Stage 11, the last day of real racing at Dakar, ended with another victory by Honda’s Joan Barreda, with teammate Paulo Goncalves finishing right behind.
Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) put in a hard-charging performance (he’s pretty good in the sand, which made up a lot of today’s WRC-style stage), and ended the day in third. It was almost enough for a podium spot; he’s less than a minute behind Gerard Farres Guell (KTM) now, and he’s the only chance for a non-Yamaha on the podium. Joan Barreda is still seven minutes off the podium, and he’s not likely to make that up in tomorrow’s easy running (only 64 kms of timed special).
Today’s bad luck award goes to Xavier de Soultrait, who ran into engine trouble with his Yamaha (uncharacteristic for the team). Last we heard, he was pushing his bike through the timed special section; unless he gets a tow out to safety, mechanical issues have probably nuked his race at the last minute.
Speaking of last-minute disasters, we have some more details on Honda’s Ricky Brabec. Brabec impressed many this year, winning a stage, but then mysteriously disappearing yesterday when his bike supposedly broke down. He’s officially out of the race now; here’s his story, as per Facebook:
“As many of you know I am out for the last two final days of the Dakar which is mostly liaison, I didn’t technically crash guys I dropped the bike in the trials section and managed to go on and win first special. I called the association and told them where I was with a broken motorcycle and that I was OK waiting for a team mate to tow me in and if they can bring water to me. They sent a helicopter and forces me to get in with them and flew me to the finish of the special that was 6km away. I was 6km away from finishing and winning a second day here in the Dakar, such a heartbreaker as the team and I worked really hard this year. I’m sorry everyone I didn’t decide to drop out, they forced me and nothing I can do about it but come back next year. Thank you all ❤️”
If Brabec hadn’t mentioned the water, he might have been fine. However, once the chopper showed up, his race was over, whether or not he wanted it to be, or needed it to be, as per the rules. It seems a bit unfair, considering KTM’s Stefan Svitko was found unconscious on the course yesterday, hauled off to hospital to be rehydrated, then returned to the race! Svitko did earn a massive three-hour penalty as a result, but the fact that he’s back and Brabec is gone shows the ASO’s rulebook makes little sense at times, and no doubt the Honda team will be further frustrated with its seemingly arbitrary and whimsical enforcement.
Another bad luck trophy can be handed to Joey Evans. While Sam Sutherland is the most well-known feel-good story this year (Sutherland’s shown a lot of talent at Dakar before, but always been hindered by injury), Evans’ story is almost unbelievable. He suffered a severe spinal injury while racing off-road some years back, and doctors reckoned he’d never walk again.
Yet, after years of hard work, Evans is not only walking, but racing Dakar — at least until today, when a car ran over his bike. Last we heard, some other racers had cannibalized parts from another bike to repair Evans’ machine and get him into the bivouac. Let’s hope it works out.
Finally — the day wasn’t all bad luck and bad news. Sutherland has no doubt been expecting some sort of meltdown, based on his past luck, but it hasn’t happened yet. He’s sitting on a 30-minute lead in first place, after finishing fifth on the day. He’ll be the first British rider to win, if he clinches the victory tomorrow.
Stage 11 results
1). Joan Barreda, Honda
2). Paulo Goncalves, Honda, +00:01:50
3). Van Beveren, Yamaha, +00:05:28 (00:01:00 penalty)
4). Farres Guell, KTM, +00:07:54
5). Sunderland, KTM, +00:09:15
6). Renet, Husqvarna, +00:09:52
7). Metge, Honda, +00:10:55
8). Caimi, Honda, +00:12:11
9). Svitko, KTM, +00:12:21
10). Walkner, KTM, +00:12:23
1). Sunderland, KTM
2). Walkner, KTM, +00:33:09 (00:05:00 penalty)
3). Farres Guell, KTM, +00:37:22
4). Van Beveren, Yamaha, +00:38:10 (00:01:00 penalty)
5). Barreda, Honda, +00:44:32 (00:58:01 penalty)
6). Goncalves, Honda, +00:52:46 (00:48:20)
7). Renet, Husqvarna, +00:56:01
8). Caimi, Honda, +01:40:53 (01:05:00 penalty)
9). Rodrigues, Yamaha, +02:00:46 (00:00:27 penalty)
10). Rodrigues, Hero Speedbrain, +02:20:53