Cornejo leads Price by one second as Brabec takes Stage 7

Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo pic: Monster Energy Honda Team

Toby Price has dropped to second in the overall Bikes classification, one second behind Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo, as Ricky Brabec took his first stage win of Dakar 2021.

Brabec had sat outside the top 10 in the general classification since Stage 3 and drifted as far as 25:09s off the pace, but the 2020 champion now has his first stage win of the current rally in the bag.

He took out Stage 7, the first part of the marathon stage, by 2:07s from Monster Energy Honda team-mate Cornejo.

Brabec was thereabouts throughout the 453km special between Ha’il and Sakaka, grabbing the lead at Kilometre 279 and holding it at all but one waypoint thereafter.

The American has now climbed to eighth in the general classification, 14:52s behind Cornejo with five stages remaining, but is pessimistic about his hopes of going back-to-back.

“I’m not sure about getting back a whole lot of time; Toby’s still behind me,” said Brabec at stage’s end.

“We’re going to try and stay focused and make it through tomorrow to get back to a mechanic.

“I don’t know if this Dakar is about strategy. I think the strategy is to not open. I think everyone that’s opening is just losing a little bit of time.

“There’s five days left and we’re going to try just to finish in the top seven every day and see if we can make up a little bit of time.”

Cornejo was a fast finisher on the day, pipping BAS Dakar KTM’s Skyler Howes to second, and gaining two positions in the overall standings.

Price was fastest all the way from the start of the stage to Kilometre 242 but gradually dropped 5:05s off the pace in the next 211km, setting the seventh-fastest stage time.

His Red Bull KTM team-mate Sam Sunderland, on the other hand, made it 2:52s covering the top four on the stage and now sits third overall at 2:11s back from Cornejo.

Rounding out the top five in the general classification are Xavier de Soultrait (HT Rally Raid Husqvarna) at 2:34s back and Kevin Benavides (Monster Energy Honda) at 7:29s off the pace.

The latter had looked on for a second stage win of the rally, leading at Kilometre 358, but a self-described “big mistake” with navigation subsequently cost him over 10 minutes.

Rookie Daniel Sanders sits inside the overall top 10 for the first time since the Prologue after a day when he briefly made for an Australian one-two during the special.

The KTM Factory Team rider ended up fifth for the stage and is now ninth for the event as a whole, 16:11s away from the lead.

Ross Branch had been as high as third overall, on two occasions, but is now over 40 minutes back in 15th after an early crash which forced him into repairs on his Monster Energy Yamaha.

Michael Burgess (BAS Dakar KTM) is 38th overall, with fellow Australian Andrew Houlihan (Nomadas Adventure) still on stage at time of writing.

The marathon stage concludes with a 709km trip from Sakaka to Neom, which includes a 375km special.

General classification: Bikes Top 10

Pos Rider Nat Make Time/Gap
1 Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo CHI Honda 28:51:31
2 Toby Price AUS KTM +0:00:01
3 Sam Sunderland GBR KTM +0:02:11
4 Xavier de Soultrait FRA Husqvarna +0:02:34
5 Kevin Benavides ARG Honda +0:07:29
6 Joan Barreda Bort ESP Honda +0:10:18
7 Skyler Howes USA KTM +0:12:27
8 Ricky Brabec USA Honda +0:14:52
9 Daniel Sanders AUS KTM +0:16:11
10 Luciano Benavides ARG Husqvarna +0:17:07

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