Monster Energy Honda Team’s Joan Barreda pushed it to the limit on the fourth stage of the 2022 Dakar Rally to finish with the day’s top time at the finish in Riyadh.
Chilean rider Pablo Quintanilla put the icing on the cake for Monster Energy Honda Team by clinching the runner-up spot ahead of Rui Goncalves. Sam Sunderland retained the overall lead ahead of Matthias Walkner while Daniel Sanders holds down fourth overall just behind Adrien Van Beveren.
Stage four was 79% dirt, 12% dunes, 7% sand and 2% dried-out lake were on the menu for the longest stage of the 2022 Dakar Rally, with a 465-kilometre special and a total trek of 707 kilometres. A trial by fire for all those involved. There was a mix of different terrain types to be negotiated and some navigation too. All in all, a high-paced affair that would begin to mark out the riders who will end up in possible contention for the final Dakar prize.
The starting order for this fourth day set the stage for a promising race, particularly for Joan Barreda who came out guns blazing, firmly intent on victory, but also on improving his position in the general standings. With flawless riding and navigational prowess, the Spanish rider reached the finish-line in Riyadh the clear winner and currently holds seventh position, just over thirteen minutes shy of the overall leader. Tomorrow, Barreda will open the track with his rivals in hot pursuit. Joan was penalised one minute for exceeding the speed limit in a radar zone.
“I’m very happy with today,” Barreda said “It was a very good stage and I achieved another win. We did a very good job from the first moment of the special. We had different terrains: sandy tracks, dunes, rocks and with some navigation. I tried to keep calm, follow our course, but pushing hard and I think we did a great job and I’m very satisfied and happy with it.”
Pablo Quintanilla also performed well. An advantageous starting position also helped him follow the trail of his team-mate. The Chilean turned out a very steady stage, consistently among the top three, climbing up one position in the order in the latter half of the day. Quinta’ improves on his position in the table and now lies sixth, eleven minutes and thirteen seconds behind the race leader.
“It was a long special, without too much navigation and with a dune sector of about 50 kilometres,” Quintanilla said. “I’m happy with the way I rode today, I tried to push from the back. I was expecting more complicated navigation. I felt comfortable, at ease, with good pace and focused on the roadbook, so as not to miss any tracks and be able to make up some minutes in the general standings.”
Rui Goncalves was officially third even though Danilo Petrucci finished third, Petrucci is not eligible to feature in the overall classification due to his DNF on stage two so Goncalves was declared third on the stage.
“It was a long stage where you needed to stay focused and avoid mistakes,” Goncalves said. “It went pretty well, I stayed positive throughout the stage. At first, I rode alongside Barreda and, after that, I spent most of the time with Quintanilla. They’re good companions, not least because I can learn a lot from them in my second Dakar.”
Setting off 22nd, Danilo Petrucci immediately felt comfortable with the high pace and tricky-to-navigate tracks at the beginning of the special. Finding himself racing in a group of three, the likeable Italian was able to match the pace of his more experienced competitors and complete the gruelling stage without issue. Claiming an unofficial top-three stage result in not only his first Dakar but his first-ever rally-raid is a huge achievement.
“It was a really fast stage today with some very fast pistes. I was able to ride in a group and had a lot of fun, I really enjoyed it,” Petrucci said. “It was such a long stage but fortunately I didn’t make any mistakes and was able to find a good rhythm. I learned a lot today too, so now I’m really excited for tomorrow and the rest of the event.”
Lorenzo Santolino moved up to 5th place in the general standings after finishing 4th on stage showing that he is capable of racing hard in the front while remaining vigilant and focused on his main objective: the general classification.
Luciano Benavides completed the 465 kilometres in just over four hours, making the minimum of mistakes while moving up through the field to ultimately claim fifth place. The number 77 continues to claw back the time he lost on the tough first stage of the rally and now sits 20th in the provisional overall standings. He will set off fifth on Thursday’s 341-kilometre special, looking to make up even more time on those in front.
Daniel Sanders rocketed forwards from his fifth-place starting position on stage four, opening the challenging special from the 158-kilometer mark. With vast, rolling sand dunes in front of him, Chucky skillfully navigated across more than 300 kilometers to successfully reach the finish line in Riyadh. Going on to complete the stage as the 17th fastest rider he underlined the solid effort he’s putting in on his GASGAS RC 450F Rally.
“I got off to a really good start today and caught up to the leaders pretty quickly,” Sanders explained. “After refuelling there was a group of us opening the stage and then after a tricky spot with navigation, it was me and Skyler Howes who broke free initially. Then I pushed on to lead on my own. Near the end, I jumped off the top of a dune and I landed on a grassy mound, which wasn’t ideal, and I was really lucky not to crash there. But I cracked on with it and was able to finish the stage without any further issues. So all-in-all, a decent day for me.”
Sam Sunderland continues to lead the 2022 Dakar Rally with the British racer now enjoying a three-minute advantage over Matthias Walkner in the provisional overall standings. Chasing down the leading riders from his 17th place starting position, the Brit would ultimately complete the stage as the seventh fastest rider.
“Things were going well today until I had a small crash in a riverbed while checking my roadbook,” Sunderland said after the stage. “I just clipped a rock and that was all it took to take me down. I was able to get up pretty quickly, just as Barreda came by, so I latched onto him to the finish. I’ll get some rest now and prepare myself for tomorrow.”
Matthias Walkner put in another strong ride, claiming a solid eighth place on the tough special. This result, and Matthias’ string of consistent finishes, moves the Austrian up to second overall in the rally standings – just three minutes exactly from the lead. With an advantageous starting position for Thursday’s stage five, the reigning FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion will be looking to further close that gap.
“The navigation was tricky today,” Walkner said. “The pace was fast and so the notes in the roadbook were coming really quickly, you had to be really precise on your heading as there were many changes of direction. In the end, I rode in a good group with Kevin Benavides and Adrian Van Beveren, and we kept good speed to the finish without making any mistakes. Overall, even though it was such a long stage it went really quickly because we were pushing for the whole time. It was fun and I enjoyed the day.”
As the third rider into the long special, Toby Price soon found himself riding at the front and opening much of the stage. Despite the difficult navigation and mixed terrain, the two-time Dakar champion was able to stay consistent and lose the minimum of time on his rivals. Completing the stage in 30th, Toby currently lies 16th in the provisional overall standings.
“Stage four hasn’t gone too badly,” Price said. “Setting off near the front meant we lost a bit of time, but we expected that, especially after such a long stage. All-in-all I got through the stage pretty well, I made a couple of small mistakes, but was able to keep a good pace and a good rhythm, so happy days.”
Stage 5 sees 214 kilometres of liaison sections, 346 kilometres of special stage, making a total of 560 kilometres on the day. Starting and finishing at the bivouac in Riyadh, competitors will face a new loop on this Dakar, although it won’t be the last one. The changes of terrain from dirt to stone-littered tracks will put a strain on the physiques of even the toughest riders in the opening half of the special. If that were not enough, then 50 kilometres of dunes will divide the wheat from the chaff.
STAGE 4 TOP 20 RESULTS
TOP 20 OVERALL STANDINGS FOLLOWING STAGE 4