" "
Dakar Rally 2020: maiden stage win for Nacho Cornejo as Honda maintain stranglehold

Chilean Jose Ignacio Cornejo takes maiden winning result on stage four of the 2020 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia – Honda riders continue to place 1-2-3 overall with first KTM 12 minutes down.

 

A few kilometres of full gas action saw today’s fourth stage of the 2020 Dakar Rally at its exciting best today in Saudi Arabia. Trading the lead for much of the day, Honda pairing Jose Cornejo and Kevin Benavides led through what many riders are describing as one of the toughest they’ve experienced on Dakar.

Hard on the riders, hard navigation and hard on the bikes. This is Dakar and at the moment Honda Rally Team are mastering it – there is a long way to go mind.

 
Dakar Rally 2020 Stage4 Honda Bivouac Cornejo 560
 

For Jose Cornejo, the 2020 Dakar is proving to be his strongest yet and the conditions are clearly suiting the Chilean HRC rider. Taking his first stage win on the back of P2 yesterday, Cornejo completes the Honda 1-2-3 in the overall standings six minutes down on his teammate, Kevin Benavides.

“I’m very happy with the stage victory.” Said Jose at the finish. “The truth is that I wasn’t expecting it with Sam’s penalization. I’m really pleased to have achieved my first Dakar stage win. 

“Today was a very long stage, very demanding physically and above all mentally. The first part was very fast where there was practically no time difference between the riders. 

“From the first refuelling, difficult navigation areas began with poorly visible tracks and many tracks on either side. It was quite difficult until I have caught Ricky approximately at kilometre 220 and we helped each other to open the track until the second refuelling. It was a difficult stage where we went through some very beautiful places.”

 
Dakar Rally 2020 Stage4 Benavides 560
 

Not very far behind the battle for the stage win was the battle at the top of the overall time sheets. Kevin Benavides put his Honda out front for a chunk of the stage and only crossed the finish line timing beam 46 seconds down on the fastest time for an eventual P2.

Brabec meanwhile brought it home in fifth, 2m:48s down on the winner which means the battle for the rally lead between the two Honda riders has reduced to 2m:30s. With Honda’s third rider six minutes further back, the nearest KTM is Toby Price 12 minutes down…

 
toby.price Dakar 2020 stage 3 560
 

Stage four proved to be a tough one with constantly changing terrain and hard time for riders and bikes. Rockstar Husqvarna’s Andrew Short explains: “I think that has been one of the most difficult stages to navigate in my career. 

“The terrain made it so that every time I tried to go fast I either got lost or had a crash. Thankfully, I only had one big crash during the day but there were a few times when I just slid out on the turns because of the stones. 

“It’s frustrating and really tricky to find the right speed – if you ease off you can see the dust ahead of you disappearing, if you push too hard you get excited and make a mistake.”

 
 andrew.short Dakar 2020 stage 4 560
 

Dakar Rally stage two winner, Ross Branch, was back on his A-game today with fourth best time just one minute down on Sunderland. With Sam’s speeding fine though Branch jumps to third on the stage and that despite a shoulder injury and starting way down the order today.

Paulo Goncalves joined Branch in clocking a strong stage four result in fourth place. After haemorrhaging time on stage three when the Hero Motorsports rider had to change his engine, it seems there’s life in the old dog yet as Paulo explains...

 
 

In fact it was Sam Sunderland who took the fastest time of the day. The Factory KTM rider bounced back from a tough stage three and had to pull out the stops to pip Honda’s Cornejo to the finish line by just 11 seconds.

Unfortunately he was just a bit too hot in a neutralised zone and got nabbed for speeding – organisers dock five minutes for that kind of behaviour so Sunderland’s hard work was undone and he ended in eighth.

 
sam.sunderland Dakar 2020 stage 4 560
 

Biggest ‘losers’ on the day were Matthais Walkner and Joan Barreda. Falling early in the stage among some rocks, Spaniard Barreda dropped well down the order to 23rd on the day: “I took a blow in the ribs that I had already injured before. I also damaged the navigation instruments a bit so I had to ride alongside the other riders and consequently I had some navigational problems and lost a bit of time. After the I tried to salvage something from the day.

Behind him, dropping from P3 to P9 overall, Matthias Walkner proved how tough Dakar can be in punishing small mistakes: “Everything was going well today right up until kilometre-290. I missed a couple of notes in the road book and ended up losing a lot of time. It’s frustrating when you can ride really well for five hours and then such a small mistake can cost you so much time.

Thankfully, I’m here safe at the finish line because the stage was really fast today with a lot of rocks. The race is long, so I’ll continue to focus and do my best every day.”

 
matthias.walkner Dakar 2020 stage 4 560
 

The Factory Yamaha squad took another blow today. After injuring his wrist badly yesterday (and having to make his own tourniquet on the trackside to stop the bleeding), Xavier de Soultrait soldered on today but was forced to retire.

Franco Caimi now flies the flag for the Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team and he made a point of it today coming home in eleventh place (after a five minute penalty) to stand 13th overall. 

Enduro riders catch-up today includes Monsieur Aubert. Johnny pulled seventh out the bag to claim Sherco TVS Rally Team’s first top 10 stage of the 2020 Dakar.  

 
Johnny Aubert Dakar Rally 2020 560
 

Thursday’s stage five of the Dakar will total 564 kilometres, including a timed special of 353 kilometres. On leaving Al-‘Ula, the stage will begin with the same mixed terrain seen in recent days before introducing riders to sand dunes and camel grass on the way to Ha’il.

Dakar Rally Stage 4 results:

Dakar Rally 2020 Stage 4 results 

Dakar Rally overall results after stage 4:

 Dakar Rally 2020 Stage 4 Overall results
 
Photo Credit: Rally Zone
 
 
 
 
Byline jp ISDE 2018 Enduro21
Jon Pearson
Enduro21 Editor and Bike Tester
jon.pearson@enduro21.com