It was a positive day for the Monster Energy Honda Team with all riders finishing in the top ten as José Ignacio Cornejo put in a superb ride to pick up his seventh Dakar rally stage win and move him up to second in the overall standings.
Ricky Brabec was second off the start line and immediately into the 20 km of dunes, on a day where the navigation specialists would come into their element on the off-piste sections. Not surprisingly, Cornejo, who favours tricky navigation, would catch the lead group of Ross Branch and Brabec 90 km in to be in command during most of the stage. Pablo Quintanilla added himself into the mix, with at one point just a second separating the Chilean riders as the Hondas impressed on the vast dirt tracks around the black stone mountains.
There’s a new bonus system coming into play for 2024, competitors within 15 seconds of the opening rider will benefit too and with 6’23” available today, Cornejo made the most of this despite a small crash, to accumulate 4’14 in bonuses sharing this with Branch and Brabec.
With Quintanilla finishing in third and Brabec putting in another impressive performance in fifth, the overall standings see the Monster Energy Honda Team piling the pressure onto overall leader Ross Branch for the podium positions as Cornejo is now just under three minutes behind, third placed Brabec is over seven minutes back and Quintanilla with a fifteen minute deficit is in fourth.
Finding his rhythm on the third day was Skyler Howes as he gained confidence on his Honda CRF450 RALLY across the 463 km special to get himself up to eighth as Adrien Van Beveren ended the day in ninth in what was a good result for the team after the retirement of Tosha Schareina yesterday.
The Dakar Rally continues unabated tomorrow with stage three serving up a 438 km test and a 295 km liaison as riders will encounter a mix of sandy sections, dunes and very rough terrain which might cause a few tyre issues as they head deep into Saudi Arabia to Al Salamiya. Another twist for the day is that mechanics will get just two hours to work on the bikes in the evening before they are taken to Parc Fermé at the bivouac.
Ruben Faria – General Manager : « After yesterday’s tough stage due to Tosha’s crash it was a good day for the team with Nacho Cornejo’s stage win and he is now second overall with Ricky in third. Pablo was leading the stage until the halfway point when he made a navigation error and lost valuable time. Adrien also made a couple of mistakes and Skyler is gradually feeling better which is a good thing. They are all happy with the bike but it is still only just the beginning of the Dakar. »
Pablo Quintanilla #7 – Stage: 3rd Overall: 4th : « It was a long stage like yesterday but a bit smoother and with less rocks. I started at a good pace although it was quite dusty and just before the refuelling I made a mistake on a note and lost some time. But we are on the right track because the race has only just started. »
Ricky Brabec #9 – Stage: 5th Overall: 3rd : « It’s only day two and we have eleven days left, it’s a long rally but I’m happy to be here and to get to ride in a group with my teammates. If you can ride with other people it all makes it fun. It’s always difficult to open the road especially when the stage is over 460 km long, but I’m happy to be here, so let’s keep the good vibes rolling and make it to the finish line. »
Skyler Howes #10 – Stage: 8th Overall: 16th : « It was a better result than yesterday but I’m still falling short of what I expect out of myself. I was pushing hard on the tracks and when you do this you either have to focus on the terrain or on the road book and to do both at a super high speed is difficult to do. I was managing and doing a pretty good job but twice I made some mistakes which was totally my fault.
« The stage itself was really fun as we had more rocks out there which I enjoyed. I feel like I rode better through them and I feel fresher than I did yesterday, so all in all it was a good day. »
José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Cornejo #11 – Stage: 1st Overall: 2nd : « It was another tough stage, it was very long with tricky navigation and tracks everywhere so it was easy to make mistakes. I caught the front group and then we rode together which was fun. It’s always nice to push but I did have a crash and Ricky (Brabec) and Ross (Branch) stopped to make sure I was OK before we continued on. Fortunately it wasn’t too bad for me or the bike so I’m happy with the result today, winning stages is always good. »
Adrien Van Beveren #42 – Stage: 9th Overall: 9th : « It was a tough day, I tried to go fast and was pushing on the tracks but I was struggling too much with the road book and got lost. My speed was good and I felt really comfortable on the bike so I’ll take these positives into tomorrow’s stage. »
RallyGP Results – Stage 2
1. Cornejo José Ignacio « Nacho » – CHI – Monster Energy Honda Team, 04H 24′ 17″
2. Benavides Luciano – ARG – Husqvarna Factory Racing, +05.59
3. Quintanilla Pablo – CHI – Monster Energy Honda Team, +06.12
4. Bühler Sebastian – POR – Hero Motorsports Team Rally, +06.47
5. Brabec Ricky – USA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +07.14
6. Sunderland Sam – GBR – Gas Gas Factory Team, +07.17
7. Price Toby – AUS – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +07.40
8. Howes Skyler – USA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +09.39
9. Van Beveren Adrien – FRA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +11.32
10. Svitko Stefan – SLO – Slovnaft Rally Team, +11.39…
RallyGP Provisional Standings after Stage 2
1. Evan Branch Ross – BWA – Hero Motorsports Team Rally, 09H 50′ 05″
2. Cornejo José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ – CHI – Monster Energy Honda Team, +02.55
3. Brabec Ricky – USA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +07.15
4. Quintanilla Pablo – CHI – Monster Energy Honda Team, +15.20
5. Benavides Luciano – ARG – Husqvarna Factory Racing, +17.22
6. Sanders Daniel – AUS- Gas Gas Factory Team, +17.24
7. Sunderland Sam – GBR – Gas Gas Factory Team, +18.19
8. Price Toby – AUS – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +19.39
9. Van Beveren Adrien – FRA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +20.43
10. Michek Martin – CZE – Orion Moto Racing Group, +22.58…
16. Howes Skyler – USA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +42.06…