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.