Ricky Brabec surged into a solid position Wednesday for his second consecutive motorbike victory in the Dakar Rally, winning Stage 10 as Nacho Cornejo withdrew after crashing out of the overall lead.
Brabec, who became the first American to win Dakar last year, trails Monster Energy Honda teammate Kevin Benavides by 51 seconds with two of 12 stages remaining in the prestigious off-road raid that is being held in Saudi Arabia for the second consecutive year.
After a slow start in the first week, Brabec has found the pace on the dunes, hills and sand of Week 2.
In his second stage victory this year, the Hesperia, California, native won by more than 3 minutes over Joan Barreda Bort.
Benavides finished fourth, followed by Skyler Howes in fifth.
In his daily Instagram update, Brabec said he overcame slick tires and lack of traction and also wished a speedy recovery to Cornejo.
“Still a lot of km to navigate,” Brabec wrote. “Let’s go! #aimforthemoon #shootforthe stars”
Cornejo had entered the stage with a lead of more than 11 minutes over Benavides, but he crashed near the midpoint of the 342-kilometer special. Though the Chilean tried to continue, race officials said Cornejo retired from the race to be examined by the medical team. It was the second consecutive day that a contender was eliminated in a crash after Toby Price (who posted a surgery update from the hospital Wednesday) fell out in Stage 9.
Howes, meanwhile, continued his underdog bid to win the Dakar despite limited funding.
The St. George, Utah, resident is the highest-ranked privateer in the bike division after his third top-five stage finish. Howes is 29 minutes, 38 seconds off the lead.
In other divisions Wednesday:
Cars: Yazeed Al Rajhi overcame a late tire puncture to win his second stage, finishing 2 minutes 4 seconds ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah. Third-place finisher Stephane Peterhansel maintained a 17-minute overall lead over Al-Attiyah.
“The pressure is on constantly from morning to evening,” Peterhansel said. “The best position is that of the leader. There’s more pressure on the one who has everything to lose. When you’re the leader, you have a lot more to lose than when you’re the hunter. But I prefer my position.”
Side by side UTVs (SSV)/lightweight/light prototypes: Sergei Kariakin won his first stage, beating Austin Jones by 29 seconds. Jones rebounded from a disappointing Stage 9 as the American moved into second overall, trailing Francisco Lopez Contardo by just over 10 minutes.
In the light prototypes division, Josef Machachek held the overall lead. Seth Quintero, who won five of the first eight stages, is in sixth overall after a fourth in Stage 10.
Quads: Pablo Copetti took the stage victory over Italo Pedemonte. Third-place finisher Manuel Andujar maintained a 21-minute lead overall.
Trucks: Martin Macik won his second consecutive stage, finishing 1 minute, 40 seconds ahead of overall leader Dmitry Sotnikov.
STAGE 1 RESULTS: Carlos Sainz, Toby Price open with victories
STAGE 5: Kevin Benavides new leader in bikes
Cars: Nasser Al-Attiyah 4 (Stages 2, 3, 4, 8); Carlos Sainz 2 (Stage 1, 6); Yazeed Al Rajhi 2 (Stage 7, 10); Giniel de Villiers (Stage 5); Stephane Peterhansel (Stage 9)
Bikes: Joan Barreda 3 (Stage 2, 4, 6); Toby Price 2 (Stages 1, 3); Kevin Benavides 2 (Stage 5, 9); Ricky Brabec 2 (Stage 7, 10); Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (Stage 8)
Side-by-sides: Francisco Lopez Contardo 5 (Stage 3, 5, 7, 8, 9); Austin Jones (Stage 1); Saleh Alsaif (Stage 2); Aron Domzala (Stage 4); Khalifa Al Attiyah (Stage 6), Sergei Kariakin (Stage 10)
Lightweight prototypes: Seth Quintero 5 (Stage 2, 3, 5, 6, 8); Cristina Gutierrez Herrero 3 (Stage 1, 7, 9); Kris Meeke (Stage 4)
Quads: Alexandre Giroud 3 (Stage 1, 6, 8); Nicolas Cavigliasso 2 (Stage 3, 5); Manuel Andujar 2 (Stage 4, 7); Pablo Copetti 2 (Stage 2, 10); Giovanni Enrico (Stage 9)
Trucks: Dmitry Sotnikov 4 (Stage 1, 2, 4, 7); Martin Macik 2 (Stage 9, 10); Siarhei Viazovich (Stage 3); Andrey Karginov (Stage 5); Airat Mardeev (Stage 6); Anton Shibalov (Stage 8)