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Dakar 2019: Stage 4

The day’s racing started with a long, long list of withdrawals from Stage 3, and Yamaha’s Xavier de Soultrait opening the track for the first time in his Dakar career, although it was Honda’s Ricky Brabec who won the day.

Although Honda’s loss of Joan Barreda got all the press yesterday, Yamaha’s factory team might have suffered worse, with both water carriers out; Franco Caimi’s leg injury proved too painful for him to continue, and Rodney Faggotter’s machine conked out mid-stage, leaving the Aussie ace with no ride. So while Yamaha’s fastest guys are still in it, their support system is in rough shape.

Speaking of rough shape, KTM’s Matthias Walkner hurt himself badly towards the end of today’s racing (the stage was 511 km in total, with two specials totaling 351 km). He wrenched his ankle so badly he suspected it was broken; with today being the first part of a marathon stage (tonight, the riders are allowed no outside help to continue their race), it may be very challenging for him to keep going.

However, because today and tomorrow are the first marathon stage, it was a great chance for Brabec to make up some lost time, and that’s what he did. While it’s always good to gain time at Dakar, it’s not so good if it means you’re stuck navigating the next day, especially if navigation isn’t your strongest suit. The mass start tomorrow means Brabec won’t necessarily be breaking the track open all day, and his win today puts him atop the standings, as Husky’s Pablo Quintanilla had a bad day and lost a lot of time. It’s great news for Honda, as Brabec seemed to be more of an afterthought addition last year, a watercarrier who could pull off a good performance in individual stages in a pinch, but wasn’t expected to win. Judging by his performance so far this year, Brabec might be the real deal.

Meanwhile, the riders at the back of the pack continue to struggle through, with bad luck catching up to some and punting them onto the withdrawal list, like female rider Gianna Velarde:

Velarde dusted herself off from the crash to find a loose bolt in her nav tower was blocking her handlebars from proper steering. After mending the problem, she ended up not able to get to the very last checkpoint of the day on time, and ended up getting sent out.

But there are other riders battling it out, racers like Skyler Howes. Howes managed to crash on the street at 90 km/h, trying to avoid a spectator on the course. He dislocated his shoulder but still managed another 150 km of liaison riding, and so far, he’s still in it. It takes a different kind of toughness to be able to do that!

Overall, most of the top 10 riders finished today in the exact same order as yesterday, with Quintanilla’s terrible performance being the most notable. Sherco’s Lorenzo Santolino put in another good performance, and is proving to be surprisingly fast this year. Super-gritty Stefan Svitko also managed another top 10 in the stage, and that’s good enough for Dakar’s fastest privateer to slide into 10th overall.

Stage 4 results
  1. Ricky Brabec, Honda
  2. Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:06:19
  3. Toby Price, KTM, + 00:07:07
  4. Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, + 00:13:29
  5. Sam Sunderland, KTM, + 00:13:35 (00:02:00 penalty)
  6. Paulo Goncalves, Honda, + 00:13:36
  7. Stefan Svitko, Slovnaft/KTM, + + 00:14:10
  8. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, Honda, + 00:14:33
  9. Kevin Benavides, Honda, + 00:15:40
  10. Lorenzo Santolino, Sherco, + 00:17:02
Overall Top 10
  1. Ricky Brabec, Honda
  2. Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:02:19
  3. Toby Price, KTM, + 00:04:22
  4. Sam Sunderland, KTM, + 00:07:45 (00:02:00 penalty)
  5. Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, + 00:08:56
  6. Kevin Benavides, Honda, + 00:09:01
  7. Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:09:31
  8. Paulo Goncalves, Honda, + 00:20:45
  9. Xavier de Soultrait, Yamaha, + 00:22:00
  10. Stefan Svitko, KTM, + 00:28:09

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