Ricky Brabec surged into a solid position Wednesday for his second consecutive motorbike victory in the Dakar Rally, winning Stage 10 as teammate Nacho Cornejo withdrew after crashing out of the overall lead.
Brabec, who became the first American to win Dakar last year, trails Monster Energy Honda teammate Kevin Benavides by 51 seconds with two of 12 stages remaining in the prestigious off-road raid that is being held in Saudi Arabia for the second consecutive year.
After a slow start in the first week, Brabec has found the pace on the dunes, hills and sand of Week 2.
In his second stage victory this year, the Hesperia, California, native won by more than 3 minutes over Joan Barreda Bort.
Benavides finished fourth, followed by Skyler Howes in fifth.
“Winning is the best thing there is in life,” Brabec said. “Anything less than winning is unacceptable, so we’re going as fast as we can out there and trying to read this (road book) and dodge rocks and go between canyons and dodge camels.
“We’ve got two days left, and tomorrow is going to be a long day, so let’s keep the focus.”
In his daily Instagram update, Brabec said he overcame slick tires and lack of traction and also wished a speedy recovery to Cornejo.
“Still a lot of km to navigate,” Brabec wrote. “Let’s go! #aimforthemoon #shootforthe stars”
🏍 Bikes – stage 10 🏁
🏆 @rickyB357 (USA)
🥈 @joanbangbang88 (ESP)
🥉 @kmbenavides (ARG) #Dakar2021 pic.twitter.com/LHuamaD8lZ
— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) January 13, 2021
Cornejo had entered the stage with a lead of more than 11 minutes over Benavides, but he crashed near the midpoint of the 342-kilometer special.
Cornejo said he just made a mistake by hitting a rock. Though the Chilean tried to continue, he later retired from the race after being diagnosed with a concussion by the Dakar medical team, which had Cornejo airlifted to the hospital for further MRI testing.
“It’s unfortunate for our teammate,” Brabec said of Cornejo. “Obviously racing motorcycles is dangerous, and we know this every time we gear up. We know how dangerous it is.”
Brabec will be the first rider out in Stage 11 with teammates Barreda and Benavides starting directly behind him.
“Unfortunately, if they catch me, I’ll lose time tomorrow, but it is what it is,” said Brabec, who added there are no team orders in play.
It was the second consecutive day that a contender was eliminated in a crash. Toby Price (who posted a surgery update from the hospital Wednesday) fell out in Stage 9.
Howes, meanwhile, continued his underdog bid to win the Dakar despite limited funding.
The St. George, Utah, resident is the highest-ranked privateer in the bike division after his third top-five stage finish. Howes is 29 minutes, 38 seconds off the lead.
“Today the navigation was quite difficult,” Howes said. “I learned my lesson yesterday and toned it down quite a bit about 5-10% slower on my speed, so it worked out in my favor.
“I nailed the navigation, so today was really rocky and easy to get caught up. My tire’s pretty bald now, so it’s really hard to stop and accelerate, so we took it easy today, and it worked out with no crashes and a clean stage.”
🏍💨@skylerhowes110 full gas!
🚀 The American finished fourth in Stage 10 and is currently 5th in the GC!#Dakar2021 pic.twitter.com/bJSoe9CTnF
— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) January 13, 2021
In other divisions Wednesday:
Cars: Yazeed Al Rajhi overcame a late tire puncture to win his second stage, finishing 2 minutes 4 seconds ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah. Third-place finisher Stephane Peterhansel maintained a 17-minute overall lead over Al-Attiyah.
“The pressure is on constantly from morning to evening,” Peterhansel said. “The best position is that of the leader. There’s more pressure on the one who has everything to lose. When you’re the leader, you have a lot more to lose than when you’re the hunter. But I prefer my position.”
Peterhansel is the winningest competitor in Dakar history. The Frenchman has 13 overall victories, six on a bike. His most recent in a car was in 2017
Side by side UTVs (SSV)/lightweight/light prototypes: Sergei Kariakin won his first stage, beating Austin Jones by 29 seconds. Jones rebounded from a series of tire punctures in a disappointing Stage 9 as the American moved into second overall, trailing Francisco Lopez Contardo by just over 10 minutes.
“Took care of the car really well, didn’t get any punctures, no problems,” Jones said. “So the stage really suited me. Super happy about being P2 overall now.”
In the light prototypes division, Josef Machachek held the overall lead. Seth Quintero, who won five of the first eight stages, fell to sixth overall after the American was hampered by a broken gearbox.
Quads: Pablo Copetti took the stage victory over Italo Pedemonte. Third-place finisher Manuel Andujar maintained a 21-minute lead overall.
Trucks: Martin Macik won his second consecutive stage, finishing 1 minute, 40 seconds ahead of overall leader Dmitry Sotnikov.
STAGE 1 RESULTS: Carlos Sainz, Toby Price open with victories
STAGE 2: Ricky Brabec jumps to second; Andrew Short withdraws
STAGE 3: American privateer Skyler Howes takes lead
STAGE 4: Four Stages, four bike winners; Al-Attiyah wins three consecutive in cars
STAGE 5: Kevin Benavides new leader in bikes
STAGE 6: Toby Price retakes the lead; Peterhansel distances the competition
STAGE 7: Ricky Brabec captures first victory; Skyler Howes third
STAGE 8: Austin Jones takes overall lead in side by sides
STAGE 9: Toby Price retires after heavy crash; Peterhansel wins
Cars: Nasser Al-Attiyah 4 (Stages 2, 3, 4, 8); Carlos Sainz 2 (Stage 1, 6); Yazeed Al Rajhi 2 (Stage 7, 10); Giniel de Villiers (Stage 5); Stephane Peterhansel (Stage 9)
Bikes: Joan Barreda 3 (Stage 2, 4, 6); Toby Price 2 (Stages 1, 3); Kevin Benavides 2 (Stage 5, 9); Ricky Brabec 2 (Stage 7, 10); Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (Stage 8)
Side-by-sides: Francisco Lopez Contardo 5 (Stage 3, 5, 7, 8, 9); Austin Jones (Stage 1); Saleh Alsaif (Stage 2); Aron Domzala (Stage 4); Khalifa Al Attiyah (Stage 6), Sergei Kariakin (Stage 10)
Lightweight prototypes: Seth Quintero 5 (Stage 2, 3, 5, 6, 8); Cristina Gutierrez Herrero 3 (Stage 1, 7, 9); Kris Meeke (Stage 4)
Quads: Alexandre Giroud 3 (Stage 1, 6, 8); Nicolas Cavigliasso 2 (Stage 3, 5); Manuel Andujar 2 (Stage 4, 7); Pablo Copetti 2 (Stage 2, 10); Giovanni Enrico (Stage 9)
Trucks: Dmitry Sotnikov 4 (Stage 1, 2, 4, 7); Martin Macik 2 (Stage 9, 10); Siarhei Viazovich (Stage 3); Andrey Karginov (Stage 5); Airat Mardeev (Stage 6); Anton Shibalov (Stage 8)