Spaniard Joan Barreda has taken the 29th special of his career after crossing the finish line on stage four of the 2023 Dakar Rally first ahead of Pablo Quintanilla and Skyler Howes.
Leading out on stage four Daniel Sander finished eighth, enough to retain his overall lead.
It was another challenging day in the desert for all competitors at the 2023 Dakar Rally. With yesterday’s rain making the dunes tougher to ride through and even more unpredictable, riders had to focus for 100 percent of today’s 425-kilometre timed special. As the second rider into that special, Skyler Howes was among the first to experience the tough conditions. But as he has demonstrated so far during this year’s event, he’s more than capable of navigating his way smoothly through any terrain.
Despite a broken toe, Joan Barreda lies in wait ready to pounce and obtain a place on the final podium for the very first time… But he still has to negotiate 10 stages.
Chilean Pablo Quintanilla made the second time of the day, just 16 seconds behind Barreda.
“This was a good day for me, another super tough stage but finally I have found my rhythm and I am quite happy about that,” Quintanilla said. “It is great also to be finally racing in the open desert, the kind of terrain I enjoy best. There is still a long way to go but I feel strong and motivated to keep going and fight for the lead”
As the second rider into that special, Skyler Howes was among the first to experience the tough conditions. But as he has demonstrated so far during this year’s event, he’s more than capable of navigating his way smoothly through any terrain.
Catching the one rider starting ahead of him, Howes was then joined by another, and the three of them rode in a group up to the refuelling point – all collecting bonus time for opening the stage. A large crash in the second half of the special knocked Skyler’s confidence a little, but the #10 was able to maintain a solid pace to the finish to ultimately secure his top-three result. After four stages, Howes’ consistency is paying off as the FR 450 Rally rider now lies second overall in the provisional standings, three and a half minutes down on the leader.
“That one was tough,” Howes said. “I caught up to Sanders around kilometre 100, and Mason (Klein) caught up as well, so the three of us were fighting at the front to open the stage. It was a super-fun day in the morning – the dunes were really wet, but then softer on the top, and I actually went over the bars a couple of times, which isn’t great. I led into the refuelling and then after that I had a really big crash in a section of rocks. We were searching to find the correct way and I must have just clipped one and it sent me sideways. Thankfully Sanders was close by and helped me up. After that I found it hard to find my rhythm for a good while, I was riding like a zombie. But then towards the end I found my focus and was able to navigate well to the finish. I need a little rest now, but I’m happy with how things are going overall.”
Putting in another consistent ride on stage four, Toby Price claimed fourth on the day to move himself up the provisional event standings to fifth, less than 10 minutes from the lead after close to 19 hours of racing. The Aussie star will enjoy a strong start position for Thursday’s stage five, where he will aim to push on the soft dunes to make up time on his rivals.
“All in all I had a good day, just keeping it on two wheels and completing each day,” Price explained. “The section of dunes at the beginning of the stage today was quite tough to ride through, after all the rain the sand sucks you in a lot more and that makes things even more physical and makes the fuel consumption go up a little, too. At this point in the race my body is feeling good, the bike is feeling really good, so yeah, I’m happy.”
Adrien Van Beveren was fifth today, two minutes and 37 seconds after Barreda.
“This was a beautiful stage, with great terrain,” The Frenchman reflectd. “Everyone knows I love the sand tracks so I had a lot of pleasure riding along this day. The navigation is always omnipresent and I made my way almost all the time on my own. I am also very happy with the performance of my Honda CRF 450 Rally and all the technical support we are having to make it even better.”
It was a good day for Daniel Sanders. Even with a little detour, Chucky remained focused after starting the stage, accurately navigating his way through the rest of the special to retain his lead in the provisional standings. And now, after four thrilling stages, the Aussie stays on top of the overall leaderboard and will enter tomorrow’s stage five with the very favorable starting position of eighth.
“Yeah, today was pretty tricky but I enjoyed it,” Sanders said. “It’s been quite some time since I led out on a stage and navigating through a stage first is pretty hard for anyone. I did get lost at one point but stayed calm, figured things out, and got back on course pretty quickly. Overall, I was happy with today. I didn’t lose too much time and I’m still leading, so I’m pumped with how the rally is shaping up for me. Now it’s onto tomorrow and a full day in the dunes. I can’t wait!”
Another day done and Daniel Sanders leads the Dakar Rally for the second day running. Faced with the arduous task of opening today’s special after winning yesterday’s stage, the Aussie delivered a near-perfect ride to lose minimal time to his rivals. Things are now looking pretty good for Daniel tomorrow. Set to start the 373-kilometer special from eighth and with a full day of sand surfing on the menu, Sanders can rely a little less on his navigation and a little more on staying on the gas in a bid to extend his lead at the top of the leaderboard.
Thursday’s stage five will see riders face another looped route leaving and returning to Ha’il. Totaling 645 kilometers, the special will challenge riders with 373 kilometers raced mostly over sandy tracks littered with camel grass, and soft rolling dunes.
2023 Dakar Rally – Stage 4 Provisional Classification
1 Joan Barreda (Honda) 4:28:18
2 Pablo Quintanilla (Honda) 4:28:34
3 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 4:29:23
4 Toby Price (KTM) 4:30:42
5 Adrien Van Beveren (Honda) 4:30:55
6 Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) 4:31:31
7 Kevin Benavides (ARG), KTM, 4:31:37 +3:19
8 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 4:34:25
2023 Dakar – Provisional Overall Classification [After Stage 4]
1 Daniel Sanders (GASGAS) 18:40:03
2 Skyler Howes (Husqvarna) 18:43:36
3 Kevin Benavides (KTM) 18:44:08
4 Joan Barreda (Honda) 18:44:33
5 Toby Price (KTM) 18:47:20
6 Mason Klein (KTM) 18:50:08