Three stages of the 2019 Dakar Rally are now complete, and three different manufacturers have claimed wins.Monster Energy Honda’s Joan Barreda took the stage-one win, and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner – the 2017 Dakar Rally winner – took the stage-two win.
On Wednesday the victory went to Yamalube Yamaha Rally WR450F pilot Xavier de Soultrait.The Frenchman started off slower, finishing 10th in stage one and 12th in stage two, but was strong in stage three, which took riders south along the coast of the South Pacific from San Juan de Marcona to the city of Arequipa. The 496-mile stage included a long timed special of 206 miles.It wasn’t a runaway victory; finishing a mere 15 seconds behind was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla. Claiming the final stage-three podium was Monster Energy Honda Team’s Kevin Benavides.“It feels great to get this stage win in the bag,” says Xavier de Soultrait. “We had some challenging navigation today and I’m glad I made no mistake. For me this was the first proper rally stage of this race.“My plan going into this stage was to push and everything worked to my favor. I had a steady pace from start to finish and this helped me secure the win. I want to keep that same momentum throughout this first week of the race and then try to push harder whenever I get the chance to do so. Everything is going well for me so far, the bike is working great and I’ve had no crashes or mistakes.”Unfortunately for Barreda, he experienced low visibility due to foggy conditions, and slid into a ravine. He was unable to get his CRF450 Rally out, forcing him to abandon his 2019 Dakar efforts. His tally is now 23 stage wins.With his second place in stage one, fifth in stage two and now second again in stage 3, Quintanilla was able to take the top overall position. The Chilean rider is 11:23 minutes ahead Benavides. Red Bull KTM Factory Team rider and Dakar Champion Sam Sunderland is third, 12:12 minutes behind.“The real Dakar has just started and I’m happy with where I’m at right now,” Pablo Quintanilla says. “(Wednesday) we had a difficult stage. There was a lot of fog and in some parts you couldn’t see far ahead.“If you tried to push, you ended up missing the right tracks. I took my time there and rode really carefully. At one crucial point in the mountains I made the right decision and gained some time to my rivals. Navigation today was really tricky. I’m having fun on my bike at the moment and I want to keep that same momentum going for the stages to come.”As for the factory American riders, Rockstar Energy Husqvarana’s Andrew Short finished 10th in stage three, and Monster Energy Honda’s Ricky Brabec 12th.Thursday’s stage four is the first part of the two-day long marathon stage. During the marathon stages, riders must personally prep their motorcycles without any external assistance. Stage four features a 218-mile timed special stage in a total distance of 318 miles.