Kevin Benavides and Joan Barreda continue to battle on at a swift pace in a highly-complicated fourth stage at the 2018 Dakar Rally. Notable performance from young Chilean José Ignacio Cornejo, the best of the Monster Energy Honda Team in today’s race.
The fourth stage of the Dakar featured a change of format. In place of the usual time-trial start at three minute intervals, the top fifteen riders set off in a motocross-style start lined up across the San Juan de Marcona beach in rows of fifteen riders. Benavides, Brabec and Cornejo started in the first grouping, while Metge and Barreda formed part of the second assault which headed out after a five minute wait.
The stage consisted of 330 kilometres of special, after the day had begun with a 108 km link section, which had brought the riders as far as the beach. There was also a short six-kilometre liaison back to the bivouac at San Juan de Marcona. The route took in various terrain types including closed canyons, some trial-style riding and steep hill-climbs which led the competitors to an important area of sand dunes where the day’s racing concluded.
The team performed well to achieve their objective of landing an optimum starting position for tomorrow’s stage. Joan Barreda went off like a bat out of hell in the hope of clawing back some of yesterday’s lost time and found himself leading the field for a large part of the day. Later, in the final stretches, a badly-placed waypoint caused mayhem among competitors who had difficulty pinpointing its exact location. Joan and many others including Michael Metge and Ricky Brabec, dropped valuable time trying to validate it. Kevin Benavides, who has celebrated his birthday today, finished eighth on the day and is now third overall after maintaining a good pace without navigational setbacks. The best rider of the Monster Energy Honda Team today proved to be young Chilean José Ignacio Cornejo, seventh in both the stage and the special stage, who claimed to have taken it easy.
Tomorrow’s fifth stage (Wednesday) will see the entourage move from the San Juan de Marcona bivouac to Arequipa, the final bivouac on Peruvian soil. Of the stage’s total 774 kilometres, 266 km will be against the clock. The cars grouped together with the trucks, and the motorcycles with the quads, will dispute two separate sections in the style of the ‘Baja Aragón’: first the bikes will complete Section A while the cars will start in Section B and, once finished, the bikes will start Section B and vice versa.
Joan Barreda # – Stage: 9th Overall: 13th : « One day everything is fine and then the next day it’s all very sad. We have to stay focused on the goal. Today with all the difficulties that we had things turned out pretty well as we had planned, because tomorrow is the final day of the sand dunes. We wanted to start out from behind to try attack tomorrow, so that was perfect. We had a doubt over a waypoint that didn’t appear to be positioned right and we had to ride around quite a bit to find it and we lost a few minutes in the end. So, it’s a good position. It’s a shame Sunderland is out as he’s one of the strongest rivals. My hand injury was playing up a bit today; it’s not so bad in the dunes but hurts a bit up in the mountains, but I’ll just have to put up with it. »
Michael Metge #14 – Stage: 13th Overall: 27th : « Today had an impressive start on the beach, next to the Pacific Ocean, but one of the riders who entered the water splashed me and water got into my goggles. My eyes stung and I could not see well. I had to stop to clean them before continuing. I rode at a good pace, and I did the dune part well, although it also took me a while to find a difficult waypoint. I think it has not been a bad stage. »
Ricky Brabec #20 – Stage: 24th Stage: 12th : « Today was the fourth day. It was pretty difficult. We had a beach start which was cool but also very difficult towards the end. The navigation was a little bit tricky – I think all of us got confused and lost at the same waypoint. I spent a bit more time at that waypoint trying to find it; everyone was going their own way. I thought it might be at the top of a dune. I struggled to get back to the top. Unfortunately it wasn’t there it was in the next valley, so I lost about twenty minutes today, which hurts me pretty badly in the overall standings. It’s hard to swallow but we will fight on over the next few days. »
Kevin Benavides #47 – Stage: 8th Stage: 3rd : « It’s been a good birthday. It was a tough and physically demanding stage. There was a lot of dust after the start and then in the dunes we all got together again. We had a lot of problems on a waypoint that was hard to find. I was able to arrive well and in a position will be just right for tackling tomorrow’s stage. »
Raul Castells – Monster Energy Honda Team Manager : « Today was an interesting stage with the motocross-style start. For us it has been a good stage, achieving the goal we set out to achieve. We have the riders well-positioned for tomorrow’s stage. Kevin rode a good special and also Cornejo, who did really well. Today has better than we thought. Another thing that has happened today was that Sam has suffered a blow to his back and has retired. We hope it is not serious and he recovers soon. More tomorrow. »