Photo: Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool
The dune-filled Stage 3 (riders did 500 klicks of desert in total!) shows Dakar organizers are serious about returning the rally back to its roots.
The day went very well for some riders, but took a harsh toll on others. The KTM team fared especially well, with Sam Sunderland earning the win and Toby Price taking third. Honda saw mixed results; factory rider Kevin Benavides proved he has what it takes to run at the front, earning second, and Ricky Brabec earned fourth. For some reason, a lot of Dakar onlookers don’t seem to take Brabec seriously, but he’s putting in a solid race so far.
However, Honda’s star rider, Joan Barreda, made a navigation error that ended up putting him in 30th place on the day, about 28 minutes back of the leaders. You can’t win Dakar in the early stages, but you can lose it, and it seems Barreda has done just that.
Yamaha’s riders also seemed to take a step back, with none finishing in the top 10. There are still three Yamahas in the top 10 overall (Adrien Van Beveren, Franco Caimi, Xavier de Soultrait), so the team isn’t in serious trouble, but they definitely don’t want to slip any further.
But enough about the drama at the front. Every year at Dakar, some of the most interesting bickering comes when some competitors are given a perceived advantage over others, especially when sponsorships are involved. Whether or not the rally organizers actually favour some riders is beside the question; fans love to come up with conspiracy theories, and this year, the focus is on the Malle Moto class.
We’ve talked about Malle Moto on here before, but in a nutshell, it’s the toughest class at Dakar: just a rider and a couple boxes of tools and parts, with no greater team to help out. Rally staff transport the rider’s equipment from stage to stage, and the riders must perform their own maintenance every night. It’s an exhausting ordeal, and not well-known before last year, when YouTuber Lyndon Poskitt entered Malle Moto and filmed it for his Races to Places series.
Poskitt is back this year, sponsored by Motorex. He would have been expected to win the class before Olivier Pain decided to race Malle Moto as well. Pain’s a veteran of successful factory teams, and is sponsored by Motul. Already, the conspiracy theorists are at work, saying Dakar organizers are going to favour Pain and help him win the class in order to boost Motul’s visibility, as Motul is also a major sponsor of the Dakar series as a whole. You can bet there’ll be plenty more chatter on this issue as the race continues, whether or not it’s fair.
Stage 3 Top 10
- Sam Sunderland, KTM
- Kevin Benavides, Honda, + 00:03:03
- Toby Price, KTM, + 00:03:28
- Ricky Brabec, Honda, + 00:03:55
- Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:04:20
- Gerard Farres Guell, Himoinsa, + 00:05:08
- Stefan Svitko, Slovnaft, + 00:06:03
- Antoine Meo, KTM, + 00:06:23
- Jose Cornejo Florimo, Heinrich, + 00:07:06
- Walter Jager, HT Rally Raid, + 00:08:27
Top 10 Overall
- Sam Sunderland, KTM
- Kevin Benavides, Honda, + 00:04:38
- Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:05:00
- Toby Price, KTM, +00:07:28
- Ricky Brabec, Honda, + 00:08:00
- Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:08:50
- Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, + 00:10:37
- Antoine Meo, KTM, + 00:10:54
- Franco Caimi, Yamaha, + 00:13:02
- Xavier de Soultrait, Yamaha, + 00:13:10