The balance sheet of the first six days of racing reads positively, with two stage victories for Joan Barreda and the overall leader board currently topped by Kevin Benavides – both riders with strong chances of clinching the outright prize at this Dakar 2018. The first week was an arduous task, but both the Honda CRF450 RALLY and the riders endured the strains without any setbacks. Ricky Brabec rode some fine stages in Peru, as did Michael Metge, although the Frenchman dropped time after being sanctioned for failing to validate a waypoint point due to an instrument failure. A worthy mention also goes to young José Ignacio Cornejo, who replaced the injured Paulo Gonçalves at the eleventh hour, who has adapted quickly to a previously unknown motorcycle with very solid results.
The team is now preparing for the second week of racing and can expect eight tough stages across both Bolivia and Argentina. The first part, with rain and mud forecast at an altitude of over 3500 metres, and the second, with desert areas such as those of Fiambalá or San Juan.
Tomorrow competitors will tackle the first of the marathon stages between La Paz and Uyuni, featuring 425 kilometres of special stage followed by a night in the bivouac where no external mechanical assistance is allowed. The second leg of the marathon will finish up on Sunday in Tupiza.
Monster Energy Honda Team Rally Large Project Leader
In La Paz we have finished six days of racing with good results, we are satisfied with that, but there are still seven more days ahead and each one has to focus on doing his job, to be able to arrive as best we can and with the best options of winning the race. The five stages of dunes have punished the bikes, but we have checked the condition of all the bikes and they are perfectly capable of holding out for the rest of the stages as they have not suffered any damage.
The first week has been different compared to what is to come. Now begin the stages with more kilometres and more paths. We are depending on the weather, which could really complicate the stages with water and mud. We have to be very focused to try to maintain a fast pace and be able to make up some time, although I don’t want to obsess about it too much, because there are many stages - some with navigation - where big differences can be made.
I am happy for the team, because Kevin is the leader and Joan is very well placed, and for my part I am also pleased with my speed. I've been among the first despite some stupid mistakes. They wouldn’t annul the hour time penalty time due to the speedocap, but I was left without the instrument and what I did was follow another rider and I got within metres of validating that waypoint. There is now a week to try everything. I will help the team to achieve its main goal.
This Dakar has not been that demanding so far; in the dunes I felt very good physically, practically giving 100%. The team has done very well and now we are able to enjoy a day of rest after a very long day yesterday with low temperatures and rain. It was difficult to ride this bike with the mud and then in a very long liaison section, although it was not technically demanding and had hardly any navigation. Now it’s time to prepare the next stages before the end in Cordoba.
The week has been very good and I think the balance is super-positive for me. In Peru it has been hard and I tried to take care of myself a lot, because it was, to a certain extent, pretty dangerous. There was complicated navigation in Peru, which was to be expected, but we did well. I have arrived in Bolivia as race leader and it is fantastic, but now we have to cross Bolivia, with different terrain and reach my beloved Argentina. There is still a long way to go and we must stay calm.
Official press release