Dakar Rally 2022, Day 5: MotoGP veteran Danilo Petrucci wins stage as bike rookie

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Danilo Petrucci, a Dakar Rally rookie but with a decade of world-class motorbike experience, became the first MotoGP rider to win a stage at the endurance classic during an eventful Day 5.

Petrucci was announced as the winner of the bike division in Stage 5 via a tweet Thursday from the Dakar Rally. Though stage results initially listed Toby Price as finishing 4 minutes, 14 seconds ahead of Petrucci, the Australian was knocked off the podium to fifth by a 6-minute penalty in the 560-kilometer loop stage around Riyadh.

It’s been an eventful Dakar debut for Petrucci, who had broken his left ankle last month while training for the event. The Italian then had to be rescued by helicopter after a mechanical failure in Stage 2, but he was able to return for the third stage.

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Petrucci raced in MotoGP from 2012-21, winning twice over 169 starts in the premier motorcycle series.

“When I started today, speed was not my focus,” Petrucci said. “I was working on my navigation. Then after a while, I started to throw down. I eased off again in the dunes because I’m still worried about my ankle.”

Petrucci grew emotional when told of his stage victory.

“I wanted to leave the mark in motorsports, and today I made it,” he said.

Ricky Brabec, who became the first American to win a Dakar division in 2020, had his best bike stage so far this year, finishing 92 seconds behind Petrucci in fourth. U.S. riders Mason Klein (sixth) and Andrew Short (seventh) also had solid showings.

But the stage was disastrous for another American. According to the Dakar Rally website, Skyler Howes will be unable to complete the Dakar after a fall. In a news dispatch on the site, Howes suffered ankle and shoulder injuries and had no memory of the fall. “He started feeling unwell immediately after arriving (at the finish line). … Howes was taken to hospital to undergo further examinations.”

Howes had entered the day in eighth overall, the top American in the bike division.

The Dakar Rally ran into some logistical issues that caused the bike class to be interrupted. According to event organizers, race management stopped Stage 5 in the bike and Dakar Classic divisions for the safety of competitors because of “great demand placed on the medical aircraft. … The car race which is taking place in a different sector with independent aircraft resources has not been affected.” As of 9:30 a.m. ET, the bike results for Stage 5 on the Dakar Rally still were incomplete.

In other divisions, Seth Quintero continued his tear through the light prototype as the American won his third consecutive stage and fifth overall. Quintero, 19, is out of contention for the overall class title after falling more than 16 hours behind because of a differential failure in Stage 2.

“I’m very happy to be at the finishing line because it was a very rough stage,” Quintero said. ” I had a couple of issues today, really just the power steering about 150 km from the finish and then I was really just trying to bring it home. But I’m stoked with another win, and hopefully, we can keep clicking them off and break that record of nine wins in one Dakar. For sure, I think we have cracked the code to run on a safe pace but also a fast pace. We’ve been doing very well, keeping the car together, staying very consistent, not making too many mistakes and really just trying to hit our marks. I think we’ve hit a pretty good spot, and hopefully, we can keep going.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah maintained the overall lead after Stage 5 in the car division, which was won by teammate Henk Lategan. Al-Attiyah finished eighth and leads by more than 35 minutes over Stage 5 runner-up Sebastien Loeb. After winning Stage 4, Al-Attiyah had started first, which was considered a disadvantage because of the lack of lines left by the bikes (which were on a different route).

“It was a good day and I am quite happy to finish day five because there were no lines from the bikes, but Mathieu did a really good job. Seb caught us in the last hundred kilometers. We stayed together and played around a bit: sometimes, he was in front, sometimes, I was in front. I think we did a good job. Seb did a good job and tried to get in front of us. Sometimes he made a mistake then we made a mistake and, in the end, we shared the drive to the finish together. On the last part, he made a small mistake, and I took the right way and we finished in front of him.

“There is still a long way to go. We need to be clever and avoid any problems.”

Said Loeb: “The stage was like we expected. Nasser was first on the road without the motorbikes, without any lines and that’s really complicated. I caught him on the stage, and at one point we tried to pass him in the dunes by taking another way. We finally ended up in front, but then he was behind and followed our tracks, he caught us again and we were fighting for 200 kilometers trying to pass each other. But each time when he was in front, or I was in front the other one was following and at the first mistake, he was passing… It was impossible to create another gap, so we carried on to the finishing line.

“We took a few minutes from him; that was the plan in the morning, so we are happy with that. Big gains were not possible today, for sure. Starting just behind him opening the road meant it was not possible to make a big gap. The rally is still long, and we’ll see the next days. We are trying to stay focused on what we have to do and we’ll see how it is. Anything can happen.”

Here are the stage winners and the top three overall in each category after Day 5:

Car

Stage 5 winner: Henk Lategan (ZAF), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 3:53:28. Overall: 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT), Toyota Gazoo Racing, 17:24:23; 2. Sebastien Loeb (FRA), Bahrain Raid Extreme, 17:59:33; 3. Lucio Alvarez (ARG), Overdrive Toyota, 18:15:38.

Bike

Stage 5 winner: Danilo Petrucci (ITA), Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing, 3:23:46. Overall (provisional through Stage 4): 1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), GasGas Factory Racing, 19:01:50; 2. Matthias Walkner (AUS), GasGas Factory Racing, 19:04:19; 3. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team, 19:07:49. Other U.S. notables: 11. Andrew Short, Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team, 19:36:47; 12. Mason Klein, BAS Dakar KTM Racing Team, 19:37:51; 16. Ricky Brabec, Monster Energy Honda, 19:50:17; 46. Skyler Howes, Husqvarna Factory Racing, 27:15:26.

Truck

Stage 5 winner: Andrey Karginov (RAF), Kamaz-Master, 4:01:02. Overall: 1. Dmitry Sotnikov (RAF), Kamaz-Master 19:09:20; 2. Eduard Nikolaev (RAF), Kamaz-Master, 19:19:13; 3. Anton Shibalov (RAF), Kamaz-Master, 19:35:47.

Light prototype

Stage 5 winner: Seth Quintero (USA), Red Bull Off-Road Junior Team, 4:21:10. Overall: 1. Francisco Lopez Contardo (CHL), EKS — South Racing, 20:38:29; 2. Sebastian Eriksson (SWE), EKS — South Racing, 20:58:45; 3. Philippe Pinchedez (FRA), Pinch Racing, 22:42:07. Notable: 25. Seth Quintero (USA), 37:00:21.

SSV

Stage 5 winner: Rodrigo Luppi De Oliveira (BRA), 4:33:12. Overall: 1. Rodrigo Luppi De Oliveira (BRA), South Racing Can-Am, 21:21:33; 2. Austin Jones (USA), Can-Am Factory South Racing, 21:26:00; 3. Michal Goczal (POL), Cobant-Energylandia Rally Team, 21:43:58.

Quad

Stage 5 winner: Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing – SMX -Drag’on, 4:11:47. Overall: 1. Alexandre Giroud (FRA), Yamaha Racing – SMX -Drag’on, 23:51:48; 2. Pablo Copetti (USA), Del Amo Motorsports/Yamaha Rally Team, 24:19:28; 3. Manuel Andujar (ARG), 7240 Team, 24:50:27.


PAST RECAPS

DAY 1: Nasser Al-Attiyah takes overall lead as Audi drivers struggle

DAY 2: Sebastien Loeb wins; Austin Jones takes SSV lead

DAY 3: Led by Seth Quintero’s rebound victory, U.S. drivers and riders shine

DAY 4: Overall leader Nasser Al-Attiyah wins stage after penalty