Day 2 of the 2019 Dakar Rally – the 41st edition that’s the shortest on record with only 10 stages – presented endless challenges to riders as they crossed the sand dunes along the coast from Pisco to San Juan de Marcona.Unusual for a Dakar Rally, the cars opened the stage, which took riders 344 miles with 212 of those timed, leaving endless tracks in the sand. Navigation was difficult, but the stage-two podium finishers got through without issue, ending the day within 1:44 minutes of each other.
Leading the way was the reigning Dakar Rally Champion, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner. The Australian, who is on a mission to help KTM achieve 18-straight Dakar wins, finished the timed section aboard his KTM 450 Rally in 3 hours, 21 minutes and 57 seconds.Claiming second a mere 22 seconds behind was America’s Ricky Brabec on the Monster Energy Honda Team CRF 450 Rally. Third went to the stage-one winner, Brabec’s teammate Joan Barreda, who finished 1:41 minutes behind.Barreda now has the overall lead. Walkner trails closely, 1:31 minutes behind, and Brabec 1:33 minutes back.“That was a long and really, really fast stage,” Matthias Walkner says. “It was hard to judge the pace of the riders in front, so early on I decided to push and give my best.“It was enough to set the fastest time, which is great but I’m not too keen on stages like that – two or three in a year is enough for me. Crossing the tracks left by the cars on such a tricky stage can be quite daunting sometimes and I’m glad to reach the finish safely.”Joan Barreda also commented: “Days like today are really important. When you start out in first position, winning is very difficult. Open the track without making any mistakes throughout the day is really complicated, but these are the days that you really make progress on.“At first I doubted as to whether to follow the tracks or not, but in the part on the beach I saw that they were catching me up and following the tracks I was able to push hard with good pace. In the end it turned out to be a perfect stage, with a very good starting position for tomorrow.As for America’s Andrew Short (Monster Energy Honda), the former Supercross competitor finished ninth in stage 2, and is now 10th overall.Stage three of the 2019 Dakar Rally leaves the bivouac at San Juan de Marcona and again heads south along the coast of the South Pacific towards the city of Arequipa. The 496-mile stage includes another long timed special of 206 miles.