Becoming the first American to win a stage of the Dakar Rally since Kurt Caselli, Honda’s Ricky Brabec won the opening leg go the marathon stage.
- Ricky Brabec won his debut Dakar stage
- He’s the first American rider since Kurt Caselli to win
- Stage 7 marked the opening leg of the marathon stage
- Sam Sunderland still holds the overall lead
Back to business after rest day, the stage 7 saw a revised route due to weather conditions.
Leaving Bolivia’s La Paz, the highest capital city in the world, and the warm welcome given by its inhabitants to head towards another world renowned venue, the Salar d'Uyuni salt flats.
The stage was shortened due to the poor weather conditions, but once again boasted sandy tracks that were liable to create big gaps. The seventh day especially rhymed with the marathon stage, which could leave its mark on competitors who have to work alone on their machines at arrival to the bivouac.
Ricky Brabec had been there or thereabouts for a while. On stage 7 the official Honda rider was finally rewarded for his efforts and paid back the trust shown to him by HRC with triumph on stage seven, ahead of his experienced team-mate Paulo Gonçalves.
“It was the first day of the marathon after the rest day,” told Brabec. “The track was good and the navigating went well. There was more off-road than on-road, which is more my style.
“I’m happy to be here at the finish-line in spite of my slide out in the grass where I went swimming. These bikes are pretty slippery in the mud. I’m happy to come away in one piece, healthy and ready to go tomorrow.
In third, Sam Sunderland (KTM) did all that was necessary to limit the damage and even increased his lead in the general standings over Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna).
“It was a lot harder a stage than we were expecting – there was a lot of navigation,” explained Sunderland. “I lost some time today because it was a sandy stage and the guys from the back can see the tracks cleanly.
“I'm really happy with everything on the bike. It's the first stage of the marathon day and the tyres are good so we'll just keep ticking along.”
Joan Barreda came home in fourth with Xavier De Soultrait fifth. Third overall in the rally Adrien Van Beveren was 11th.
Placing 20th on the stage, Joakim Rodrigues is still the top rookie in 11th. But with Franco Caimi (Honda) in 12th it’s still all to play for that honour.
Laia Sanz is still 25th overall and two places behind Ivan Cervantes in 23rd.
Ever changing the Malle Moto category is now led by Toomas Triisa. Fifth during rest day, Lyndon Poskitt is up to second position with Julian Kozac third. All three are inside the top 46 overall.
There was only one retirement from the stage, with 110 bikes still in the rally.
With the 2017 Dakar Rally starting its descent from the Bolivian uplands to the Argentinean plains, tomorrow's stage eight includes a 492km-long timed special before its finish in Salta. Reaching the end of the two-day-long marathon stage, competitors will have the chance to meet up with their mechanics and support crews tomorrow afternoon in the Argentinean city.
Photos: Honda, Yamaha