2021 Dakar Rally, Stage 8

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Faced with a ripped-up tire at the start of Stage 8, KTM’s Toby Price has done the unthinkable. Not only did he manage to finish the day’s racing, he came in second on the stage.

Price’s woes started at the end of Stage 7, when he rolled into the bivouac with a gaping rip in his tire sidewall. Because it was a marathon stage, he was limited in repair options; either he fixed the rear tire somehow, and made it through Stage 8, or he could somehow acquire a tire from another rider. Thanks to new rules, it was unclear if he would even be allowed that second option, and if so, most certainly both riders would have received a heavy time penalty.

Price decided to zip-tie the tire together, and he went for it. And, he managed to finish second on the day, just over a minute behind Honda’s “Nacho” Cornejo. 

On social media, Price said “Today I tried to fix as much as I could and when I got to refuel at 229km I saw I still had a solo zip tie on! The rest had come off but I just tried to keep momentum, not accelerate too hard and ride smart. I lost some time but I didn’t think I would make it to the finish, let alone 2nd in stage and still be 2nd overall!

Looking at the tire at day’s end, it’s both awe-inspiring and scary to think Price bashed that through the desert for hundreds of kilometres. His finish means he’s still in second overall, and if he plays the game correctly, he’s got to be the favourite to win now.

A couple of other front-runners bit the dust at Dakar today. Xavier de Soultrait had trouble with his front tire, and tried a similar bodge fix. Unfortunately, the repair didn’t hold, and de Soultrait hurt himself badly in a crash. He’s off to the hospital talking about a neck injury, and that’s the end of his excellent 2021 run aboard the HT Rally Raid machine.

Yamaha’s Franco Caimi also exited the race today, after an engine breakdown. Caimi didn’t appear to be a threat for the win this year, but he was looking like he’d be the team’s best or second-best finisher behind Ross Branch. No such luck, and now Branch and Adrien Van Beveren are the only Yamaha factory riders left.

Speaking of Branch, he bounced back from yesterday’s heartbreaking crash in the desert and managed 11th on the stage, which puts him 13th overall. He should be top-10 by race’s end, and appears to be the real deal. Expect him to be on a factory team lineup for the foreseeable future. He’s managed to make it through the marathon stage, so now he’s got the factory mechanics patching up his bike; he’s just got to focus on getting through the next four days without a serious crack-up.

Meanwhile, Van Beveren is now 50 minutes back of the leader, in 14th place. It’s been a couple of years since he’s looked like a threat to win, at this point. He’s got decent navigation skills, which probably would have won him a Dakar race if it wasn’t for an epic crash. For some reason, those nav skills haven’t pushed him ahead of the pack in Saudi Arabia, perhaps because the racing terrain is different from the Dakar’s South American days.

Changing times: An interesting note on the marathon stage. Typically over the years, this stage has separated the riders from their support team, and for at least one night of the race, everyone has to lump it. Everyone gets a sleeping bag and a cot, or whatever, with no cushy motor homes for the race’s stars.

Except, this year, the factory riders apparently did get that treatment. Supposedly because of COVID-19, the big-shot teams petitioned the organizers to let their star riders sleep in their usual motor home beds, while everyone else had to slum it in the bivouac. They still weren’t allowed mechanical assistance, but—this is just one more sign of the widening gap between the factory riders and almost everyone else.

An update on CS Santosh: So far, there’s been little information on Hero’s factory rider. He’s supposedly in a medically-induced coma, with a head and shoulder injury since his Stage 4 crash. He’s said to be stable, and that’s all we know about his condition.

Dakar, Stage 8 rankings

  1. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, Honda, 03H 08′ 40”
  2. Toby Price, KTM, 03H 09′ 45” (+ 00H 01′ 05”)
  3. Ricky Brabec, Honda, 03H 11′ 30” (+ 00H 02′ 50”)
  4. Sam Sunderland, KTM, 03H 12′ 26” (+ 00H 03′ 46”)
  5. Kevin Benavides, Honda, 03H 14′ 09” (+ 00H 05′ 29”)
  6. Joan Barreda, Honda, 03H 14′ 27” (+ 00H 05′ 47”)
  7. Daniel Sanders, KTM, 03H 15′ 09” (+ 00H 06′ 29”)
  8. Matthias Walkner, KTM, 03H 15′ 12” (+ 00H 06′ 32”)
  9. Skyler Howes, Bas Dakar, 03H 15′ 33” (+ 00H 06′ 53”) 
  10. Sebastian Buhler, Hero, 03H 16′ 38” (+ 00H 07′ 58”)

Dakar, overall rankings

  1. Jose Ignaco Cornejo Florimo, Honda, 32H 00′ 11”
  2. Toby Price, KTM, 32H 01′ 17” (+ 00H 01′ 06”)
  3. Sam Sunderland, KTM, 32H 06′ 08” (+ 00H 05′ 57”)
  4. Kevin Benavides, Honda, 32H 13′ 09” (+ 00H 12′ 58”) (00H 02′ 00” penalty)
  5. Joan Barreda, Honda, 32H 16′ 16” (+ 00H 16′ 05”)
  6. Ricky Brabec, Honda, 32H 17′ 53” (+ 00H 17′ 42”)
  7. Skyler Howes, Bas Dakar, 32H 19′ 31” (+ 00H 19′ 20”) (00H 06′ 00” penalty)
  8. Daniel Sanders, KTM, 32H 22′ 51” (+ 00H 22′ 40”) (00H 07′ 00” penalty)
  9. Lorenzo Santolino, Sherco, 32H 27′ 10” (+ 00H 26′ 59”) 
  10. Luciano Benavides, Husqvarna, 32H 33′ 37” (+ 00H 33′ 26”) (00H 01′ 00” penalty)

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