The first stage of the 2020 Dakar Rally is done, and there are unsurprising names in the top five. Defending champ Toby Price won the stage on his factory KTM, with Ricky Brabec (Honda) just behind. Matthias Walkner (KTM) was third after the 319-km special.
You’d expect all them to be front-runners, even Kevin Benavides (Honda) in fourth. He’s been steadily improving the past couple of years, and may have the go-ahead to push a little harder this year, now that the race has moved to Saudi Arabia and the usual swing of things has been shaken up. Paulo Goncalves has left Honda this year for Hero as well, and that opens up opportunity for Benavides to push harder.
Sam Sunderland (KTM) was fifth, and will no doubt be pressing hard for the rest of the race, as he’s a favourite for many.
What was slightly surprising was that Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren was their only rider in the top 10, and he was all the way back in 10th place. Van Beveren has a reputation for being a gritty rider with plenty of race smarts, especially with navigation, so to see him drop almost eight minutes in the first stage was a surprise.
Toby Price also got a nasty surprise, despite his stage win. He had issues with a broken roll chart, and ended up with a penalty at the end of the stage as a result, possibly due to excess speed in a marked section of the roadbook due to ignorance, or possibly due to rules regarding the roll chart itself. Racers are supposed to end the day with the roll chart intact, and this is just the sort of niggly thing the organizers love to hand out penalties for.
Tomorrow is the first part of the race’s Super Marathon stage, in which riders are allowed to only perform extremely limited maintenance on their bike at day’s end, with only the tools and parts they have on hand, and without any help even from other riders. After 10 minutes of wrenching, the organizers will take the bike away and impound it until the start of the next day. Needless to say, this is going to make things tough, and riders will be highly motivated to keep their bikes in top shape throughout tomorrow’s ride.
2020 Dakar standings, Day 1
1. Toby Price, KTM (00:02:00 penalty)
2. Ricky Brabec, Honda, + 00:00:05
3. Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:00:40
4. Kevin Benavides, Honda, + 00:02:31
5. Sam Sunderland, KTM, + 00:03:15
6. Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:03:36
7. Joan Barreda, Honda, + 00:05:51
8. Luciano Benavides, Honda, + 00:06:56
9. Andrew Short, Husqvarna, + 00:07:03
10. Adrien Van Beveren, Yamaha, + 00:07:52