The curtain rose today on the 2021 Dakar Rally with a short prologue. The rehearsals are over and it’s now showtime, with everything counting from this moment onward.
The Monster Energy Honda Team riders got off to a fine start on the opening 10-kilometre special. The curtain-raiser, which was held in the vicinity of Jeddah, proved to be a tough one in terms of navigation, on a route that took in some mountainous tracks as well as more open, faster stretches.
Some riders opted for more prudent tactics, waiting to make their mark in tomorrow’s first full stage, however current Dakar Rally title holder, American Ricky Brabec wasn’t holding back in his first contact with the Saudi desert. Brabec set the best time of the 101 motorcycle participants in this edition of the Dakar to become the first leader of the race. The prologue had a factor 4 (time x 4) for the general standings of the race.
Behind him, Monster Energy Honda Team squad-mate, Joan Barreda, was the first of the team’s four riders, notching up an excellent time, some six seconds shy of Brabec.
Argentinean rider Kevin Benavides took the conservative option. Setting a good pace, he was able to mingle with the front-runners and tomorrow will tackle the stage from an optimal start position. José Ignacio Cornejo was also riding in cautious mode, attempting not to make any errors interpreting the roadbook. The Chilean registered times not far off the day’s fastest rider and his start position tomorrow will allow him to go on the attack.
Tomorrow, Sunday, sees the first stage of the Dakar 2021, which will be contested entirely on-track between Jeddah and Bisha. Competitors can expect 277 kilometres of special timed out of a 622-kilometre total trek. The route will pass through several valleys with several sections requiring deft roadbook reading skills. Some of the stony sections could prove detrimental to the tyres.
Ricky Brabec – STAGE: 1st OVERALL: 1st : « Today was good. Pretty short – just a ten-kilometre prologue. Nothing to really lose or nothing to gain. Just enough to shake the bugs out of the bike and the body. We’re now ready for the actual start. Tomorrow we start nice and early. We came away with first and second place in the prologue for me and Joan. So tomorrow Joan and I will open the way and hopefully it will go well. It’s a long race but I think strategy will start to play in, but as of now, it’s time to get lunch, get the gear off and time to focus. »
José Ignacio Cornejo – STAGE: 25th OVERALL: 25th : « Today we did the prologue. It didn’t go as expected in terms of results, but I felt comfortable on the bike, without making any mistakes. The bike is very good and ready for the race days to come. Tomorrow the good part starts and we will try to go out to perform as good a race as possible. »
Kevin Benavides – STAGE: 7th OVERALL: 7th : « Today’s prologue stage was quite entertaining and picturesque. There were some river areas with hard and soft sand terrain. I was able to have a good day and get the engines warmed up for this Dakar. I’m very happy and looking forward to starting stage one tomorrow. »
Joan Barreda – STAGE: 2nd OVERALL: 2nd : « I am happy with this first day. It was a pretty quick prologue and it wasn’t easy. The first part was in an open river and it was complicated because we had to validate each note within an 80-metre radius. From there we entered a very stony mountainous area which was very quick and quite difficult. I hesitated over some of the Roadbook validations but didn’t really waste too much time. I am quite happy with this first contact. »
1. Brabec Ricky (USA) – Monster Energy Honda Team, 00:06’01
2. Barreda Joan (SPA) – Monster Energy Honda Team +00’06
3. Sanders Daniel (AUS) – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +00’13
4. Evan Branch Ross (BWA) – Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team, +00’14
5. Bühler Sebastian (POR) – Hero Motorsports Team Rally, +00’16
6. Short Andrew (USA) – Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team, +00’17
7. Benavides Kevin (ARG) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +00’20
8. Quintanilla Pablo (CHI) – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing, +00’22
9. Price Toby (AUS) – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +00’22
10. Rodrigues Joaquim (POR) – Hero Motorsports Team Rally, +00’23…
25. Cornejo José Ignacio (CHI) – Monster Energy Honda Team, +00’50