The 2024 Dakar Rally has finally begun in Saudi Arabia with the prologue kicking off the action for the Monster Energy Honda Team amidst the breathtaking backdrop of AlUla.
Riding amongst the historical rock formations, the first Honda RallyGP rider out of the starting blocks was Tosha Schareina on today’s 27 km course being on full attack from the get go. The young Spaniard brilliantly topped the timesheets and therefore seeing him take his first ever Dakar stage win.
The organisers had set a very tricky prologue which saw riders being tested on off-piste and sandy sections relying heavily on their navigation skills. A day after his 33rd birthday, Adrien Van Beveren kept in touching distance of Tosha to be fourth just 24 seconds behind, while Dakar Legend Pablo Quintanilla posted the seventh quickest time of the day.
The vastly experienced pairing of Ricky Brabec and José Ignacio Cornejo were a little further back finishing in thirteenth and fourteenth as they will look to move up the rankings as the rally gets underway proper tomorrow.
A tougher than usual challenge for the opening day, it wasn’t the ideal start for Skyler Howes as an error saw him not only damage his Honda CRF450 RALLY, but also his road book. Despite losing time there are still two weeks of rallying to go and the American rider is positive he can change things around.
The bonus of finishing in the top ten today means riders will get to choose their place for tomorrow’s stage later on this evening and with Tosha on top it’ll be interesting to see what position he chooses. Don’t forget he won World Rally-Raid Championship stages in 2023 despite being first on the stage so this could very well be factored into his plan for tomorrow.
Stage one will kick off the first weekend in January with riders heading East from AlUla to Al Henakiyah where they will be thrown into a 414 km special stage. A 127 km liaison will make up the 541 km total distance in what promises to be a demanding day with rocky terrain and volcanoes on the menu as riders head to the first bivouac.
Ruben Faria – General Manager : « It didn’t go too badly for the first day of action for the Monster Energy Honda Team at this year’s 2024 Dakar Rally with almost all our riders in the top 20. It was an unlucky situation for Skyler as he had a little crash and broke some parts on the bike, so he couldn’t ride as well as he wanted to. The rest of the riders are all in a good spot for tomorrow which is important for stage one, so today has been a good start for the team. »
Pablo Quintanilla #7 – Prologue: 7th : « It was not an easy prologue, there were many lines, it was sandy, bumpy, some sections were tricky and I got confused with one note so lost a few seconds. It’s important to start the prologue without crashing or with any big issues so for me it went well. I also have a good start position for tomorrow when we start the real race with longer stages, so I’m happy with the day. »
Ricky Brabec #9 – Prologue: 13th : « It’s just the prologue but I’m happy to get through that and start the rally. We’ll see how everyone chooses their position for tomorrow and hopefully we’ll start in a good spot. The prologue wasn’t technical, but it wasn’t easy, the navigation was a little bit tricky, trickier than you would think going through all these canyons. It’s only the prologue so finishing a minute and 20 seconds out is not a big deal. »
Skyler Howes #10 – Prologue: 42nd : « This prologue was really not a good start for me, the organisation likes to play a bit with some things and they had some sticks that we were supposed to go through. There were so many lines going through each way throughout the open desert that it was hard to see these sticks, I cut across to go through them, hit a big camel grass that was obviously off track and had a really big crash, but luckily I was OK. I damaged the bike, lost quite a bit of time and it was hard to ride afterwards as I’d also damaged the road book so I had to rely on following the tracks.
« Then later on in the stage there was a tricky note, obviously I had no road book to verify so I was more or less going around in circles just trying to figure it out. Finally I validated the way point and was able to continue on but I lost about five minutes today which is super frustrating and an annoying way to start the race like this. »
José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Cornejo #11 – Prologue: 14th : « The first day of action was definitely not easy, heavy sands, some rocky sections in the middle definitely made it interesting, but overall it wasn’t a bad day at all. We’ll have a different starting position for stage one but tomorrow is where the real action starts. With some little changes on the bike I’ll be ready to go out there and fight. »
Adrien Van Beveren #42 – Prologue: 4th : « For the first day it was like a mini stage, not a usual prologue where you have the lines and you follow a track. There was more navigation, a lot of notes in the road book and I realised we had to focus on that and keep pushing at the same time. The lines of the guys in front of us made it a bit confusing at times because they were not always going in a good direction. It was a busy stage but I’m happy, the bike is going really well and we’re going to be ready for the push tomorrow. »
Tosha Schareina #68 – Prologue: 1st : « I felt really good in the prologue, it was longer than expected with more navigation and it was 100% sand too. Of course we have to keep our feet on the ground because the main race starts tomorrow, so I will keep focused on that and keeping thinking about the Dakar. »
Provisional Standings after Prologue
1. Schareina Tosha – SPA – Monster Energy Honda Team, 00H 17′ 35 »
2. Sanders Daniel – AUS – Gas Gas Factory Team, +0:12
3. Evan Branch Ross – BWA – Hero Motorsports Team Rally, +0:19
4. Van Beveren Adrien – FRA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +0:24
5. Benavides Luciano – ARG – Husqvarna Factory Racing, +0:26
6. Sunderland Sam – GBR – Gas Gas Factory Team, +0:28
7. Quintanilla Pablo – CHI – Monster Energy Honda Team, +0:47
8. Price Toby – AUS – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +0:51
9. Benavides Kevin – ARG – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +0:56
10. Klein Mason – USA – BAS World KTM Racing Team, +0:58…
13. Brabec Ricky – USA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +1:19
14. Cornejo José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ – CHI – Monster Energy Honda Team, +1:24…
42. Howes Skyler – USA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +5:10…