As the 2020 Dakar Rally moved up Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline, the pace was increasing out in the dunes. Stage 2 brought the remaining competitors a further 400 kilometres north as they left behind Al Wajh and sped towards Neom.
Defending bike race champion Toby Price (AUS) was first off today on account of yesterday’s stage win. The 367-kilometre stage was littered with navigational pitfalls and as a result Price conceded time not only to his fellow Red Bull KTM Factory Team riders, but also to rivals spread throughout the bivouac.
It was Ross Branch (BWA) who arrived in Neom with the quickest time of all the bikers. The ‘Kalahari Ferrari’ was followed in by 2017 Dakar champion Sam Sunderland (GBR) who now leads the general classification. Sunderland’s KTM Factory team-mates Price, Matthias Walkner (AUT) and Luciano Benavides (ARG) all join him in the overall Top 10.
“It was another long day today with lots of variance in the terrain.” – Sam Sunderland
Stage 2 saw the retirement of Daniel Nosiglia (BOL) as the Honda rider fell and injured himself 141 kilometres into the special. Nosiglia was hoping to improve on last year’s 11th place finish and will surely be back to test himself against the Dakar again in the near future.
There’s an extra challenge for the top bikers left in the rally at the end of Stage 2. A ‘Super Marathon Stage’ rule is in place that restricts elite riders to just 10 minutes of maintenance work at the end of the day.
Local race fans were given plenty to cheer in the car race as Yazeed Al Rajhi (SAU) led Stage 2 for much of the day. However, when Al Rajhi lost his way near the end of the stage there was a former Dakar champion ready to pounce. 2009 Dakar winner Giniel De Villiers (ZAF) avoided mistakes all day to set the day’s quickest time in the car race.
“Things went a lot better for us today than they did yesterday, that’s for sure. With this result we’re back in the game.” – Giniel De Villiers
There are a host of Dakar winners hot on the heels of new overnight leader Orlando Terranova (ARG). De Villiers, Carlos Sainz (ESP), Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA) and Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) are all well placed to attack the front of the race tomorrow.
The only defending Dakar champion who is currently leading their category at the Dakar is Chaleco Lopez (CHI) in the side-by-side race. Alongside co-driver Juan Pablo Latrach Vinagre (CHI) the reigning SxS champ was able make big gains in the final stretch of the stage.
“My co-driver did a great job finding the last waypoint because it was not easy. This is where we were able to improve our result a lot.” – Chaleco Lopez
The learning curve continues for Red Bull Off-Road Team USA. Mitch Guthrie Jr. (USA) continues to impress on his Dakar debut as he set the sixth fastest time in the SxS race and lies sixth overall. Meanwhile, Guthrie Jr.’s team-mate Blade Hildebrand (USA) suffered gearbox problems on his OT3 during the stage and was at a standstill at the 80-kilometre mark for much of the day.
“Mike (Horn) was on fire. Racing alongside him was like being on a really huge horse that just wanted to go, go, go.” – Cyril Despres
It was a first Dakar stage win in Saudi for Siarhei Viazovich (BLR) in his Maz truck as he attempts to take the fight to Team Kamaz Master. Despite missing out on the stage win, all Kamaz race trucks finished inside the Top 6. Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) was second on the stage and is now the highest placed Kamaz trucker. Sotnikov is second overall and less than two minutes behind Viazovich.
“At this Dakar I think the navigators must stay focused on the roadbook until the end of each stage.” – Dmitry Sotnikov
The tussle in the quad category continued between Ignacio Casale (CHI) and Rafal Sonik (POL). It was Casale who had the upper hand for the second consecutive day as the two-time Dakar winner increased his overall lead to over nine minutes.
Tomorrow sends the Dakar convoy on a loop stage that will start and finish at the bivouac in Neom. The majority of the 414-kilometre special stage will be over sandy ground as the rally continues to acquaint itself with the deserts of Saudi Arabia.
Source: Red Bull Content Pool