Route: Pisco – Pisco. Liaison: 12km Special: 267km Total: 279km Terrain: 65% sand. Words: Georgia Wells Images: / HRC Stage 2 of the world’s toughest rally race saw the... Dakar Rally 2018, Stage 2 report: ‘Bang Bang’ raises the bar

Route: Pisco – Pisco.
Liaison: 12km
Special: 267km
Total: 279km
Terrain: 65% sand.

Words: Georgia Wells
Images: / HRC

Stage 2 of the world’s toughest rally race saw the riders cover almost the same distance as on Stage 1, but with one crucial difference; this time around the liaison was a measly 12km and the special was just shy of 270km. Sunday’s route took the riders from Pisco out into the Pozo Santo desert, where towering sand dunes brought back memories of the Dakar’s original roots in Africa. But far from being a loop stage planned purely for the benefit of the spectators, Stage 2’s run back and forth to Pisco presented plenty of challenges and saw yet more early retirements.

The biggest name of the 11 riders who exited the rally on the second day was France’s Adrien Metge. The Sherco rider has a previous best finish of 11th overall in 2016’s Dakar, and could easily have been a Top 15 contender in this year’s event. A crash resulted in a broken tibia and a painfully abrupt end to Metge’s event. There were contrasting fortunes for Adrien’s brother Michael, however, the Honda rider completing the stage in 4th place.

After winning Stage 1, Sam Sunderland had the duty of opening the road on Day 2. In a change from the norm, the car category were sent onto the stage before the bikes. It was hoped that this would be an advantage for the Brit, who could follow their tyre tracks and avoid any navigational issues. But unfortunately for Sunderland the soft sand was simply absorbing any trace of the previous tracks. The 2017 winner lost ground whilst he tried to find the best way through the ever shifting landscape. Despite being 6 minutes off the stage victory, Sam remained upbeat and said his bike was working perfectly. Without doubt, he’ll be ready and willing to attack on Stage 3.

Two of rally raid’s most spectacular riders had a field day in the Dunas de Ica, Honda’s Joan ‘Bang Bang’ Barreda and Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren are no strangers to speed, and the pair admitted to having a lot of fun during their duel for the stage win. Despite Van Beveren’s ‘sand specialist’ credentials, there was nothing he could do to stop a comfortable and quick Barreda, and the Spaniard took the stage win by almost three minutes. This domination also allowed him to move into the overall lead of the rally by two and a half minutes.

Joan Barreda (ESP, Honda. 1st stage/1st overall):
“I’m so happy to take the stage win and the rally lead, this is my 20th stage win in my career! But I know it’s not going to be easy being here at the front. There are so many strong riders but of course I’ll try to continue like this.”

Behind Barreda and Van Beveren, Austria’s Matthias Walkner put in a solid Day 2, moving his way to 3rd overall and becoming the top KTM rider in the rally. Walkner’s team mate Sam Sunderland sits in 4th overall, and Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla completes the current quintet, making five different nationalities in the top five positions.

Pablo Quintanilla (CHL, Husqvarna. 6th stage/5th overall):
“It might have been a bit difficult today with the very soft dunes and navigation, but I am really enjoying every minute on the bike and I’m so grateful to be living this Dakar! I’ll take it step by step, there’s a long way to go!”

Among the bikers there is the feel that the rally has yet to really get started, dangerous conditions on day one and the large number of cars littered across the stage on day two has meant a somewhat distracting start. But day three’s run from Pisco to San Juan de Marcona has both a long liaison and long special, meaning little respite for the competitors. The third of five days in the sand, it’s likely to be a tough physical test for anyone who is beginning to struggle, especially when coupled with a 5am start. The rider who can remain physically and mentally strong for the entire 504km will be a very deserving stage winner and could also take a psychological boost over their closest rivals.