The Dakar 2021 marathon day ended on a high note for the Monster Energy Honda Team. The team posted fine results, led by a José Ignacio Cornejo, who not only clinched the stage but also consolidated his position at the head of the overall standings.
Today the stage got off to a very tough start from the Sakaka bivouac, where the riders had stayed yesterday without any help from their mechanics. All the Honda CRF450 RALLYs had arrived yesterday in healthy shape after an arduous stage and were all ready to line up again this morning for the eighth stage of the Dakar. The stage featured 375 kilometres of timed special on mainly hard gravel and sandy tracks with the cold temperatures giving way to the heat and strong winds blowing at the Neom bivouac.
Nacho Cornejo gave a master class in navigation. The Chilean Monster Energy Honda Team rider got off to a storming start and, after catching up with team-mate Ricky Brabec – yesterday’s winner – the pair headed west together to the end of the special, opening the track with a scorching pace. Cornejo claimed the spoils at the end of the special, further consolidating his position as overall race leader. In doing so, the rider from Iquique increases the advantage over the nearest second-placed rival to over a minute.
Behind, Kevin Benavides and Joan Barreda, who started out from further back, recorded respectable times without overly-exerting their bikes. The result leaves them in positions to attack tomorrow in a new stage that should allow the duo to claw back several minutes from their rivals.
Tomorrow, Tuesday, sees the second scheduled looping stage of this edition of the Dakar. The 579-kilometre Neom-Neom stage will have one of the highest ratios of timed special stage with 465 kilometres against the clock. Setting off from the shores of the Red Sea, riders can look forward to another day of demanding navigation over sandy tracks.