Brabec wants Dakar's new 'blind' stages to be the norm

Honda rider Ricky Brabec says it should become standard practice to hand roadbooks to crews just prior to the stage start, after getting first-hand experience of the new roadbook philosophy in the early stages of the Dakar Rally.

Following heavy criticism from the likes of Carlos Sainz and Sebastien Loeb’s co-driver Daniel Elena during the 2019 edition of the marathon, new Dakar director David Castera made navigational improvements a priority in 2020.

Chief among the new measures is the practice of withholding notebooks to bike crews until 25 minutes before the start of the stage (15 minutes for cars), instead of the previous evening.

The new system is being trialled in six of the 12 stages this year, and made its debut on Monday’s Stage 2, before being used on Tuesday again.

As part of the changes, Dakar organiser ASO has also started giving out more detailed roadbooks to competitors, having previously kept information to a minimum to allow teams to add their own notes.

Brabec hailed the changes made by Dakar for the first Saudi Arabia-based event, and even suggested that the new roadbook policy should become the norm from here on.

“I really enjoyed getting the roadbook in the morning,” the Honda rider said. “It’s a lot more rest for us in the bivouac. 

“And it’s coloured, it’s equal for everybody. I really enjoy the roadbook. It’s coloured really good, all the important information is in different colours, so it’s super nice. 

“We are in Saudi Arabia, totally new country, which is also, it’s epic. It’s really nice to be here. The new roadbook’s nice, I hope in the future every day we get the roadbook in the morning, that would be really nice.”

Asked if the quality of the roadbook meant he had no issues with navigation through the day, Brabec said: “I had a couple of errors today, couple of little mistakes. But I got to say early, you don’t want to make a big mistake, 15-20 mins long. 

“I made a couple of mistakes, maybe 30 seconds, I slowed down a while when I solved the notes, that was really close together, a lot of information on one note. 

“I slowed down to make sure I got it right just because when I was new to rallying I'd go too fast and get way too lost.”

Brabec topped Dakar’s third stage to propel himself to the top of the overall standings, taking advantage of a troubled day for KTM riders, which entered Dakar as the favourites.

The American rider currently leads a 1-2 for Honda, heading Kevin Benavides by just under five minutes.

“The day was good,” Brabec summed up. “It was really fast, lots of rocks, lots of stones, really tricky navigation but I just tried my best to stay focused and when it got tricky, to just slow down and kind of take the time to figure out the right direction. 

“I just had a lot of fun today. The trail is really nice, one of my favourite styles to ride - the sand and the rocks and the high-speed stuff. 

“Starting a little bit back today was really nice for me. I didn’t really have too much dust just because the top 10 riders are three minutes apart. 

“I started 12th so then I passed the 11th rider before 20km and then after that I had clean air all day. So for me the only push was nice easy. Yeah, I’m stoked, you know. 

“Tomorrow is going to be difficult, opening is always difficult. When you open [run first on the stage], everyone is behind you. We are gonna do our best to stay focussed.”

Dakar 2020, Stage 3: Sainz takes the lead
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