Ricky Brabec (Honda) is still the guy to beat after Stage 6, as he handily won the day’s racing, but he’s probably a very worried man, after he saw what happened to his teammate Kevin Benavides.
Brabec gave up some time to Toby Price (KTM) yesterday, but gained it all back, and more, in today’s all-sand sections. Not only Brabec have the advantage of following the wheeltracks of others in front of him, but Price’s rear tire ended up coming apart, with the blame probably going to a faulty mousse.
About 50 km from the end of the special, Price could have limped it out, but he would have been knocked entirely out of any hope of a decent finish. Conveniently enough, Andrew Short rolled by on his Husqvarna, which raised the interesting question: Since Husqvarna, KTM and now GasGas are all owned by the same company, and the rally bikes are all basically the same, what would Short do? After all, he’s not technically Price’s teammate, he’s Pablo Quintanilla’s teammate.
Well, Short pulled over and gave Price his rear wheel. Short’s put in an excellent race so far, but his mechanical problems in the super marathon have ruled him out of a win, even though he’s been extremely consistent otherwise. So, Price got back on-track, saving lots of precious time, and Short nursed the ratty rim through the rest of the special.
The dune-filled special was tough on Ross Branch, who also wouldn’t have made it without some help, and is no doubt extremely happy that tomorrow is the rest day. But it could have been worse. A couple of front-running Malle Moto competitors had to exit the rally today, and so did Johnny Aubert, from the Sherco factory team. In what has to be a heartbreaking turn of events, Aubert had finished 476 km of the special and was only 2 km from the finish when he fell. His injuries mean he has to quit this year’s rally.
But then, none of those riders was going finish top-three. Honda’s Kevin Benavides was in third overall today, putting in a great race and looking very much like he’d grab a podium. That is, until his engine quit.
That’s right! Once again, a Honda’s crapped out while in contention for a podium, a sadly familiar story for anyone else who’s ridden for Big Red’s Dakar team. Paulo Goncalves, Ricky Brabec, Joan Barreda Bort—all of Honda’s top riders have had their chances taken away by a bike meltdown (literally, in the cases of Goncalves and Brabec, who both saw their Hondas burn to the ground).
So, if you were Brabec, you’d probably be extremely nervous now. Sure, he’s sitting on a lead of more than 20 minutes, but if he changes his engine for a new one, he’ll get a 15-minute penalty. If he doesn’t change his engine, he very well may end up like Benavides—getting towed to the bivouac and out of contention for a win. Or, worse. Brabec only has to look at last year, when his bike caught fire during Stage 13, knocking him completely out of the race.
At least Benavides can be counted on to play a support role now, so Brabec’s likely happy he has one of Dakar’s fastest riders watching his back, and able to get him out of a hole if he needs parts.
And finally, guess who’s second on the day? Honda’s Joan Barreda Bort, who’s been extremely well-behaved this year, with no parts sales in the desert. He started the race injured, but it’s possible he’s feeling better now, and after tomorrow’s rest day, maybe he’s going to be a major factor in the second half of this year’s rally. This could get very interesting, if he starts laying down fast specials!
2020 Dakar Stage 6 results
1. Ricky Brabec, Honda
2. Joan Barreda Bort, Honda, + 00:01:34
3. Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:02:45
4. Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:04:55
5. Luciano Benavides, KTM, + 00:05:02
6. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, Honda, + 00:05:16
7. Franco Caimi, Yamaha, + 00:08:13
8. Paulo Goncalves, Hero, +00:08:16
9. Stefan Svitko, Slovnaft, + 00:10:56
10: Skyler Howes, Klymciw, + 00:15:03
1. Ricky Brabec, Honda
2. Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna, + 00:20:56
3. Toby Price, KTM, + 00:25:39 (00:02:00 penalty)
4. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, Honda, + 00:25:41 (00:01:00)
5. Joan Barreda Bort, Honda, + 00:32:58
6. Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:33:39
7. Luciano Benavides, KTM, + 00:39:02
8. Skyler Howes, Klymciw, + 01:04:50
9. Stefan Svitko, Slovnaft, + 01:07:49
10. Franco Caimi, Yamaha, +01:10:24