With the opening third of the 2021 Dakar completed, Monster Energy Honda Team riders now aim to consolidate positions which will allow them to attack in the second half of the race. Today saw another one-two for the Honda CRF450 RALLY, with Benavides and Cornejo occupying the top two places at the end of the fifth stage.
The Dakar caravan moved on from the country’s capital towards north-eastern Saudi Arabia, bound for the new bivouac at Al Qaisumah – a camp not originally scheduled, but added just days prior to the start of the rally. After heading out from Riyadh this morning, riders rode a 72-kilometre link section which took them to the start of the 456-kilometre special stage. Later, came a 268-kilometre liaison section, before arriving at the bivouac situated in Al Oaisumah. The navigation once again proved demanding, particularly for the riders leading the peloton which opened the track, but also for the adversaries attacking from more favorable positions behind. The special stage played out over hard, and sometimes rocky, terrain. Later there were stretches of sand and the final kilometres of the special stage even featured a few dunes.
Kevin Benavides claimed the day’s victory spoils after a ferocious pedal-to-the-metal performance from start to finish. He gave everything, yet a fall was to prevent him from winning the 2021 Dakar fifth stage. Monster Energy Honda Team’s Argentinean rider thus moves to the head of the overall standings with a 2’31” advantage over the nearest second-placed rider. This marks a fourth Dakar stage win for Honda riders so far in this edition of the Dakar, with Benavides becoming the third rider from the winged brand to hold the overall lead after Brabec and Barreda.
José Ignacio Cornejo also collaborated in the Honda one-two today. The Chilean, who opened the track for much of the 456-kilometre special, with several of his closest rivals in hot pursuit, finished second on the day, precisely one minute behind his team-mate. Cornejo lies third place in the overall standings.
It was a complicated day for both Joan Barreda and Ricky Brabec. Although the pair started the morning 43 minutes apart, the duo of Monster Energy Honda Team riders dropped several minutes in some of the more navigationally taxing sections. In the end, the American finished 14 minutes behind Benavides with the Spaniard coming home 19 minutes adrift of the winner.
Tomorrow’s sixth stage will precede the rest day in Ha’il and will feature a special taking place 100% in the sand, with significant dunes that could cause some thrills and spills. Competitors can expect long day with 448 kilometres of special stage. Once back in Ha’il, riders will have completed a total day’s stage of 618 kilometres.