The 10th stage of the Dakar Rally was a little different, consisting of a loop course carved out near Al-Alula, starting and finishing at the bivouac where everyone had gathered nearly two weeks ago. The timed sector stretched for 371km/231 miles on terrain blending sandy and rocky sections, with nuances to decipher in the road book. The showdown among the leading competitors was shaped by tricky navigation in the motorcycle race and the risk of punctures in the cars. In the former, America’s Ricky Brabec (pictured above) took a step closer to a second title, while Guerlain Chicherit weaved through the pack with his Overdrive Racing Toyota Hilux much faster than all his rivals to win the stage…despite slowing down too much, he thought.
“I thought it was going to be really hard for us because we started with a puncture [at] the beginning. After that, I slowed down,” related Chicherit, who now ranks fifth overall. “The dust made it really difficult, especially because our Push button was not working well. We finished the last 150km behind other cars. Impossible to pass them or too risky. I’m a bit surprised we won today, but it’s always good to take the win.”
Neither of the top overall contenders in the Ultimate class — Carlos Sainz Sr. and Sébastien Loeb — figured among the front-runners but it still was a good day for the Frenchman, as he pared more than seven minutes out of his fellow world rallying legend’s race lead. Sainz’s Audi RS Q e-tron now leads Loeb’s Prodrive Hunter by 13m22s with two stages to go.
If Loeb does overhaul Sainz, he’ll have to do it on his own, though, because Prodrive teammate Nasser Al Attiyah has dropped out altogether after another series of mechanical issues on his Hunter. That means he won’t be able to support Loeb in the final stages, especially in the event of punctures, the way Sainz’s Audi teammates have.
After playing it steady to this point, America’s Ricky Brabec took it up a notch today to claim his first stage win and pad his overall lead in motorcycles. The Monster Energy Honda rider overhauled Hero Motorsports’ Ross Branch to lead a Honda 1-2-3 on the stage and build his advantage over the Botswanan to 10m54s.
“At the refuelling, Ross was putting on a show for us. We don’t know what happened. At the refuelling, he kinda rode away a bit early. I don’t know what was going on, whether he was trying to sneak or what he was trying to do. Me and Adrien [Van Beveren] did a good job and I’m happy to be at the finish of stage 10,” said Brabec.
“Two days left — the team’s looking really strong and I’m 100% right now. Tomorrow, in the big stage, the rockies, I’m going to use some energy and try and secure something a little bit more so stage 12 is a bit more relaxing for me and I can ride wheels all the way to the finish line.”
It was a big day for Brabec’s fellow Californian Sara Price, too. The SSV driver had come tantalizingly close to a stage victory several times and today, the South Racing Can-Am driver squeaked home with just two seconds to spare over Jérôme de Sadeleer to claim her first stage win. She joins Cristina Gutiérrez (T3) and Jutta Kleinschmidt (cars) in the select club of women who have prevailed in Dakar stages.
”It was absolutely amazing to be able to win this stage, it means a whole lot,” said Price. “Not only were we the first American woman to win a stage but we were the third woman ever to be able to achieve that. So this is big in the history making and I hope to make America proud!”
Price is now second overall in the SSV class, 20m26s back of Xavier de Soultrait.