Dakar 2018 Day 7 (Rest Day)

Not everyone gets a needed break

After six days and more than 2,900 kilometers since the 40th Dakar Rally started in Lima, Peru, the 110 riders still going out of the 139 starters got to spend the day in La Paz, Bolivia, doing…well, not riding.

The only rest day in this year’s 14-stage run to Córdoba, Argentina, is not a day to do nothing and veg, however. For the racers, it’s a time to relax and try to recover as much as possible from the rigors of the previous six days, as well as prepare their bodies, their focus, and their energies on the monumentally difficult road ahead.

Dakar 2018 Kevin Benavides before rest day
Shown here in yesterday’s stage 6, Kevin Benavides relaxed happily in La Paz, Bolivia, as the provisional overall motorcycle leader in the 40th Dakar.MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM

But for the mechanics, it’s just another day of cleaning, checking, rechecking, repairing, or replacing any item on the bikes that appears to be suspect. If there’s even a hint that it might not go the distance, better to toss it now than have it cost the rider his or her well-deserved finish.

As Red Bull KTM Team Manager Alex Doringer observed, “The rest day is hugely important for everyone involved in Dakar. Our mechanics get the chance to carefully check our bikes, to ensure everything is ready for the coming days. It allows everyone to take some time to think about everything that’s happened during the first week and to prepare for the second week, and to eat and sleep well ahead of what’s going to be some hard days of riding. The mechanics get a rest from the driving and travel, and the riders get to focus on recovery, ahead of two marathon stages. The rest day is a very busy time.”

Dakar 2018 Adrien Van Beveren
Adrien Van Beveren rolled into La Paz yesterday with one stage win to his credit and in second overall, less than two minutes behind Benavides.YAMAHA MOTOR EUROPE N.V.

Overall motorcycle leader Kevin Benavides of the Monster Energy Honda Team summed up, “The week has been very good and I think the balance is super positive for me. In Peru it has been hard and I tried to take care of myself a lot because it was, to a certain extent, pretty dangerous. There was complicated navigation in Peru, which was to be expected, but we did well.

“I have arrived in Bolivia as race leader and it is fantastic, but now we have to cross Bolivia, with [its] different terrain, and reach my beloved Argentina. There is still a long way to go and we must stay calm.”

Dakar 2018 Day 7 mechanic
Team technicians don’t get a rest day. The good thing is that they don’t have to drive all day to the next bivouac and can instead work out of a more hospitable area.MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM

His total time for the six stages thus far is 16 hours, 33 minutes, and 20 seconds, putting him a scant 1:57 ahead of Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team’s Adrien Van Beveren, who won one stage and led the overall for three straight days.

The French rider remarked, “I had a really great first week of racing here in South America. While trying to be fast, there were lots of times I had to open the tracks and I think I did quite well. I've worked a lot to improve my navigation skills and it all pays off now. We've made some great progress this year and winning stage 4 also felt great.

“It's good that we had some time to relax here in La Paz and I'm ready to enter the second week of racing. My strategy for the coming week remains the same. If I know I can push, I will attack as much as I can and when I know I need to navigate I'll do it. I'm feeling very confident now on the bike and this is important for the next stages.

“These last two stages were exhausting, but physically I am feeling great,” Van Beveren continued. “I think all the ingredients are there for me to battle for the final victory and I'll do my best to make it happen. We're less than two minutes behind the overall lead now and the main goal is to be first when we reach Córdoba.”

Dakar 2018 Ricky Brabec on rest day
Ricky Brabec enjoyed a fairly leisurely day, sleeping in then getting gear prepped for the final half where he hopes to lift himself back into podium contention from his current 11th place.MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM

Two-time Kenda/SRT AMA Hare & Hound National Champion Ricky Brabec lies just outside the top 10 in 11th overall at 17:03:54, the Monster Energy Honda Team rider spending the rest day like most others: cleaning his riding gear and steeling himself mentally for the coming grind.

He said, “This Dakar hasn’t been that demanding so far. In the dunes I felt very good physically, practically giving 100 percent. The team has done very well and now we are able to enjoy a day of rest after a very long day yesterday with low temperatures and rain. It was difficult to ride this bike with the mud and then in a very long liaison section, though it was not technically demanding and had hardly any navigation. Now it’s time to prepare [for] the next stages before the end in Córdoba.”

Monster Energy Honda Team Rally Large Project Leader Taichi Honda shared, “The five stages of dunes have punished the bikes, but we have checked the condition of all [our CRF450 Rally machines] and they are perfectly capable of holding out for the rest of the stages as they have not suffered any damage.”

Dakar 2018 Andrew Short into rest day
The reception all riders received upon finishing in La Paz was like nothing Andrew Short had ever experienced. Dakar is more than just racing your motorcycle—it exposes you to incredibly diverse terrain and a multitude of enthusiastic spectators.PHOTOS DAKAR.COM

Dakar rookie Andrew Short holds 22nd aboard his Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Team FR 450 at 17:53:30. He noted, “I’m really happy to have made it here. I have been a little frustrated with my speed—sometimes I catch and pass other riders, then I get lost and lose all the time again. Yesterday (Thursday) was the toughest day for me; the stage didn’t suit me so well—it was really fast and difficult.

“Overall, I have to say I’m learning a lot and in the future, I’m sure it will pay off. The event is amazing; to be here and experience it firsthand is something very special. I really enjoyed the dunes in Peru, especially the last day; it was really fun riding.

Dakar 2018 massage on rest day
Most of the top riders employ post-race massage in order to hasten the removal of lactic acid and improve blood circulation. It’s not limited to the rest day.MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM

“We have the first of the marathon stages tomorrow and I’m not really sure what to expect. I did experience one in the Moroccan rally, but I think the Dakar marathon stages are going to be a little more serious. The team have advised what I need to pack and hopefully I won’t have any troubles on the route.”

Short concluded: “I’m really enjoying the whole rally; even the long liaison sections that might be a little tiresome for the regular riders are eye-opening for me. I love riding through all the new scenery, and the welcome we got when riding into La Paz was incredible.”

Dakar 2018 Mark Samuels before rest day
Mark Samuels speeds towards La Paz yesterday where he’d end stage six in 36th but holds 43rd in overall standings after six stages.PACO FOTO AGENCIA

MEC Team Honda’s Mark Samuels admitted, “Yeah, I slept in [and spent the rest of the day] organizing my stuff and prepping for the rest of the [race]. Then, I hope [I can get] a massage!”

Ranking Rider Number Rider Team Overall Time Time From Leader Penalty
1 47 Kevin Benavides Monster Energy Honda Team 16:33:20
2 4 Adrien Van Beveren Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team 16:35:17 + 00:01:57
3 2 Matthias Walkner Red Bull KTM Factory Team 16:37:10 + 00:03:50 00:01:00
4 5 Joan Barreda Bort Monster Energy Honda Team 16:42:53 + 00:09:33
5 8 Toby Price Red Bull KTM Factory Team 16:42:59 + 00:09:39
6 19 Antoine Méo Red Bull KTM Factory Team 16:44:02 + 00:10:42
7 23 Xavier de Soultrait Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team 16:44:44 + 00:11:24 00:02:00
8 10 Pablo Quintanilla Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing 16:50:02 + 00:16:42
9 3 Gerard Farrés Guell Himoinsa Racing Team. 16:51:28 + 00:18:08
10 9 Stefan Svitko Slovnaft Rally Team 17:02:31 + 00:29:11 00:01:00
Ranking Rider Number Rider Team Overall Time Time From Leader Penalty
11 20 Ricky Brabec Monster Energy Honda Team 17:03:54 + 00:30:34
22 54 Andrew Short Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing 17:53:30 + 01:20:10
43 64 Mark Samuels MEC Team 20:33:40 + 04:00:20 01:00:00
44 103 Shane Esposito Duust Rally Team 20:39:56 + 04:06:36 02:05:00
84 105 Bill Conger Klymciw Racing 27:58:42 + 11:25:22