After 11 days (prologue and 10 stages), the Dakar Rally 2023 made a drastic change heading southeast. Monster Energy Honda Team riders José Ignacio Cornejo (CL), Adrien Van Beveren (FR) and Pablo Quintanilla (CL) had an early wake up call around 3:00 am. In less than one hour they were ready to start the 10th stage, leaving Haradh in the direction of Shaybah with a quite unusual liaison of 508 kilometers!
Leaving the rain and cold days behind, this special section was just an appetizer of 114 km of sand and started a few minutes before 10 in the morning. As the ASO organization explained, this is a deliberate approach into the limits of the Empty Quarter. This was certainly a good day for Honda, after a consistent performance from all riders. Van Beveren got the silver medal with second position on this short and technical stage, just 21 seconds after the leader. In the overall standings, the Frenchman kept his fourth place (9:52 minutes gap to the leader). Pablo Quintanilla was sixth and also kept his position in the overall standings: 5th place (14:58 minutes gap to the leader). José Ignacio Cornejo reached the bivouac in eighth position and managed to climb one stair in the overall standings (now he is 7th with a 20:42 gap to the leader).
Tomorrow it’s time for a key and much expected moment of the race: the marathon stage at the famous Empty Quarter. The counter will mark 4,000 kilometers of specials right after the start, taking the race into extreme endurance territory. Along the 273 km of the selective section (added by a liaison of 151 km) there will be sand dunes of every color. The importance of this challenge – the marathon stage – is that the riders will be on their own in terms of assistance: reaching the bivouac at the end of the day there won’t be any mechanics or external help.
Ruben Faria - General Manager: “We have reached a decisive part of the rally and our riders felt quite well in the transition for the southeast landscapes. I know this was just a short introduction for the sandy days to come, but I am very happy with the performance of our riders. All of them - Adrien, Pablo and Nacho - are almost natural born riders of the sand. They love the sand and the dunes and all of them have a special connection with this environment. Tomorrow conditions will be even harder, with a longer stage and no assistance. I am quite confident in our riders and in our Honda's CRF 450 Rally, we are here to fight for the top standings until the last day”.
Adrien Van Beveren 42: “This was a good day for me, much better than yesterday for sure. I gave everything, trying to be fast riding on the dunes - a terrain that I love. I really push and I am happy with the outcome. I am ok physically, unfortunately it was only one hundred and fourteen kilometers but we have more chances in the coming days.”
Pablo Quintanilla 7: "This was another long, long day. The stage was short but the rhythm was very high. I am glad tomorrow I will have some riders opening in the front, this can be a changing moment for the race. It will be a tremendous effort for us and for the bikes, because we are already racing for 10 days and that is quite intense. I am in full shape and keen to keep fighting”.
José Ignacio Cornejo 11: “It was a good stage. It was a short stage but very physical. I was riding, pushing and trying to be safe at the same time. In this terrain we can not be overconfident because that’s when mistakes happen. I’m happy with my performance and have a good feeling, so I am ready to keep on fighting in the depths of the Empty Quarter”.
Source Monster Energy Honda Team