The Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team are today making the most of the Dakar Rally’s one and only rest day following six physically and mentally demanding days of competition in the desert. Now at the halfway point of the 43rd edition of the event and very much enjoying their time in the bivouac, with the team busy making preparations for the week ahead, riders have been replenishing their energy levels as best they can.
The first week of this year’s event has seen both highs and lows for the Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team, with the exceptional performances of Ross Branch very much the highlight so far and placing the team at the sharp end of the results. Holding a deserved fourth place in the overall classification, Ross is very much fired up and looking forward to the second half of the event.
For Adrien Van Beveren and Franco Caimi, it’s fair to say that the opening week of the Dakar Rally has presented each rider with several challenges. Both very much still in the running and not too far away from the overall top 10 in 15th and 16th respectively, each rider is in good shape headed into week two and ready to give their all during the all-important final days of competition.
Frustratingly, Andrew Short’s participation in the rally ended on stage two when contaminated fuel forced him to retire. Jamie McCanney was also forced out of the event following a technical issue on stage five after an impressive start to the rally.
After the rest day, competitors will tomorrow set off from Ha’il for stage seven and the first leg of the event’s marathon stage. The final week of racing starts with a demanding day in the saddle where riders will need to apply a cautious approach through the sand dunes and rocky tracks while conserving their bikes. Upon completing the stage, riders are then permitted just 10 minutes to prepare their own bikes for the following day.
Stage eight is the second leg of the event’s marathon stage. Another mixed terrain stage will provide a demanding test of rider and machine with competitors heading west, reaching the Red Sea coast at Neom following 709 kilometres in the saddle. Much like the previous day, riders will need to be mindful of the conditions and concentrate on successfully completing the event’s marathon stage.
With Dakar Rally then nearing its conclusion, stage nine will provide a variety of terrain on the event’s second loop stage, which starts from, and returns to, Neom. Riders will roar down the shore of the Red Sea at the start of the stage, providing a welcomed change of scenery with the 465-kilometre special taking riders inland before returning back to the coast.
Stage 10 begins on the same shoreline as the previous day with more breath-taking views of the Red Sea. This time, riders head along the coast in a southerly direction before heading inland and navigating their way through a relentless series of rocky canyons, where time can easily be won or lost.
Boasting the longest special of the rally at 511 kilometres, stage 11 is set to be the most challenging. Including a 100-kilometre stretch of undulating sand dunes, the penultimate day of racing will favour the brave with riders arriving in the coastal town of Yanbu at the finish.
The 12th and final stage takes place on Friday January 15. The shortest special of the entire rally at just 225 kilometres, it will be a sprint to the finish line in Jeddah.
Alexandre Kowalski – Yamaha Europe Off-Road Racing Manager
“It’s nice to have a day off from racing and relax a little, but there is also a lot of work to do. We have spent the day together with the riders, talking about the first week while the mechanics prepare the bikes for the second half of the rally. The first week had a bit of everything for the team. Many highs but, unfortunately, a couple of low points. On the positive side, Ross has been exceptional. He’s a in a really great position, has great pace and his navigation is really strong. He very nearly won stage six, so this is really good for him and the team. For the team’s other riders, Adrien and Franco, they have both had strong results but also some navigation issues that cost them a lot of time, which is unfortunate. However, this year’s Dakar is really different and difficult and as we have seen this week, things can change very quickly. There is potential for them to make up lots of time, especially on the marathon stage and the race is far from over. The problem with water in Andrew’s fuel on stage two was completely out of the team’s control, so this was a really difficult thing to accept and a really sad way for him to leave the rally after such a great day on stage one. Then, on Thursday, Jamie had a technical issue. The Dakar is so tough on the bikes and also the riders, but Jamie showed great improvements on last year and he has learned a lot this year, too. He was really putting together a great rally. Now, we look forward to week two. Six more stages, many kilometres to go and we aim to finish the rally with strong results.”
Dakar Rally 2021
Overall Provisional Classification (after stage 6)
- Toby Price (KTM) 24:08:43
- Kevin Benavides (Honda) 24:10:59 + 0:02:16
- Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 24:11:40 + 0:02:57
- Ross Branch (Yamaha) 24:12:24 + 0:03:41
- Xavier de Soultrait (Husqvarna) 24:12:24 + 0:03:41
- Sam Sunderland (KTM) 24:13:06 + 0:04:23
- Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) 24:43:30 + 0:34:47
16. Franco Caimi (Yamaha) 24:52:53 + 0:44:10