The break in Riyadh appears to have benefited the Monster Energy Honda Team riders – as can be seen in the seventh stage results – with riders bound for the Saudi Arabian capital and the new Al Dawadimi bivouac. Chilean ‘Nacho’ Cornejo won today’s stage with Barreda the third fastest.
To kick off the second and decisive week of racing, the opening kilometres of the seventh stage – after a liaison section – were battled out over fast tracks, some peppered with stones, followed by a hundred kilometres of dunes. There was plenty of sand and navigation in store over the timed 402 kilometres which took in valleys featuring some parallel tracks that proved the undoing of more than one rider.
Young Chilean José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Cornejo took advantage of a good starting position this morning to set a lightning pace throughout the stage. With the terrain in optimal conditions, the rider from Iquique registered the quickest times at almost every waypoint en route, reaching the finish-line with the top marker after taking three-and-a-half hours to complete the special. Nacho now lies in ninth in the general standings, 26’37” behind the leader.
Joan Barreda once again pulled off an epic performance and was able to finish the stage amongst the frontrunners in spite of a shoulder injury – an arduous feat given the demanding terrain. Bang Bang reached Al Dawadimi to the applause of the entire Monster Energy Honda Team, gritting his teeth throughout the entire stage, with surprising speed, to eventually post third. The Spaniard now occupies seventh in the Dakar, 8’30” behind the leader.
A positive stage not only for Cornejo and Barreda, but also for Ricky Brabec and Pablo Quintanilla. In addition to pulling back precious minutes in the general standings, their starting positions for tomorrow’s stage will allow a more gung-ho approach as they attempt to claw back even more time in the rankings. On the day Ricky finished seventh and Pablo eleventh, with the pair now holding thirteenth and sixth respectively.
With a total of 830 kilometres by the end of the day, tomorrow will be the lengthiest stage of the 2022 Dakar Rally. After setting off the Al Dawadimi bivouac, there will be a liaison to reach the start of the special. Awaiting will be “just” 395 kilometres of special stage with a lot of sand and dunes through the valleys of the south of the country, arriving at the Wadi Ad-Dawasir bivouac after another very long liaison by road.