Adrien Van Beveran has taken the win on stage five of the 2023 Dakar Rally ahead of teammate José Ignacio Cornejo and Toby Price while Skyler Howes has taken the overall lead ahead of Price.
It was a tough day for the race leader going into the stage Daniel Sanders who came down with a bug during the night that zapped nearly enough all of his energy. The Australia finished 21st and dropped to fifth in the overall as a result.
Stage five was 374 kilometers and a long liaison of 275 km. In this second loop around the Saudi capital of off-road racing, a field of small dunes with camel grass gave way to vast expanses peppered with dunes. So dune jumping was the key and spelled the difference between gaining and losing minutes in this slalom-type sector. In this terrain, mastering soft sand without losing time was certainly the goal more at the hand of real experts.
Van Beveren and Cornejo finished the 374 kilometers of special stage circuit Ha’il-Ha’il separated by just 13 seconds, dominating clearly on a very demanding terrain composed of small dunes with camel grass.
“This stage win was a late anniversary present! It feels great to reach this performance, I am really happy! I did a good navigation at the beginning, then I opened around 200 kilometers. The terrain was really difficult but I could reach my goal,” Van Beveren said.
Cornejo was happy with second and to find his rhythm.
“This was a great stage overall for the team, I am quite happy to contribute to this good result,” Cornejo said. “I think I have found my rhythm and that is also the consequence of the permanent improvements our team is working on in our Honda CRF 450 Rally”
Setting off fourth and soon finding himself in a group of four opening the stage, Toby Price delivered a strong performance over the first 180 kilometers that saw him lead the class. However, with his group failing to initially find a waypoint, all four lost valuable minutes while they retraced their way.
After the refueling, and while in that same group, another competitor crashed in front of Toby and went down. Unable to avoid the rider’s stricken machine, Price also crashed but was thankfully uninjured. Stopping to assist an injured Joan Barreda resulted in several minutes lost – time that was subsequently returned to the Australian on completion of the stage. As such, Toby placed third for the day and lies second overall in the provisional standings.
“Tough stage today – we got lost early on and spent some minutes getting back on track there,” Price explained. “Then, later on in the second half of the stage, Barreda had a big crash and I ended up getting tangled up in that. I was ok, but we stopped for around five minutes there to make sure Joan was ok. All in all, it’s not been a bad stage, I don’t think we lost too much time. I’ll get my shoulder looked at now because I knocked it in the crash, but apart from that, I’m looking forward to the next day.”
Impressive privateer Mason Klien finished fourth fastest and now occupies fourth in the overall standings.
Skyler Howes put in another strong performance fighting his way through a physically demanding stage to claim fifth position on the day and move into the provisional lead of the race.
The riders knew stage five would be a real test of physical endurance and navigational skill. Third into the special, Howes maintained his top-three position right up until kilometre 190. Failing to find a waypoint, Skyler and the small group he was riding with were forced to retrace their tracks before carrying on.
In the second half of the special, while still riding within a group, one of Howes’ rivals, Joan Barreda, crashed and required assistance. After spending some time helping the fallen rider, the group then continued onwards to the finish. Despite completing the challenging stage in a provisional fifth place, five and a half minutes down on the eventual winner, Skyler’s time was good enough to elevate him into the lead of the overall rally standings.
Although times are close at the top of the general rankings, Howes will have the advantage of a sixth-place start position for tomorrow’s long stage six. Totalling 877 kilometres and including a timed special of 467 kilometres, day six is the longest of the event and will lead competitors from Ha’il to Al Duwadimi.
“Tough day today,” Howes said. “It’s been really physical as for most of the day we were up on the pegs picking our way through the camel grass. I caught up to the lead group quite early on, but it was really difficult to see the tracks today. We made a mistake and chose the wrong way, ended up getting lost, and then had to make a few circles to find the one waypoint we’d missed. Shortly before the finish Joan (Barreda) had a big crash and got caught up with Toby (Price), and so we stopped for a few minutes to make sure they were alright before carrying on. I know I lost a little time today, but I’m happy to reach the finish safely and I’m in good shape to push hard again tomorrow.”
Each day at the Dakar is incredibly tough for every competitor. And they’re made even tougher when a sickness bug wipes out a racer’s energy levels right before another long day in the desert. Frustratingly, this was the story of stage five for Daniel Sanders. After getting the 2023 event off to the best start possible, Chucky came down with something nasty in the hours leading up to the fifth special which understandably affected his result. Lying eighth overall after crossing the line 21st, Sanders will now get some much-needed rest ahead of tomorrow’s stage six and all being well, come out fighting for another stage win and begin climbing back up the leaderboard
“It’s been a bit of a struggle today, to say the least,” Sanders lamented. “When I woke up, I didn’t feel good at all. I had no energy, couldn’t really eat or drink anything, so it seems like I’ve picked up some kind of bug, I guess. So yeah, it’s a bit of a bummer after starting the rally so well. What made things even tougher was that my bike is set up to work at higher speeds and I just didn’t have the pace I needed today. So we’ll make a few changes ahead of tomorrow to dial the comfort back in and hopefully with some rest I can be back fighting up front again.”
Stage four winner Joan Barreda opened the special where he made a navigational mistake and had a nasty crash 30km from the end of the special.
“For me, it was a really difficult stage,” Barreda lamented. “I was opening in the morning, but we had some navigation difficulties before refuelling. Afterward, there was a group of riders together and we carried on until the finish, but I had a crash thirty kilometres before the end. I banged my head on the ground a bit and I was a little bit confused. But I received help from my teammates and we rode together until the finish.
Tomorrow the sixth stage from this year’s Dakar Rally will leave the Ha’il region in the direction of Riyadh – meaning a last-minute change by ASO due to the weather conditions. This special stage will have 367 kilometers (less 100 than initially foreseen) and a liaison of 300 km. The route will continue to travel from coast to coast with the longest stage of this Dakar, which also contains the longest special stage. Speedometers will easily hit triple digits on the fast ample tracks that take the first half of the course through extensive plateaus. A sequence of dunes will bring some variety and ramp up the suspense in the final third of the stage. By the end of this day, riders and machines will have already completed nearly 2500 kilometers of specials.
2023 Dakar Rally – Stage 5 Provisional Classification
1 Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 4:27:28
2 Jose Ignacio Cornejo (Honda) 4:27:41
3 Toby Price (KTM) 4:31:24
4 Mason Klein (KTM) 4:32:41
5 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 4:33:01
6 Matthias Walkner (KTM) 4:34:58
21 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 4:54:24
2023 Dakar – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 5]
1 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 23:16:37
2 Toby Price (KTM) 23:18:44
3 Kevin Benavides (KTM) 23:21:53
4 Mason Klein (KTM) 23:22:49
5 Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 23:25:31
6 Joan Barreda (Honda) 23:26:01
8 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 23:34:27