Kevin Benavides and Joan Barreda continue to battle on at a swift pace in a highly-complicated fourth stage at the 2018 Dakar Rally. Notable performance from young Chilean José Ignacio Cornejo, the best of the Monster Energy Honda Team in today’s race.
The fourth stage of the Dakar featured a change of format. In place of the usual time-trial start at three minute intervals, the top fifteen riders set off in a motocross-style start lined up across the San Juan de Marcona beach in rows of fifteen riders. Benavides, Brabec and Cornejo started in the first grouping, while Metge and Barreda formed part of the second assault which headed out after a five minute wait.
The stage consisted of 330 kilometres of special, after the day had begun with a 108 km link section, which had brought the riders as far as the beach. There was also a short six-kilometre liaison back to the bivouac at San Juan de Marcona. The route took in various terrain types including closed canyons, some trial-style riding and steep hill-climbs which led the competitors to an important area of sand dunes where the day’s racing concluded.
The team performed well to achieve their objective of landing an optimum starting position for tomorrow’s stage. Joan Barreda went off like a bat out of hell in the hope of clawing back some of yesterday’s lost time and found himself leading the field for a large part of the day. Later, in the final stretches, a badly-placed waypoint caused mayhem among competitors who had difficulty pinpointing its exact location. Joan and many others including Michael Metge and Ricky Brabec, dropped valuable time trying to validate it. Kevin Benavides, who has celebrated his birthday today, finished eighth on the day and is now third overall after maintaining a good pace without navigational setbacks. The best rider of the Monster Energy Honda Team today proved to be young Chilean José Ignacio Cornejo, seventh in both the stage and the special stage, who claimed to have taken it easy.
Tomorrow’s fifth stage (Wednesday) will see the entourage move from the San Juan de Marcona bivouac to Arequipa, the final bivouac on Peruvian soil. Of the stage’s total 774 kilometres, 266 km will be against the clock. The cars grouped together with the trucks, and the motorcycles with the quads, will dispute two separate sections in the style of the ‘Baja Aragón’: first the bikes will complete Section A while the cars will start in Section B and, once finished, the bikes will start Section B and vice versa.