Pablo Quintanilla made his mark on today’s short run in the first of the big dunes as he took the win on the fifth stage of Dakar 2024.
Today’s stage took in 118km of sand dunes through Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter as riders made their first tracks into the jaw-dropping landscapes towards Shubaytah.
Setting off early from the Al-Hofuf bivouac, riders were also faced with an arduous, energy zapping 527 km road section which would require some serious concentration during on the bike, before they were then thrown into the deep dunes on a hot day in the Eastern Province.
Joining Quintanilla on the podium was Adrien Van Beveren in second place, the Frenchman using his vast sand riding experience to get back up to the sharp end by being fastest for much of the day before dropping just 37 seconds to his teammate.
José Ignacio Cornejo and Ricky Brabec were assigned with opening the stage once they’d got to the start of the special and although they both clinched some of the time bonuses on offer, it wasn’t enough for the Chilean. Cornejo’s eleventh place finish cost him the lead of the overall standings and he now trails Hero Motosports Team Rally’s Ross Branch by over a minute in the battle at the top. Despite nearly going over his handlebars heading down a dune, Brabec also reduced his time in the standings as he remains in a podium position after his seventh place finish in the desert.
Skyler Howes made some positive adjustments to his Honda CRF450 Rally in the morning and this enabled him to manoeuvre himself across the extensive sandy section catching the riders ahead as he sneaked himself into the top ten, just under five minutes behind Quintanilla.
Next up is the mammoth 48 Hour Chrono which will be the biggest test of this year’s event with David Castera, the Dakar Rally organiser, already admitting he won’t be gaining many fans after it. Hidden waypoints will prove to be a navigation nightmare if the fatigued competitors lose their focus.
With a reverse starting order in place from today’s results, Quintanilla will be the one to benefit as he will set off last out of all the RallyGP riders. With a total of 835 km to ride, the special will contribute a hefty 626 km as the Empty Quarter dunes will look to take no prisoners at the halfway point of the rally.
Just to throw an extra spanner into the works they’ll have no access to the outside world, so they’ll be unaware where they are on the stage or in relation to their rivals. Action restarts on Friday morning at 7am where they’ll complete the stage back to Shubaytah and a much needed rest day in Riyadh further north.
Ruben Faria – General Manager : « It was a great win by Pablo today and he recovered some time in the overall standings, as did Adrien with his second place. Nacho had a difficult day because he opened the stage, but he did a good job because when it’s 100% dunes it’s difficult to have the same pace as the riders starting behind who have the tracks to follow. He lost a bit of time to now be second overall, just in front of Ricky who is also in a good position to fight tomorrow.
« We will start this 48 Hour Chrono well placed and our goal is to arrive in Riyadh for the rest day with the five riders in a strong position to start the second week of the rally. »
Pablo Quintanilla #7 – Stage: 1st Overall: 6th : « After two awful days everything fell into place. I went flat out but it wasn’t easy because the glare of the sun made it hard to see the tracks. It was tough but I managed to set a fast pace and had a great stage. I wasn’t expecting this type of soft sand because I heard it had rained in the last few days, but I had fun anyway on my bike. I’m happy to be in this position ahead of the 48 Hour Chrono, it’ll help me and perhaps unlock some opportunities. »
Ricky Brabec #9 – Stage: 7th Overall: 3rd : « It definitely wasn’t that easy today, we woke up at 3.30am and we had a big stretch of highway to ride before we got to play in the sand, so it was pretty tiring just doing that. We had a short special which felt like a kind of prologue for the chrono stage. I started second today which wasn’t ideal as we’d started upfront yesterday too so typically I knew we would lose time. But overall it was good, I caught Nacho around the 50 km mark and then from there to the finish we both made a big push going as fast as we could. »
Skyler Howes #10 – Stage: 9th Overall: 12th : « Today was only a short stage but it was a very tiring day because of the liaison distance. It was an early morning and then a very hot day in the dunes as well, so it took me a little while to find the flow this morning. About half way through the stage I started to catch the guys in front of me which gave me a little bit more motivation and I gained more confidence in the bike. I’m feeling better and today was a positive day as I made no navigation mistakes, so I think we’re in a decent position for the chrono stage starting tomorrow. »
José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Cornejo #11 – Stage: 11th Overall: 2nd : « I was pushing as hard as I could today and opening in the dunes was tough. I tried to do a good job and it was good to be able to ride with Ricky in the dunes when he caught up.
« Yesterday I decided to attack all day which did give me the stage win, but then having to lead the way today did make it a bit tricky. There’s a harder stage to come now so I will just keep focused on this. »
Adrien Van Beveren #42 – Stage: 2nd Overall: 4th : « It really was a sprint today and when I caught up with Ross (Branch) I seemed to lose a bit of rhythm. But I feel really good and I love dunes. I worked a lot with Honda to make this bike perform well in these conditions, so I will be prepared for this epic 48 Hour Chrono. »
RallyGP Results – Stage 5
1. Quintanilla Pablo – CHI – Monster Energy Honda Team, 01H 32′ 53
2. Van Beveren Adrien – FRA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +0.37
3. Price Toby – AUS – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +1.39
4. Sanders Daniel – AUS – Gas Gas Factory Team, +2.58
5. Klein Mason – USA – BAS World KTM Racing Team, +3.01
6. Evan Branch Ross – BWA – Hero Motorsports Team Rally, +3.42
7. Brabec Ricky – USA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +3.48
8. Svitko Stefan – SLO – Slovnaft Rally Team, +4.10
9. Howes Skyler – USA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +4.22
10. Benavides Kevin – ARG – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +5.35
11. Cornejo José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ – CHI – Monster Energy Honda Team, +6.11…
RallyGP Provisional Standings after Stage 5
1. Evan Branch Ross – BWA – Hero Motorsports Team Rally, 19H05’03 »
2. Cornejo José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ – CHI Monster Energy Honda Team, +1.14
3. Brabec Ricky – USA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +3.47
4. Van Beveren Adrien – FRA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +18.10
5. Benavides Kevin – ARG – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +21.17
6. Quintanilla Pablo – CHI – Monster Energy Honda Team, +26.47
7. Benavides Luciano – ARG – Husqvarna Factory Racing, +30.36
8. Price Toby – AUS – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +31.36
9. Sanders Daniel – AUS – Gas Gas Factory Team, +37.44
10. Michek Martin – CZE – Orion Moto Racing Group, +39.52…
12. Howes Skyler – USA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +48.37…