Change of scenery in the second week of the Dakar Rally

Goncalves_Team_HRC_Rally_2015-09-04As the 2016 Dakar heads towards the second marathon stage, the race has seen a slight reshuffle in the overall standings, yet with Paulo Gonçalves still firmly in contention after today’s very difficult stage. Team HRC on course to achieve their objectives.

The Dakar Rally course has now veered off towards Belén in the south east without losing sight of the Andes. The course towards the leadership has also taken a turn with respect to the opening week. The stage was split into two parts with a neutralization zone for the passage from Salta to Catamarca. The backdrop has changed as the race moves on to far tougher navigation compared to the previous week’s racing. The eighth stage took in some 766 kilometres, including a 393 km timed section.

Paulo Gonçalves concluded the special stage as runner-up 5’17” adrift of stage winner Toby Price. Team HRC’s Portuguese title contender was unable to avoid a high speed crash in a very pot-holed stretch that left the instrument panel of the Honda CRF450 RALLY damaged. Gonçalves after the accident, on a damage-limitation exercise, battled on at a slightly slower speed and managed not to concede much time to his main rival.

USA entry Ricky Brabec got his first real taste of demanding Dakar-style navigation and sailed positively through it. In the first special, he stopped to aid team-mate Michael Metge, victim of an probably electrical fault, until the Frenchman indicated that he was once more good to go. On his maiden Dakar adventure, the young American made it through to the Belén finish-line amid the first fifteen finishers. This order could change depending on the race authority ruling after the rider had stopped to assist another fallen competitor. Paolo Ceci, starting from the dusty end of the field, held a steady pace throughout the day to finish twenty-fifth. The Italian was feeling comfortable with the navigational aspect of the race. Metge is still trying to end the stage.

Kevin Benavides, set off at a gallop from second place this morning in his home town and even managed to lead the race for a while. However, the navigation almost proved his undoing, slowing him down to a final fifth place on the day. Likewise, the Argentinean rider lies in fifth place in the overall standings. His Honda South America Rally Team buddy Adrien Metge also continues improving in his Dakar apprenticeship. Today he posted 16th, his best finish to date.

2016 January 12. Stage 9: Belén – Belén
Special sections: 285km
Total: 436km

Keeping a cool head
This loop stage will not really be one for motorbikes and quad bikes, which will finish the first part of this second marathon stage in an isolated bivouac. Prior to this they will have spent the day, alongside the drivers in the other categories, almost entirely off-piste, both in the vegetation-scattered dunes and on harder terrains, sometimes on river beds. Physically, the day might prove to be a significant challenge, as the mercury soars. The hardiest drivers will also be those who are the most clear headed, able to make the right navigational choices, a major challenge of this special section.

You can see the details of the ninth stage (route and profile), here.

Paulo Goncalves 2

Today’s stage was typical of the type that we expect at the Dakar, with a lot of navigation. I fell in a bumpy, sandy area and luckily I didn’t get hurt but I damaged the instrument panel. I had to grip onto it with one hand and ride with the other for quite some kilometres. I’m happy to have not lost too much time. Tomorrow I will try and win it back.

Ricky Brabec 48

It was a tough day with the heat and with what we had waiting for us on the track. The first part was really fast and the second part was much more technical with a lot of navigation. I stopped to see if I could help out Michael, but when he saw that I wasn’t able to do a lot, he told me to carry on. The second part was really difficult with 90% of the navigation in soft sand. In the end I stopped to help a rider who had fallen. I’m happy to have finished well and tomorrow will be another day.

Paolo Ceci 32

In the first part I had a really hard time, always in the dust tail of the riders that I had up ahead. It was really hard to get by them as there was always so much dirt and it was dangerous too. The second part went better; it was more technical with more navigation and I’m happy because it was a good day.

Kevin Benavides 47

I was riding practically the whole way with Méo at a good pace. I liked the stage quite a bit because it gave me my first dose of navigation in the sandy area. It was hard, more technical, with a fast-paced rhythm, which I did without any problems. I’m pleased about it.

Wolfgang Fischer
Team HRC Team Manager

This first stage of week two at the Dakar has been a good one for Paulo who keeps all his options open after working hard today in spite of all the difficulties. A nice race for Ricky in the desert with a lot of navigation and a nice detail where he stopped to help another rider. The Dakarian spirit should always be present. It is a pity about what has happened to Metge; we are trying to keep him in the race.

Stage 8 . Salta – Uyuni

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap
1 PRICE Toby 3 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team 3:56‘334
2 GONCALVES Paulo 2 POR Team HRC 5’17
3 QUINTANILLA Pablo 4 CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team +6’32
4 SVITKO Stefan 5 SLO Slovnaft Team +8’02
5 BENAVIDES Kevin 47 ARG Honda South America Rally Team +8’06
6 RODRIGUES Helder 7 POR Yamaha Motor Europe +9’19
7 FARRES Gerard 23 SPA Himoinsa Team +10’47
8 MEO Antoine 49 FRA Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team +10’50
9 PEDRERO Joan 17 SPA Sherco TVS Rally Factory +11’08
10 VAN BEVEREN Adrien 42 FRA Yamaha Motor Europe +15’07
11 MONLEON Armand 45 SPA KTM Warsaw Rally Team +17’42
12 BOTTURI Alessandro 18 ITA Yamaha Motor Europe +18’18
13 DE SOULTRAIT Xavier 30 FRA Yamaha Racing +19’58
14 BRABEC Ricky 48 USA Team HRC +19’59
15 DUCLOS Alain 20 FRA Sherco TVS Rally Factory +22’21
16 METGE Adrien 61