Riders returned to competition after the rest day for Stage 7 of the Dakar Rally, which marked the first day of the marathon stage where mechanical assistance is not allowed.
After the cancellation of Stage 6, a new route was drafted for Stage 7 which would take competitors over some original terrain from Stage 6 and Stage 7.
Monster Energy Honda rider Ricky Brabec picked up top honours for the first time in the rally, with team-mate Paulo Gonçalves taking second spot.
Current overall leader, KTM Red Bull’s Sam Sunderland finished 4m43s behind first place and picked up third for the day.
Todd Smith crept inside the top 10 and recorded a seventh place finish, while fellow Australian Matthew Hart finished the 161km special stage in 54th position.
“I wanted to do better than last week. Last week was rough for me and rough for the team with our penalty. As a whole team we made a mistake, but I think we still have a good chance with just five days left of racing. A lot can happen. I feel good. Joan feels good and looks good. All of our bikes are working well, so we’ll see what the next few days have to offer. I don’t know if I won – are you sure? Well, that’s awesome if I won. That would be so sweet, I’ll be so happy with myself. I don’t know; I don’t have any words to say because I’ve never won a stage before. I’ve won a stage at the Dakar – that’s awesome. The first day I was close and the second day I had a chance, but I chose to hold back a little bit, just because I knew that the third day was going to have a lot of tricky navigation. My best result is twentieth or something so my goal is to break into the top ten. I don’t really want to be outside the top ten; my ultimate goal was to come here, do well and get a top five, but we’ll see what happens”.
“Today was not a long stage but it was quite difficult because up to 90 km we had a lot of navigation. I started behind Sam and I tried to ride as fast as possible, but always taking care with the road-book because it’s really important to catch all the way points otherwise we have to stay there and look around for them. I did it well and caught up with Sam after 6 or 7 km and afterwards I rode more or less in front or behind him. I’m happy: I finished without any problems on my bike and this is really important because we are on the first day of the marathon. Right now, my bike is ready to start tomorrow – we only need to do the refuelling. So, let’s keep fighting and try to recover from the penalty we got two days ago. Now we will try, day by day. I will just try to do the best as possible every day and try to recover and be as often at the front as possible. It is not easy to recover one hour only through speed. I need others to make mistakes with navigation, but the way they’ve made this race this year, these sorts of things can happen. If it happens to me, I haven’t got a lot to lose, but the others do. I think they have a little more pressure, but let’s see”.
“I’m happy. It was a lot harder a stage than we were expecting – there was a lot of navigation. Yesterday when we saw the stage had been cut to 174 km, I was pretty happy because I had to open. It was really tricky, really difficult with a lot of vegetation – you couldn’t see where the tracks were. It was really physical riding and then towards the end there we had a lot of mud, which always makes things interesting. All in all, it was ok. I think, sure, I lost some time today because it was a sandy stage and the guys from the back can see the tracks cleanly. I think where I made the mistakes, they should be able to find their way pretty well, but I don’t think anybody has arrived yet which is a good sign. We’ll just keep ticking along. The bike’s working well, the boys did a good job yesterday. I’m really happy with everything on the bike. It’s the first stage of the marathon day and the tyres are good so we’ll just keep ticking along. So far so good”.
Tuesday, January 10
STAGE 8: UYUNI – SALTA
SELECTIVE SECTOR: 492 km TOTAL: 892 km
Stage 7 Results
1: BRABEC RICKY (USA) HONDA CRF 450 RALLY 02h02m05s
2: GONÇALVES PAULO (PRT) HONDA CRF450RALLY 02h03m49s +01m44s
3: SUNDERLAND SAM (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA 02h06m48s +04m43s
4: BARREDA BORT JOAN (ESP) HONDA CRF450RALLY 02h08m56s +06m51s
5: DE SOULTRAIT XAVIER (FRA) YAMAHA WR 450 F 02h09m15s +07m10s
6: METGE MICHAEL (FRA) HONDA CRF450RALLY 02h10m26s +08m21s
7: SMITH TODD (AUS) KTM 450 RR 02h11m44s +09m39s
8: WALKNER MATTHIAS (AUT) KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA 02h12m04s +09m59s
9: QUINTANILLA PABLO (CHL) HUSQVARNA FR 450 RALLY 02h12m33s +10m28s
10: NOSIGLIA JAGER WALTER (BOL) HONDA CRF450 X RALLY 02h12m44s +10m39s
54: HART MATTHEW (AUS) HUSQVARNA FR450 RALLY 02h44m29s +42m24s
Overall Positions After Stage 7
1: SUNDERLAND SAM (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA 17h28m53s
2: QUINTANILLA PABLO (CHL) HUSQVARNA FR 450 RALLY 17h46m38s +17m45s
3: VAN BEVEREN ADRIEN (FRA) YAMAHA WR450F 17h51m09s +22m16s
4: FARRES GUELL GERARD (ESP) KTM 450 RALLY 17h57m29s +28m36s
5: WALKNER MATTHIAS (AUT) KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA 18h03m10s +34m17s
6: DE SOULTRAIT XAVIER (FRA) YAMAHA WR 450 F 18h07m26s +38m33s
7: RENET PIERRE ALEXANDRE (FRA) HUSQVARNA FR 450 RALLY 18h31m30s +01h02m37s
8: GONÇALVES PAULO (PRT) HONDA CRF450RALLY 18h34m15s +01h05m22s
9: BARREDA BORT JOAN (ESP) HONDA CRF450RALLY 18h43m40s +01h14m47s
10:DUPLESSIS DIEGO MARTIN (ARG) KTM 450 RALLY EXC – 18h44m29s +01h15m36s
15: SMITH TODD (AUS) KTM 450 RR 19h15m48s +01h46m55s
62: HART MATTHEW (AUS) HUSQVARNA FR450 RALLY 23h17m50s +05h48m57s