Honda’s top-three finish in Stage 10 proved to perhaps be a bit of mistake when viewed with Stage 11’s results in mind.
Because they had to open the stage today, navigation was difficult for the Honda factory team, and they lost lots of time. Ricky Brabec, the overall leader, saw his lead over second-place Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) cut in half, as Quintanilla pushed hard to win the stage and make a last-ditch attempt to take control of the event.
The worst part was in the first half of the 379-km special, which was filled with sand dunes. Brabec lost nine minutes of his lead here, although he picked up the pace quite a bit once he got clear of the dunes. Still, by end of the day, he was tenth on the stage.
It was Quintanilla’s second stage win for 2020, and shows he’s still a potential champ. Although he doesn’t ever get as much respect as his KTM counterparts, he’s every bit as fast, and sooner or later he’s likely going to win this event.
Toby Price (KTM) also made up some time on Brabec today, but at the rate things are going, the only way Price can win this thing is if disaster strikes the riders in front of him. Price has had a bit of a hairy race so far; and the marathon stage was no different. Price said he suffered a broken swingarm bolt, although he managed to bodge in a spare from another rider. He also lost his oil fill cap, but had “a replacement” with him (translation: he almost certainly took the cap out of his emergency water supply tank, which typically has the same threads).
KTM’s Matthias Walkner pushed hard today as well, finishing second on the stage (only seconds behind Quintanilla), and teammate Luciano Benavides was third. Walkner’s result means if Price has a meltdown tomorrow, he’ll at least be a likely podium for KTM.
Honda’s Joan Barreda Bort is going to end up towards the back of the top 10, it seems. He’d charged back into the top five, but now has taken a 15-minute penalty for an engine change. This all but rules him out of podium contention, as he’s now seventh, and about 40 minutes out of a third-place slot.
Although Yamaha’s factory effort has been gutted this year, it does look as if Jamie McCanney is riding, well, a canny race. The former world junior enduro champ seems likely to earn a top-15, and is no doubt going to be a name to watch in the future. Franco Caimi is still in it for Yamaha too, and will get a top-10 barring disaster tomorrow.
However, it’s unlikely we’ll see a disaster tomorrow, as the stage has been drastically shortened. There was originally supposed to be a 374-km special, but it’s been cut to 166 km, due to oilfield construction. Although the ASO says this is still going to be a chance for the front-runners to fail and all sorts of other mayhem to happen, the reality is that this shortened stage is going to play right into the hands of the leaders, as it’s going to be practically impossible for riders to make up time on the front-runners, and the front-runners are also less likely to wad their bikes if there’s half the mileage to do so.
When it’s all over, there’s a silly exhibition race, and then the podium.
Some of the riders are likely going to wish they could skip all the hoopla; Mirjam Pol, second in the women’s category, has been riding with a torn muscle in her thigh. No doubt she’s aching to just take a break from the bike. She lost even more time today when she came across Edwin Straver’s crash site. Straver, the winner of the Malle Moto class last year, had a horrific crack-up at 50 km/h. His heart actually stopped for 10 minutes; doctors revived him, and he’s in hospital with broken vertebrae and who knows what other damage. Hopefully he’ll be OK, and he’ll be back.
2020 Dakar Rally Stage 11 Results
1. Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna
2. Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:00:09
3. Luciano Benavides, KTM, + 00:02:48
4. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, Honda, + 00:02:53
5. Toby Price, KTM, + 00:05:49
6. Jamie McCanney, Yamaha, + 00:06:22
7. Franco Caimi, Yamaha, + 00:07:05
8. Andrew Short, Husqvarna, + 00:08:11
9. Kevin Benavides, Honda, + 00:08:48
10: Ricky Brabec, Honda, + 00:11:48
1. Ricky Brabec, Honda
2. Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna + 00:13:56
3. Toby Price, KTM, + 00:22:34 (00:02:00 penalty)
4. Matthias Walkner, KTM, + 00:29:53
5. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, Honda, + 00:32:36 (00:01:00 penalty)
6. Luciano Benavides, KTM, + 00:35:18
7. Joan Barreda Bort, Honda, + 00:45:09 (00:15:00 penalty)
8. Franco Caimi, Yamaha, + 01:39:14 (00:05:00 penalty)
9. Skyler Howes, Klymciw, + 01:59:29
10. Andrew Short, Husqvarna, + 02:06:36 (00:30:00 penalty)