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Dakar 2019: Stage 9

The penultimate stage at the Dakar Rally all but guaranteed KTM-made bikes will dominate the podium. They might not carry the KTM brand name, but it’s the same thing.

Until yesterday, Honda’s Ricky Brabec and Kevin Benavides both looked like potential podium threats, but Brabec’s mechanical failure and the penalty to Benavides ruled them out. Still, Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren, who almost won last year’s rally, was still in the race.

Until today, that is, when Van Beveren’s Yamaha had a mechanical problem only 16 km from the end of the stage’s timed special. He didn’t officially concede defeat, reportedly; he actually got his bike into a truck and had it hauled to the end of the stage, but that sort of stunt doesn’t work for the organizers, and now he’s excluded from the race. It’s a brutal result for the tough Frenchman, who rebounded strong after absolutely destroying his shoulder in last year’s race-ending crash.

Michael Metge actually won the stage on a Sherco factory ride, followed by Daniel Nosiglia Jager on a satellite Honda and Pablo Quintanilla on the Husqvarna. The day’s racing was mostly anti-climactic, with all the front-running KTMs trying not to crash this close to the end, as there’s no real pressure from the Japanese teams now. Even Quintanilla’s bike is really nothing more than a KTM Rally Replica with a different paint job, and however they sort things out tomorrow, it’s likely going to be Price, Quintanilla  and Matthias Walkner (KTM), the current top three in that order, who will be on the podium, all with bikes from Austria.

Andrew Short, in fourth, would have to pick up a half hour on Walkner to get on the podium, and he’s still on a Husky. Xavier de Soultrait’s Yamaha, in fifth, is the highest-ranked Japanese machine, and he’d have to pick up about 40 minutes to get past Walkner.

One rider who would have been in the hunt for a podium, but isn’t, is KTM’s Sam Sunderland. Sunderland’s ranked eighth overall now, with a massive one-hour penalty for his incident with the tracker yesterday. Supposedly, Sunderland had an issue with his navigation equipment, which meant Honda’s Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo had to open the stage, and Sunderland had a much easier day of it. The race’s organizers have now levied a one-hour penalty on Sunderland, saying he tampered with his equipment to gain an advantage of a late start, without getting the usual penalty for malingering. Presumably, the KTM team faked the problem, hoping the organizers wouldn’t give them the usual smallish penalty as the problem would theoretically have been with the ASO’s equipment, not KTM’s equipment.

Wrong! The ASO’s penalty isn’t as big as the three-hour shot that Kevin Benavides took, but it’s enough to ensure Sunderland won’t win this year, unless there’s a mass disaster.

Laia Sanz, consistently the top female rider, is in 11th right now, and may even break into the top 10. She made a bet with Toby Price that she’d cut off his mullet if she earned a top-15, and now, it looks like the ’80s hair may be another victim of this year’s racing, sitting on the scrap heap alongside a pile of blown-up Japanese 450s …

Stage 9 results

  1. Michael Metge, Sherco
  2. Daniel Nosiglia Jager, MEC HRC, + 00:02:00
  3. Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:03:28
  4. Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:03:29
  5. Toby Price, KTM, + 00:03:29
  6. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, Honda, + 00:03:30
  7. Andrew Short, Husqvarna, + 00:04:03
  8. Kevin Benavides, Honda, + 00:04:03
  9. Lucanio Benavides, KTM, + 00:04:55
  10. Xavider de Soultrait, Yamaha, + 00: 04:56

Overall top 10

  1. Toby Price, KTM (00:01:33 penalty)
  2. Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:01:02
  3. Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:06:35 (00:03:00 penalty)
  4. Andrew Short, Husqvarna, + 00:40:01
  5. Xavier de Soultrait, Yamaha, + 00:47:44 (00:01:00 penalty)
  6. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, Honda, + 01:05:45 (00:15:00 penalty)
  7. Luciano Benavides, KTM, + 01:05:50
  8. Sam Sunderland, KTM, + 01:10:15 (01:02:00 penalty)
  9. Oriol Mena, Hero, + 01:52:20
  10. Daniel Nosiglia Jager, + 02:21:51 (00:02:00 penalty)

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