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Dakar Stage 2: Branch wins, Sunderland moves into ovearll lead as Price struggles

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Dakar Stage 2: Branch wins, Sunderland moves into ovearll lead as Price struggles
2019 top rookie Ross Branch took the stage 2 win and in so doing gave Botswana their first ever win. Photo: ASO
Ross Branch has won stage two of the 2020 Dakar Rally while Sam Sunderland finished second, moving him into the provisional race lead, stage one winner Toby Price had a challenging day.

Stage one winner Toby Price finished in 17th place after a difficult day having to open the stage. The Australian now lies ninth in the provisional overall standings, seven minutes and 34 seconds down on leader Sunderland.

Stage two presented riders with several new challenges. The pre-coloured road books used for the first time this year were only given to competitors 25 minutes before the start of the timed special. Also, with the day marking the first half of the event‰Ûªs Super Marathon stage, riders were only allowed 10 minutes to work on their bikes at the end of the day, with no outside assistance permitted.


After several impressive showings on his first Dakar in 2019, privateer Ross Branch picked up his first stage victory by catching his rivals one by one on the way to Neom. Branch's win gives Botswana its first ever victory in the rally.

"Really excited to get the Stage Win today!" Branch said. "Been a dream come true to win a Stage at the Dakar Rally! Felt really good on the bike today and looking forward to the rest of the rally!"
Sam Sunderalnd. Photo: Rally Zone
As the fifth rider to enter the day‰Ûªs 367-kilometre special, Sam Sunderland was able to maximise his advantage and push right from the start. The 2019 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion was able to improve his position throughout that stage to ultimately post the second-fastest time. Sam now enjoys a lead of just over one minute in the provisional overall standings.

‰ÛÏIt was a really tough day today and it felt very long," Sunderland said. "There was a huge mix of terrain with high speed tracks and then slower technical sections. In and out of the canyons there were a lot of lines visible and that made navigation more of a challenge. I made a couple of mistakes, but I think everyone did out there today. All-in-all though I had a good run, just trying to stick to a steady rhythm and build up my pace as the race goes on.‰Û
Dakar Stage 2: Branch wins, Sunderland moves into ovearll lead as Price struggles
Pablo Quintanilla. Photo: Rally Zone
Pablo Quintanilla moved himself up to second in the provisional overall standings after finishing third on the stage. The Chilean ace reached the first waypoint in third place and from there maintained a solid pace to the finish.

‰ÛÏI‰Ûªm really pleased with my day today," Quintanilla reflected. "Navigation was challenging all through the special but I didn‰Ûªt make too many mistakes. I enjoyed the mix of terrain today, a lot of it was very similar to back home in Chile and so I felt comfortable on the bike. Toward the end of the stage I decided to play a little strategy and try to improve my position for tomorrow. I think it will work well and I‰Ûªm looking forward to the stage.‰Û
Dakar Stage 2: Branch wins, Sunderland moves into ovearll lead as Price struggles
Kevin Benavides. Photo: Rally Zone
Monster Energy Honda Team‰Ûªs Kevin Benavides produced an excellent showing finishing the stage fourth fastest to take third place on the overall leader board ‰ÛÒ a minute and a half adrift of the leader Sunderland.

"Today was a very good stage for me, even better than yesterday‰Ûªs," Benavides said. "I started in fourth position and at kilometre 140 I reached the other riders in front and I went out in front and opened the track. For me there were good feelings, I navigated fairly easily for quite some time. Ricky finally overtook me but I think I did a very good job finishing in fourth position. Above all today we were able to take care of the motorcycle that was something important and it is in perfect shape for tomorrow's stage."
Dakar Stage 2: Branch wins, Sunderland moves into ovearll lead as Price struggles
Luciano Benavides. Photo: Rally Zone
Luciano Benavides continues to show great pace and consistency at this year‰Ûªs event. The young Argentinian, in only his third Dakar, placed fifth on the day‰Ûªs special to elevate himself to seventh in the overall standings. With a strong start position for stage three, Benavides is confident of another good result.

‰ÛÏIt‰Ûªs been a good day for me ‰ÛÒ I finished inside the top five and I‰Ûªm really happy with my rhythm here in Saudi," Benavides said. "I enjoyed the stage today but came very close to crashing at one point. Luckily, I was able to stay on and from there I decided to bring the bike home safely and make sure it is good for tomorrow.‰Û
Dakar Stage 2: Branch wins, Sunderland moves into ovearll lead as Price struggles
Toby Price had extremely tricky stage starting from the front of the pack. Despite the disadvantages, the reigning champion put in a good ride to 17th place and now lies ninth in the provisional overall standings, seven minutes and 34 seconds down on Sunderland. Photo: Rally Zone
Winner of the first day, Toby Price had the unenviable task of opening stage two. That, combined with the limited time to acquaint himself with the road book, made navigating the stage extremely tricky from the front of the pack. Despite the disadvantages, the reigning champion put in a good ride to 17th place and now lies ninth in the provisional overall standings, seven minutes and 34 seconds down on Sunderland.

‰ÛÏToday was always going to be tough, leading out from the start without having had much time to read the road book," Price explained. "The stage went ok, I lost some time to the others but the most important thing is I looked after my bike and the tyres so should be in good shape to close down on the leaders again tomorrow. There‰Ûªs still a long, long way to go, but the bike is working great, things are looking good and I‰Ûªm happy.‰Û
Dakar Stage 2: Branch wins, Sunderland moves into ovearll lead as Price struggles
Dakar Stage 2: Branch wins, Sunderland moves into ovearll lead as Price struggles

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