Stage two of the 2019 Dakar Rally challenged all motorcycle competitors with an extremely fast, and rough, timed special of 342 kilometres. Leaving Pisco and heading south along the coast towards San Juan de Marcona the unusual stage saw the cars opening the route, leaving the bikes to deal with the many tracks ahead of them in the sand. The added traffic not only caused the terrain to cut up badly, but also made navigation even more of a challenge.
Following his solid ride on the short, opening day’s stage, Matthias Walkner was the seventh rider to enter today’s timed special. Feeling comfortable on his KTM 450 RALLY, the reigning Dakar Champion opted to push right from the beginning. For the majority of the stage Walkner chased down Ricky Brabec ahead of him, only to head the American rider in the last 40 kilometres and ultimately claim the stage win by a narrow 22 seconds.
Matthias Walkner: “That was a long and really, really fast stage. It was hard to judge the pace of the riders in front, so early on I decided to push and give my best. It was enough to set the fastest time, which is great but I’m not too keen on stages like that – two or three in a year is enough for me. Crossing the tracks left by the cars on such a tricky stage can be quite daunting sometimes and I’m glad to reach the finish safely.”
Despite a small mistake that caused him to get stuck early on in the stage, Toby Pricewent on to post the fourth fastest time of the day, three minutes behind stage winner Walkner. Although still riding in pain due to his injured wrist, Price now sits fifth overall in the provisional overall standings and is determined to maintain his strong pace as the rally progresses.
Toby Price: “Day two was long, 342 kilometres on my wrist was really tough. It didn’t help that I got stuck in a dune around the 50-kilometre mark and had to pull the bike out and turn around. That hurt my wrist a little more but I managed to live with it for the rest of the stage, even though it was really bumpy after the cars had been through. All in all, I’m pretty happy with my time and looking forward to tomorrow.”
Now sitting sixth, one place behind Price in the overall standings, Sam Sunderland rode another calculated stage, minimising any risks on the heavily worn terrain. Although not quite finding his rhythm on the long timed special, the Brit is still confident that his pace is good and is feeling fit and motivated for the rest of the event.
Sam Sunderland: “It was a pretty tricky stage covering the car lines. You are always cross-checking the road book to make sure you’re not making any mistakes. I didn’t find my rhythm as well as I would have liked, I know my pace wasn’t too bad but I didn’t feel so strong out there. As the speeds were so high today, I decided to ease off a little after the refuel to conserve my tyre. It may be that I didn’t have to, but this early in the rally I’d rather be safe than sorry.”
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing junior rider Luciano Benavides drew on his increasing experience today when faced with slower four-wheeled traffic. Despite losing a little time in the dust of the cars ahead, the Argentinian rider put in a solid ride to place 20th on the stage and lies one place higher in 19th overall.
Luciano Benavides: “It was a hard stage for me today and quite tricky following the cars. I caught a few in some very dusty places and it was difficult to pass safely so I lost a little time there. The main goal is to finish and I’d rather lose a couple of minutes than make a mistake. I’m still learning, and will try to stay on the bike because it’s looking like being a very long Dakar.”
Successfully completing the day in 27th place, top female rider Laia Sanz enjoyed her second stage. Feeling more comfortable in the desert on her KTM 450 RALLY, the Spaniard is pleased with her pace and looks forward to the remaining eight stages.
Laia Sanz: “I’m a lot happier with my riding today but got a little lost on one of the waypoints. I lost time and was then passed by some of the slower riders, so I had to try and overtake them again. I was able to push towards the end of the stage and it’s good to feel better.”
Finishing just over one-minute ahead of teammate Sanz, Mario Patrao also maintained a strong pace on the demanding stage to post the 23rd fastest time of the day.
Mario Patrao: “It was a long stage today. I found my rhythm a lot better than yesterday and felt good all day, despite making a couple of small mistakes in the open desert. Tomorrow is another stage and I will do my best to bring the bike to the finish and help the team as best as I can.”
Stage three of the 2019 Dakar Rally leaves the bivouac at San Juan de Marcona and again heads south along the coast of the South Pacific towards the city of Arequipa. The 798-kilometre stage includes another long timed special of 331 kilometres.
Provisional Results Stage Two – 2019 Dakar Rally
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 3:23:57
2. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 3:24:19 +0:22
3. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 3:25:38 +1:41
4. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 3:27:03 +3:06
5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, 3:27:21 +3:24
6. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 3:30:00 +6:03
20. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 3:48:47 +24:50
23. Mario Patrao (POR), KTM, 3:54:20 +30:23
27. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, 3:55:43 +31:46
Provisional Standings after Stage Two – 2019 Dakar Rally
1. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 4:23:14
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 4:24:45 +1:31
3. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, 4:24:47 +1:33
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, 4:26:31 +3:17
5. Toby Price (AUT), KTM, 4:27:47 +4:33
6. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 4:30:32 +7:18
19. Luciano Benavides (ARG), KTM, 4:53:44 +30:30
26. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, 5:05:57 +42:43
31. Mario Patrao (POR), KTM, 5:09:09 +45:55