Moto

Dakar 2019: Sunderland penalised and Van Beveren out the race

A cruel twist of Dakar fate has seen Van Beveren leave the race just 20km from the penultimate stage's finish

WHILE WE’VE BEEN sweating off Christmas dinners at our New Year’s Resolution gyms, the Dakar’s motorcycle contingent have been busy redefining strength, endurance and sheer, bloody-minded determination as they wind their way through Peru.

Now on the penultimate day of the world’s toughest rally raid, the race leaders have asserted themselves, and there’s a KTM/Husqvarna lock-out at the top of general classification, with Red Bull KTM’s Toby Price (32h 43m 15s) and Matthais Walkner (32h 49m 50s) in first and third positions respectively, and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla in between at 32h 44m 17s. With just 1m 2s between Price and Quintanilla, the title is in close contention.

Sam Sunderland – the first British rider to win the Dakar in 2017 – has all but waved goodbye to any chance of a second victory, after receiving a 1h 2m penalty on yesterday’s stage 8 for reportedly deliberately causing an electrical fault in his navigation system in order to forgo opening the road. This has knocked the KTM rider down to 8th in the general classification, but the 29-year-old may yet appeal the penalty.

Also suffering heavily from penalties is Monster Energy Honda’s Kevin Benavides, who now sits at 12th with a three-hour penalty, after being accused of carrying extra route notes on yesterday’s stage. Benavides’ team are appealing the decision, but if it stands, Honda’s chances of a top ten finish are fading. That wasn’t always the case, however, with the manufacturer’s American young gun Ricky Brabec leading the general classification and showing the potential to break KTM’s 18-year string of wins until his engine suffered a catastrophic failure just 56km into yesterday’s stage.

In another cruel twist of fate that only the Dakar could deliver, Yamaha rider Adrien Van Beveren has just been forced abandon the race less than 20km away from today’s stage finish, after his engine failed. A grand dommage for the French rider after a crash forced him to abandon last year’s race.

With just one stage to go, the Dakar’s fate could well be set. But, as always in this unpredictable race, anything could happen.

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