Stage Seven of the 2020 Dakar Rally, on Sunday, was the longest and most varied Stage of this year’s race.
In both the Car and Original by Motul Categories, competitors backed by Motul have managed to stay the course despite the fact that almost a quarter of all competitors had withdrawn by the end of Friday’s Stage Six. In the Original by Motul category, a third of all starters had withdrawn by the time of the rest day in Riyadh (the Saudi Arabian capital) on Saturday.
Port Edward rider Stuart Gregory (100) discovered that he could build up a good head of steam on Sunday as the Dakar entered Saudi Arabia’s notorious Empty Quarter.
Although the route was punctuated by dunes, he found that he was able to ride flat out for long stretches at a time.
“It was a good day for me personally, with a very fast Stage,” commented Gregory once he had arrived safely in Wadi Al Dawasir.
After finishing 17th in the Original by Motul Category on Friday, and 13th in Stage Seven, Gregory has consolidated his 12th place in the General Classification. Although a top-10 finish now seems attainable, he maintains that that is not his goal.
“My goal is simply to finish,” he insisted. “I’m not really thinking about positions at this stage, as things can change so quickly in the Dakar,” he added.
After achieving a 33rd position on Stage Six, the Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined team’s Nissan Navara finished in 36th position on Sunday, and the team have clawed their way back up to 40th position in the General Classification.
“The guys had a couple of minor technical issues today, which cost them a little time,” reported Terence Marsh, CEO of Motul-backed Red-Lined Motoring Adventures.
“We made good use of yesterday’s rest day, having all our gearbox, diff and engine oils checked at the Motul Lab. Having access to this free testing service and technical advice has been a great help throughout the Dakar. Although the Motul experts found no issues at all, we replaced all the oils in preparation for today’s epic but fast Stage,” he added.
Saturday’s rest day was an opportunity for all the competitors to regroup and reflect on their experiences of the first week of the Dakar Rally 2020.
With this being the first year that the Dakar has taken place in Saudi Arabia, spectator interest has been gearing up as the event has progressed.
Both Gregory and Marsh commented on the warm welcome they’d received from the Saudi people and commended the organisers’ decision to relocate the Dakar to the Middle East.
Gregory also took advantage of the chance to spend a night in a hotel in Riyadh and enjoy his first hot shower of the event!
Rivalries were resumed in Sunday’s Stage Seven, with Carlos Sainz (#305) notching up another Stage win in the Car Category. The two-time Dakar winner continues to lead what has become a fascinating three-way tussle of the champions with Peterhansel (#302) and Al-Attiyah (#300).
Meanwhile, despite only finishing 5th on Sunday, Ricky Brabec (#9) is still sitting pretty at the top of the rankings in the Bike Category. If he can hold onto that position, he’ll become the first-ever American winner of the Dakar, and he will end Honda’s 30-year wait for a win.
Events on Stage Seven tragically demonstrated that finishing the Dakar is an immense achievement in itself. Paulo Gonçalves (#8) – a previous runner-up and true Dakar legend – passed away following a heavy fall.
Monday’s Stage Eight has been cancelled for Bikes and Quads as a mark of respect for Gonçalves, and to allow riders time to mourn their friend and fellow competitor.
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