Every year at Dakar in recent history, there’s been a day that was just absolutely disastrous for Honda. And despite the loss of factory riders Paulo Goncalves and Joan Barreda, today was the biggest disaster of all for Honda, when Ricky Brabec’s bike self-destructed, just like it did last year.
It’s unclear exactly what happened to Brabec’s machine, but about 57 km into today’s stage, he was out of the race with a mechanical failure (no smoking mess, like last year). Considerable Internet buzz speculates it could have been a failure on the part of the technicians working on the machine the night before, and Brabec’s cryptic, disappointed statement about his exit did little to quell that rumour.
Whatever the cause, Brabec is out, just as he was looking like he could become the first Honda rider to win the event since 1989, and the first non-KTM rider to win since 2001. That means Toby Price (KTM) is now atop the standings, after a massive assault on the special stage, despite his broken scaphoid.
Price actually started the day not too happy, by the sound of it, as his penalty yesterday was the timekeepers’ fault for sending him into a stage too early, he said, meaning he rode at the wrong pace and ended up dinged for speeding. He had cheered up immensely by the end of the stage, though, as he is the favourite to win the whole thing now, if his arm doesn’t fall apart first.
A couple of other hardcore competitors were knocked out today, including Ivan Jakes, who was a frequent top-10 rider for years aboard a satellite KTM. Stefan Svitko, the super-privateer who ended up second overall in 2016, also ended up exiting due to mechanical failure. He had a helo ride to the hospital, but he’s fine, or so he says.
Matthias Walkner (KTM) was the actual winner of today’s stage, followed by Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna), then Price. With that in mind, it’s definitely looking like an all-KTM podium now, or at least KTM-Husky, which is pretty much the same thing. Kevin Benavides and Adrien Van Beveren, the top Honda and Yamaha riders remaining, really missed a chance to press for top spots today. There’s been no real explanation for Van Beveren’s trouble today, but Benavides claimed to have problems with his navigation equipment, and is hoping to regain some of that lost time.
But even if he does, it won’t be enough, as he’s also being dinged with a massive three-hour penalty because he had navigation notes taped to his gas tank, which were drawn up with map information not provided by the ASO.
Although this is all Internet gossip at this point in the day, and yet to be confirmed, the word is that Honda had actually asked the ASO organizers about this earlier in the rally, and been told it wasn’t a problem … and then, supposedly, Toby Price took a photo of the notes and showed it to the ASO, resulting in a penalty. Again, it’s all gossip, but that’s one story going around. And, it certainly sounds like Honda’s problem a few years back, when a misinterpretation of the refueling rules ended up with a penalty that kept them out of contention.
Such is the skullduggery that defines the Dakar Rally. It’s maybe the hardest motorsport event in the world, with cutthroat teams all looking for an edge, and an organizational body that exhibits exasperating inconsistency. In the two days that are left, it will be intriguing to see what that means for a podium result.
Stage 8 results
- Matthias Walkner, KTM
- Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00: 00:45
- Toby Price, KTM, + 00:01:13
- Sam Sunderland, KTM, + 00:06:21
- Andrew Short, Husqvarna, + 00:09:51
- Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, + 00:11:48
- Luciano Benavides, KTM, + 00:12:51
- Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, Honda, + 00:13:48
- Kevin Benavides, Honda, + 00:15:07
- Xavier de Soultrait, Yamaha, + 00:15:50
Overall Top 10
- Toby Price, KTM, (00:01:33 penalty)
- Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:01:03
- Matthias Walkner, KTM + 00:06:35
- Sam Sunderland, KTM, + 00:06:38 (00:02:00 penalty)
- Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, + 00:09:54
- Andrew Short, Husqvarna, + 00:39:27
- Xavier de Soultrait, Yamaha, + 00:46:17 (00:01:00 penalty)
- Luciano Benavides, KTM, + 01:04:24
- Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, Honda, +01:05:44 (00:15:00 penalty)
- Oriol Mena, Hero, + 01:49:51