Riyadh to Buraydah
419km special – 625km total
Approaching the mid-point of the 2021 Dakar, there was still no clear winner, but Monster Energy Honda’s Kevin Benavides finally broke the Price-Barreda lock on the daily results, taking the Stage 5 win and moving into the overall lead. Benavides also broke his nose in a crash late in the timed special.
“I hit my head hard against the GPS and my ankles also got twisted,” the Argentine rider explained. “It was very painful, but I did not give up and I kept going in the stage. It was not easy, but I was finally able to win and I am very happy.”
Navigation came into play again on this stage, eradicating Barreda’s gains from the previous day and impacting Ricky Brabec and Monster Energy Yamaha’s Adrien van Beveren, too.
Mistakes like this from the front runners were keeping the likes of 2017 winner Sam Sunderland and Lorenzo Santolino of the Sherco TVS Factory team in the mix, despite neither rider finishing better than fourth on a stage to this point.
- Kevin BENAVIDES Honda 05h09m50s
- Jose Ignacio CORNEJO Honda +00h01m00s
- Toby PRICE KTM +00h01m20s
- Kevin BENAVIDES Honda 20h15m39s
- Xavier DE SOULTRAIT Husqvarna +00h02m31s
- Jose Ignacio CORNEJO Honda +00h03m42s
Price – 4th, Sanders – 13th, Burgess – 38th, Houlihan – 63rd (Overall).
Buraydah to Ha’il
485km special – 655km total
What was set to be the longest special of the 2021 Dakar to that point was shortened by 100km and the start delayed after rider concerns that similarly challenging navigation to Stage 5 would see stragglers out on the special into the night and the following day.
While shorter, Stage 6 was no easier, starting in the dunes before ending in stony ground and hard tracks. The yo-yo effect continued, with both Benavides and Cornejo losing ground after opening the stage, while Barreda turned a 17th place start into the stage win, ahead of Yamaha’s Ross Branch.
Brabec was fourth on the stage, but the defending champion was still almost 20 minutes off the overall lead going into the rest day.
Price’s seventh on the stage was good enough to put him into the overall lead.
“It feels great to have taken the overall lead, but after such an up and down week the most important thing is we’re fit and in good shape for the second half of the rally,” Price said.
- Joan BARREDA Honda 03h45m27s
- Ross BRANCH Yamaha +00h00m13s
- Daniel SANDERS KTM +00h00m53s
- Toby PRICE KTM 24h08m43s
- Kevin BENAVIDES Honda +00h02m16s
- Jose Ignacio CORNEJO Honda +00h02m57s
Price – 1st, Sanders – 12th, Burgess – 38th, Houlihan – 61st (Overall).
Ha’il to Sakaka
471km special (Marathon Pt.1) – 737km total
With little more than 10 minutes covering the Top 8 riders heading into the second week, the 2021 Dakar really was a lottery.
Stage 7 was part 1 of the marathon stage, where riders would be responsible for their own bike’s maintenance and repairs in the overnight bivouac at the end of the day.
The marathon couldn’t have come at a worse time for Price, who gashed his rear tyre near the end of the stage and would have to ride with it through the following day.
Branch’s charge came unstuck when a crash caused chain damage that cost a lot of time to repair, the Botswanan eventually finishing 28th on the stage and dropping back to 15th overall.
Whether intentional or not, Brabec won the stage and moved inside the overall Top 10 for the first time since Stage 2, while Cornejo secured the overall lead by a mere second from Price.
Pierre Cherpin, a French rider in the Original by Motul category, crashed on this stage and would succumb to his injuries in hospital several days later.
- Ricky BRABEC Honda 04h37m44s
- Jose Ignacio CORNEJO Honda +00h02m07s
- Skyler HOWES KTM +00h02m19s
- Jose Ignacio CORNEJO Honda 28h51m31s
- Toby PRICE KTM +00h00m01s
- Sam SUNDERLAND KTM +00h02m11s
Price – 2nd, Sanders – 9th, Burgess – 38th, Houlihan – 60th (Overall).