After ten days of rallying there is an intense battle for the top spot on Dakar 2024 with the single second difference between Ricky Brabec and Ross Branch after stage seven turning the competition on its head with only four days to go as the kilometres count down.
Today’s stage saw riders travel north from Al Duwadimi to Ha’il with a 125 km road section before sandy tracks and big difficult dunes that would play a part of the 458 km special stage. Entering a non-timed transfer zone of 179 km this would then take them back against the clock at the 344 km mark of the special, as the change to stony terrain would take them ever closer to the arrival point in the shadows of the Shammar mountain range.
Starting just behind his main rival on stage eight, Ricky Brabec pulled out the stops to lead most of the day increasing the gap at one point to over three minutes over Branch, but after 400 km of the special he had dropped behind his teammate Adrien Van Beveren that lost him time in the final 50 kms to end the day in seventh. Having caught Branch early on he rode with him for the majority of the day not letting the Botswanan out of his sights as he opened up his overall standings lead to 42 seconds.
Van Beveren made the most of his tenth place starting position moving himself up the order after his favoured sand section to third. Still chipping away for a podium position he gained another three minutes on the leading trio of Brabec, Branch and José Ignacio Cornejo.
The job of starting the stage was left to Cornejo and although at times the route got the better of him, he clung on for some much needed bonuses to finish just 14 seconds behind Van Beveren as he continues to occupy that final podium position overall.
Pablo Quintanilla was looking for a more positive day on the Dakar and although he featured amongst the top three during the early part of the stage, a lack of confidence in the dunes saw him fall down the order to eleventh.
With riders spending the night next to Ha’il airport, they will take off for stage nine towards AlUla which makes a return to the route on this year’s Dakar. The fascinating ancient city will welcome the riders after a total 639 km distance, 417 km of which will test them to their limits with complicated navigation and rocky expanses keeping them on their toes.
Ruben Faria – General Manager : « It was a very good day for us, we’re still leading with Ricky and he increased the gap to Ross Branch. Nacho did a really good job taking the bonuses on the stage and it gave him the opportunity to recover time to Ricky and Ross as he gets ever closer to them in the overall standings.
« Adrien is a little bit further behind in fourth but he’s still very close to a podium position, we’ll see what he can do in the next few days to make up the difference.
« Even with the problems Pablo has had in the last days we’re happy that he’s still in the race. Now he can help his teammates should they have any issues that arise over the coming stages.
« Tomorrow is stage nine and although it looks really difficult our riders are in good shape to tackle it, so we’ll see what happens. »
Pablo Quintanilla #7 – Stage: 11th Overall: 12th : « I honestly didn’t feel so good today and felt that I couldn’t ride with much confidence. The first part had some sandy sections with dunes and some of the drops were difficult to see. When you don’t feel so confident then you go slower so I’m glad I got to the end of the stage. »
Ricky Brabec #9 – Stage: 7th Overall: 1st : « I didn’t want to start too far away from Ross tomorrow so I had to play a little bit of cat and mouse with him. I caught him early on so stuck with him all day, then at the refuelling point I saw some times and I was winning. I let Ross take over and open the way to the finish line as we had to play smart today and I didn’t want him starting behind me tomorrow. It was still a good day to finish seventh and I’ll continue to have fun out there. »
José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Cornejo #11 – Stage: 4th Overall: 3rd : « I had a good stage today even though it was tricky, it was easy to make big mistakes so it was a case of trying to ride safely and smoothly. I lost just a little bit of time today but I have a good starting position for tomorrow which should help for stage nine. »
Adrien Van Beveren #42 – Stage: 3rd Overall: 4th : « I was riding well and I felt good on my bike but I had to make a choice when I checked the times of my competitors at the refuelling point. I had to make a calculation to slow up as I didn’t want to pay the price by starting up front tomorrow. Even though I did this I still finished third so I don’t think it was the best choice in the end. I’m not happy to throw away a stage victory in this way as it’s not a good feeling, but let’s see if we can make some difference over the next days. »
RallyGP Results – Stage 8
1. Benavides Kevin – ARG – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, 03:35:03
2. Benavides Luciano – ARG – Husqvarna Factory Racing, +0:31
3. Van Beveren Adrien – FRA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +1:27
4. Cornejo José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ – CHI Monster Energy Honda Team, +1:41
5. Price Toby – AUS – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +2:18
6. Gonçalves Rui – POR – Sherco TVS Rally Factory, +2:24
7. Brabec Ricky – USA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +4:08
8. Evan Branch Ross – BWA – Hero Motorsports Team Rally, +4:49
9. Sanders Daniel – AUS – Gas Gas Factory Team, +5:10
10. Svitko Stefan – SLO – Slovnaft Rally Team, +5:28
11. Quintanilla Pablo – CHI – Monster Energy Honda Team, +10:10…
RallyGP Provisional Standings after Stage 8
1. Brabec Ricky – USA – Monster Energy Honda Team, 36:16:31
2. Evan Branch Ross – BWA – Hero Motorsports Team Rally, +0:42
3. Cornejo José Ignacio « Nacho » – CHI – Monster Energy Honda Team, +4:21
4. Van Beveren Adrien – FRA – Monster Energy Honda Team, +11:58
5. Benavides Kevin – ARG – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +20:31
6. Price Toby – AUS – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team, +29:10
7. Sanders Daniel – AUS – Gas Gas Factory Team, +38:43
8. Benavides Luciano – ARG – Husqvarna Factory Racing, +39:35
9. Svitko Stefan – SLO – Slovnaft Rally Team, +01:11:53
10. Michek Martin – CZE – Orion Moto Racing Group, +01:11:53…
12. Quintanilla Pablo – CHI – Monster Energy Honda Team, +04:48:58…