Written By: Franco Theron - NamWheels
PHOTO CREDIT: A.S.O/Dakar
Motorbikes: 7th stage win for Honda
The stage from Sakaka to Neom today saw the battle between the KTM’s and Honda’s resume as Toby Price, Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, and Joan Barreda Bort (Honda) all set the timesheets alight.
Winning the stage yesterday, Ricky Brabec (Honda) struggled to keep the pace of the leading trio as Price held the slightest of margins over Cornejo Florimo and Barreda Bort. Finishing the stage yesterday, Cornejo Florimo led overall by 1 second over Price.
With a new rule, seeing riders only allowed 6 tyres, Price had to patch his wheel in a very innovative way, whilst also setting blistering stage times. This is why the Australian is a 2-time Dakar winner.
As the stage progressed, Brabec started to lose time as Cornejo Florimo overtook Price, leading the latter by a mere 7 seconds after waypoint 8 (PK307), extending his lead as the stage progressed.
The Chilean would win the stage by 1:05 minutes, extending his lead over Price to 1:06. With only four stages remaining and Cornejo Florimo opening the stage tomorrow, the 2021 Dakar Rally is too close call.
Xavier de Soultrait (HT Rally Raid Husqvarna) also saw a promising 2021 race and started today’s stage in 4th overall. However, medical assistance was deployed at the 267km mark as the rider crashed heavily and therefore had to retire from the race.
After a horrible day yesterday, seeing him fall 3 times, damaging his bike in the process, and taring apart his knee guards, Ross Branch (Yamaha) held a steady pace as the top Yamaha today as the rest of the top 15 were spread widely in the standings.
Branch finished 11th, some 9 minutes behind the stage winner. Whilst losing time to the leaders, the Botswana rider did manage to climb up two spots in the overall rankings as de Soultrait retired and Van Beveren fell behind by 15 seconds.
Losing Franco Caimi due to a broken engine; the third of their five riders today, Yamaha only has Branch and Adrien Van Beveren left to fight for stage victories.
Cars: 7th stage win for Toyota
The first marathon section yesterday, saw Yazeed Al-Rahji (Toyota Overdrive) win the stage in the latter part as Stephane Peterhansel (X-Raid Mini JCW) evidently ran into problems, yet still managed to extend his overall lead over the Toyota of Nasser Al-Attiyah.
Today, however, the Qatari launched onto the stage, leading both Mini’s and Al-Rahji by mere seconds. However, at the waypoint 4 (PK161), Peterhansel started edging Al-Attiyah once again, while Sainz slightly trailed the two upfront.
The top-three would keep on trading times, staying within seconds from one another as Al Rajhi started to fall behind the likes of Cyril Despres (Abu Dhabi Racing).
Towards the end of the special, Al-Attiyah distances Peterhansel, while Sainz stayed in a close second. Yet, the Toyota’s gap to Peterhansel was not sufficient to drastically reduce the overall lead. The Qatari won the stage by 52 seconds over Sainz, while cutting 3:03 minutes into Peterhansel’s lead.
Opening the road once again tomorrow, Al-Attiyah will hope to cut down the 4:50 minute deficit to Peterhansel.
Shameer Variawa and Giniel de Villiers also held their heads high today, constantly racing within and around the top 10 stage times. However, de Villiers' charge was hampered by punctures once again.
Having reached the bivouac with 1 minute till cut-off at 1 am, Brian Baragwanath (Century Racing) spent the night working on their car and started the stage 51st, but gained time as they also raced their way to 12th-place today.
Edited By: Junaid Samodien.