Honda’s Ricky Brabec has jumped to the lead of the Dakar Rally while Toby Price was handed a reprieve due to a GPS problem after getting lost on Stage 3.
Brabec is 4:43s clear of the Bikes field following the loop around Neom, with Monster Energy Honda team-mate Kevin Benavides second in the general classification and Price sixth at 11:58s off the pace.
What was to have been 427km of special stage running was effectively cut short by 38km due to a technical problem with competitors’ navigation equipment.
Brabec was fastest to every waypoint and the American initially won the stage by almost 10 minutes, before his victory on the day was pared back to 5:56s over another team-mate in Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo.
“I had a good starting position today,” said Brabec.
“I started a little bit back in 12th position. I didn’t have too much dust.
“I passed the first rider at kilometre 20. I knew today I could push.
“It was difficult. Every note that I thought was difficult I slowed down and took my time.
“I was pushing all day. We had three short specials. I was riding really well and I felt really good today.
“Tomorrow will be tricky. It’s always difficult opening because you have all the riders pushing behind you.”
Kevin Benavides made for an all-Honda top three on Stage 3, ahead of the factory Red Bull KTMs of Matthias Walkner and Price.
The latter two had initially dumped 20 minutes relative to Brabec before organisers decided to take stage results from Kilometre 389 due to the GPS problem.
The reprieve means that Walkner breaks up what would have been an all-Honda top four in the general classification, with the Austrian third overall at 6:02s behind Brabec.
Joan Barreda Bort and Florimo now sit fourth and fifth at just over 11 minutes behind their American team-mate, with Price sixth having given up 8:35s to Brabec once stage results were corrected.
Rounding out the overall top 10 are Pablo Quintanilla (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna), Luciano Benavides (Red Bull KTM), Sam Sunderland (Red Bull KTM), and Xavier de Soultrait (Monster Energy Yamaha).
Adrien Van Beveren became a high-profile withdrawal from the event after he crashed his Monster Energy Yamaha just three kilometres into the special stage.
The Frenchman has been diagnosed with a broken collarbone, making for his third Dakar DNF in a row.
Surprise Stage 2 winner Ross Branch (Bas Dakar KTM) plummeted from sixth to 21st in the general classification having run wide, hit a rock, and fallen, around 90 kilometres into the special.
Stage 4 takes the field southeast from Neom to Al-‘Ula via a 453km special and 219km of liaison.
General classification: Bikes (Top 10)
|4||Joan Barreda Bort||ESP||Honda||+0:11:02|
|5||Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo||CHI||Honda||+0:11:19|
|10||Xavier de Soultrait||FRA||Yamaha||+0:19:55|