Joan Barreda takes the leadership at the 2018 Dakar Rally

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Blistering performances from Monster Energy Honda Team with the stage victory for Joan Barreda, plus fourth and fifth spots for Michael Metge and Kevin Benavides as the race moves on from Pisco.

A rough offroad ride and sand dunes were the order of the day for stage two of the 2018 Dakar Rally. The course featured a total of 279 kilometres with 95% of the distance against the clock. The stage was something of an anomaly given that the cars got to start out before the bikes, leaving riders to deal with heavily churned up sand after their four-wheeled counter parts had roared through.

The initial section of the 277-kilometre stage around the outskirts of Ica and Paracas, required some skilful navigation in soft yet physically demanding dunes, complicated further by the altitude.

Joan Barreda gave a master class in speed with a commanding performance in the special stage. The Spaniard completed the course in 2 h 56’ 44” nearly three minutes less than the stage runner-up. Barreda thus moves to the head of the overall leader board.

Likewise, Michael Metge bounced back from yesterday’s delayed time to post a noteworthy result. The Frenchman looked at ease on the bike and scored fourth spot on the day and now holds ninth in the overall standings.

Meanwhile, Kevin Benavides also turned out a fine, almost effortless performance that stands him in good stead for tomorrow. The Argentine rider now lies in seventh overall position and will be able to attack from a strong starting position in a stage with very similar characteristics to those of today’s.

Ricky Brabec finished the stage in twelfth spot and moves up one place in the general rankings to eleventh. The American rider got slowed up among some of the lost cars going in circles in the desperate search for some of the route’s more elusive waypoints.

Finally, the stage proved to be another positive one for the surprising young Nacho Cornejo who appears to be taking well to the hand-me-down Honda CRF450 of retiree Paulo Goncalves. The Chilean finished in fourteenth and occupies the corresponding place on the overall leader board.

Tomorrow, Monday, sees the third stage of the 2018 Dakar Rally setting out from Pisco with destination San Juan de Marcona, covering a total of 504 kilometres, including 296 km against the clock. The first of the bike category will set off at 05:45 and is scheduled to arrive at the San Juan de Marcona bivouac at approximately 14:00 hrs.

Joan Barreda: "A hard, tough stage with quite a confusing part at the beginning where we had to keep our concentration. I jumped a dune hard and I really felt that in my hand over the next few kilometres. The final part was very fast and I was able to pick up quite a bit of space and in the end it turned out well. Tomorrow we have to open the track and everything changes again, but we always knew that it would be that way and we just have to keep on as best we can."