It was a shorter day of racing today, with only 387 km to cover between the special and the transit section. But, the navigation was tricky, and while KTM’s Sam Sunderland was the winner, Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) almost caught a huge break.
Van Beveren’s moment came in the dunes, when he caught up to the front-runners, who were unable to figure out where the waypoint was. The wily Yamaha rider figured out the solution quickly, and broke off to validate the waypoint away from the rest; unfortunately for him, KTM factory rider Matthias Walkner saw him, and the rest joined in pursuit, ruining any chance for Van Beveren to build a big lead.
A missed opportunity for Van Beveren, for sure, as this is how he almost won last year. On a stage where tricky navigation had everyone else riding in circles, Van Beveren came up with the proper route and built up a massive lead, until he had the absolutely awful luck of hitting a hidden rock in a bed of fesh-fesh dust, sending him over the handlebars, destroying the bike as well as his shoulder.
You can bet he’s hoping for another chance to pull that same trick this year, but without the brutal crash afterwards. Van Beveren isn’t the fastest rider at Dakar, but he’s certainly one of the smartest, and his performance today (fourth overall) moves him to the second spot on the podium.
The pressure is mounting on other riders, as the race quickly progresses; Honda’s Ricky Brabec was third on the day, good enough to move him back atop the standings; Brabec said he reckoned he was riding faster than he should have, especially considering how a small error could derail Honda’s best chance at a win in years.
“I’m looking forward to the next three days,” Brabec said. “I think me and Quintanilla are going to fight back and forth until the last kilometre. (Not making a mistake) is the key every day.”
The second spot in today’s stage went to Honda’s Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, who’s picking up speed again this year, and could very well move from water carrier to frontrunner for Big Red next year. While he doesn’t have Joan Barreda’s flair for self-promotion, he has far better results, and surely that won’t go unnoticed.
Blast from the past
Remember Patrick Beaule, of Aldo Racing? He ran the Dakar on a bike in 2013, and has since returned as a navigator in the car class. He’s back this year, and the team has had some rough luck, now running as a re-entered vehicle that cannot claim the win.
Yesterday, along with mechanical troubles, Aldo Racing also ended up stuck waiting for a vehicle ahead of them to be extracted, as it was blocking their exit from a sand ravine. Beaule put his time in the ravine to good use, grabbing a motorcycle left behind by another competitor who’d withdrawn from the race, and ripping ahead on two wheels to scout an exit route. A motorcyclist will always find a way …
Stage 7 results
- Sam Sunderland, KTM
- Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, Honda, + 00:01:51
- Ricky Brabec, Honda, + 00:06:30
- Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, + 00:09:40
- Luciano Benavides, KTM, + 00:11:19
- Andrew Short, Husqvarna, + 00:11:29
- Xavier de Soultrait, Yamaha, + 00:11:29 (00:01:00 penalty)
- Toby Price, KTM, + 00:14:19 (00:01:33 penalty)
- Stefan Svitko, Slovnaft, + 00:16:21
- Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:16:38
Overall Top 10
- Ricky Brabec, Honda
- Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, + 00:07:47
- Toby Price, KTM +00:08:28 (00:01:33 penalty)
- Sam Sunderland, KTM, + 00:09:58 (00:02:00 penalty)
- Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:0959
- Kevin Benavides, Honda, + 00:16:15
- Matthias Walkner, KTM, +00:16:16 (00:03:00 penalty)
- Stefan Svitko, Slovnaft, + 00:037:09
- Andrew Short, Husqvarna, + 00:39:17
- Xavier de Soultrait, Yamaha, + 00:40:08 (00:01:00 penalty)