SPEEDBRAIN HUSKY claims their spots early; Cyril stumbles, Faria capitalizes; Caselli Surprises
Early but mild mistakes by Helder Rodrigues (HRC) and Cyril Despres (KTM) opened up an opportunity for SPEEDBRAIN/MONSTER ENERGY’s Joan Barreda (ESP) and Matt Fish (AUS) to get the HUSQVARNAS out to an early lead for Barreda who leads KTM’s Ruben Faria by 5:36 going into stage.
The big surprise among several so far is that golden boy Kurt Caselli has made an early move to jump from 29th to 11th after just 2 stages and he now only trails 4-time and defending DAKAR champ Cyril Despres. The last minute announcement that Caselli would run the DAKAR in place of injured Marc Coma came as major surprise to the off road community here at home but it makes sense that Caselli would get the nod for this gig. With Quinn Cody injured and Johnny Campbell assigned to support his new HRC team, Caselli represents North America’s only hopes for a top 5 OA. Even though Caselli is brand new to rally raid and full navigation, we would not be so foolish enough to bet against his tenacity and competitive spirit. He may be heading for a major success in South America.
Cyril’s lapse today came as he tried to bypass a considerably larger dune and in doing so, found the way around to be a lot harder. After backtracking and getting back on pace, he had lost more than 9 minutes off of the leader. Caselli’s spurt came even before teammate Cyril Despres mishap as the DAKAR rookie passed at least 5-7 riders before the first waypoint.
HONDA’s big plans took a heavy setback when 2 (out 5 riders) crashed with injuries while testing bikes in the US desert. Both Sam Sunderland (UK) and Filipe Zanol (BRA) went down in testing, Sunderland with a broken left am and wrist, Zanol with more serious injuries. This adds more pressure to Helder Rorrigues and Javier Pizzolito. Rodrigues performed well in stage one but erred in stage 2 with a fuel shortage that he said forced him off the accelerator. He finished the stage in 15th OA but only 12 minutes out of the lead with 12 more days of racing to follow. The consistent and reliable Johnny Campbell finished the stage 33rd and now in 37th OA, sandwiched between his two team mates. What is important to HONDA and Rodrigues is that Campbell and Pizzolito are following his trail to help ut if anything goes wrong. In the DAKAR Rally racers cannot receive any support other than from fellow racers.
Speedbrain MONSTER ENERGY Husqvarna is a major factor for the win in Santiago and provides the biggest threat of any to Cyril Despres and KTM Red Bull alike. The Spaniard Joan Barreda (#5) has been called the next big thing and is considered Speedbrain’s highest value asset. His amazing jump today created a nice lead for him going into stage 3. Matt Fish (AUS) # 20 finished 3rd on the day and now sits nicely in 6th OA and in striking distance of Despre.
But that’s exactly what makes the DAKAR Rally the worlds preeminent motorsports event. Its 14 days of races and so much can happen over the course of a few stages. Follow us along as we bring you daily coverage and the inside story.