his bike on its side] and get back going again.” Quintanilla sits 14 minutes behind Brabec in second overall and almost 10 minutes clear of third placed, Toby Price. Walkner is fourth overall ahead of Barreda in fifth.
Price set for podium
Starting in fourth on the road, Toby Price was in the middle ground, following some tracks laid down but still not able to take full benefit. Nevertheless, Price looks set to stand on the Dakar podium once again after pulling P3 overall with fifth place, albeit over five minutes down on Quintanilla.
“It's been a good stage,” said Price, “and at the moment Honda just needs to protect their lead – they are doing a good job – the guys are riding fast and smart. It's definitely making it hard for us to try and make up that gap.
“But you know, we're doing our best, we're trying to keep in the fight. We've only got one more day to go. We're at the end of day eleven and I just want to finish this one in one piece.”
McCanney loving the sand
Stage 11 was another fine day for Dakar rookie Jamie McCanney who posted sixth best time, just 6m:22s down on the stage win. It has been a solid second half of the rally for the former Junior World Enduro Champion.
Jaume Betriu was second placed rookie today with 13th (just behind yesterday’s stage winner Barreda) and is now the clear favourite for best rookie honours. Betriu is 14th overall with McCanney now 15th (11 minutes down on Betriu).
Stage 12 is of course the final stage and for most of the riders it will certainly be a case of dreaming to reach that final timing beam and the finish. It is no walk in the park mind you with just 74km of liaison and then 374km of special still to contest before the finish in Qiddiyah.
Riders also have a special 20km section leading to the podium, with no effect on the overall results, they can race those final kilometres for the Qiddiyah Trophy.
Dakar Rally 2020, stage 11 results:
Dakar Rally 2020 overall results after stage 11:
Full results: Dakar.com/rankingsPhoto Credit: F. Lamand/E.Vargiolu/F. Le Floc’h/DPPI/ASO + Rally Zone Jon PearsonEnduro21 Editor and Bike Testerjon.firstname.lastname@example.org