Dubbed the ‘Super Ica’, stage eight pitted the fastest 10 bikes, 10 cars and the top five trucks from the previous day together, setting off at three-minute intervals according to their stage seven results. At 360 kilometres, the timed special was the longest of the event and took competitors over fast, open pistes for the first half, before once again challenging them with the mountainous sand dunes of the Ica desert.
Like many others before him, Ricky Brabec once again fell foul of the harsh laws of the Dakar. Almost exactly one year after having broken the engine on his Honda, the American once again was forced to exit the rally for the same reason, a heart-breaking blow for a rider who, up until that point, had ridden the perfect race and was dreaming of being the first representative of Uncle Sam to win the Dakar. Although he was not expected to do as well, the official HRC rider obtained another stage victory in 2019 and most impressively was leading the general standings three days from the finish. It is a crushing blow for Honda also, because on yet another occasion they will not have been able to bring the domination of KTM on the Dakar to a close.
Following his top-10 result from stage seven, Matthias Walkner set off with not only nine bikes ahead of him, but also two cars driven by Dakar legends Stephane Peterhansel and Nani Roma. Navigating well through the dust kicked up by the vehicles in front, as well as the fog that had descended on the stage, the reigning Dakar Champion steadily upped his pace as the day went on to ultimately post the fastest time. With positions closing up at the top of the overall standings, Walkner now lies third, six minutes and 30 seconds behind teammate Price.
Matthias Walkner: “Good day for me today, I really tried to push all day long. Starting with the cars was not so bad this morning, a couple caught me on the fast pistes, but I passed them back again when we hit the dunes. I got to the refuelling and saw that Toby had made some time so I knew I had to really go for it in the sand. I had a couple of small crashes in the fesh-fesh, it was really foggy and a lot of the time you couldn’t really see too well ahead of you. I was happy with my riding today and everything is going well so we’ll see what the next two days bring.”
Taking full advantage of his strong starting position from the second wave of competitors, Pablo Quintanilla posted the second best time for the day. Gaining an impressive three positions in the overall, Pablo is now second and less than two minutes behind the provisional leader Toby Price.
Pablo Quintanilla: “Everything went according to plan for me today. After the mass start in the morning I found myself racing alone for some time, before starting to catch up with the riders from the first wave. Today’s stage was not easy. It was physically and mentally tough but I did my best pushing all the way to the finish. We’re nine days into this race and we’re all starting to feel the effects of these tough stages on our bodies. I’m really happy with where I’m at in the overall. The gap with Toby is small and we still have two more days of racing. I will try to stick to my plan and continue giving 100% until the end of the race.”
2016 Dakar Champion Toby Price put in another stunning performance on stage eight, leading on time right up until the final two checkpoints. Crossing the line in an eventual third position has elevated Price to overall leader in the provisional standings. But with just one minute separating the top two riders after close to 30 hours of racing, the Australian rider knows he still has to keep fighting right to the finish.
Toby Price: “I knew today had to count so I gave it everything – the wrist is really starting to sting now! It was a long special at 360 kilometres but I got through it and I’m pleased with how the whole stage went. Just two days left so I’ll get some rest tonight and attack again tomorrow. When the helmet goes on, you know I’m just going to do the best I can.”
Set to open the special today due to his win on the previous day’s stage seven, Sam Sunderlandwas forced to delay his start when his on-bike tracker failed. Slotting in further down the order meant the British rider also had vehicles in front of him to deal with as he progressed through the stage. Nevertheless, pushing hard Sunderland posted the fourth fastest time and now sits fourth overall in the provisional rally standings.
Sam Sunderland: “I’m happy with my riding today but it’s been a tough one and I’m not sure if an issue at the start will cost me some time. My Iritrack wasn’t working and I had to get that fixed before I set off. It meant I was behind a car at the beginning of the stage and the dust from that combined with the fog made things very tricky. After that I just pushed on as best I could to the end. Day eight is ticked off now, but I’m sure there’s plenty more excitement to come.”
Going from strength-to-strength in this year’s Dakar, Andrew Short put in another strong performance on Tuesday to secure a solid fifth place result in stage eight. The second Husqvarna mounted rider inside the top 10, Andrew is currently seventh in the event’s provisional overall standings.
Andrew Short: “It was interesting to start the stage alongside the cars. A few kilometres into the stage I got passed by Nani Roma’s car and he was going really fast on the roads. But then once it got bumpy I was able to pass him and do my own race. After the fuel stop we entered the dunes and they were massive. I got to ride alongside a few other riders and our pace was good. Today there were lots of riders struggling with bike issues or making mistakes in navigation. For me personally I felt really good. I was going as hard as I could for most of the stage and for the last 30 kilometres I felt fatigued so decided to keep it steady. I’m trying to get better on every stage and every day and that’s what matters the most for me.”
Wednesday’s stage nine of the 2019 Dakar marks the second of the two mass-starts at the rally. In another looped stage, riders will leave Pisco and cover a total of 409 kilometres, 313 kilometres of which is timed special, before returning to the coastal town.
Provisional Results Stage Eight – 2019 Dakar Rally
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 03:55:25
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 03:56:10, +00:45
3. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 03:56:38, +01:13
4. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 04:01:46, +06:21
5. Andrew Short (USA), Husqvarna, 04:05:16, +09:51
Provisional Standings after Stage Eight – 2019 Dakar Rally
1. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 28:53:08
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 28:54:11, +01:03
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 28:59:43, +06:35
4. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 28:59:46, +06:38
5. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 29:03:02, +09:54