Team HRC come away from the third stage of the Sealine Cross-Country Rally with a positive report-card as Paulo Goncalves moves back up among the front-runners, winning the stage and clawing back positions in the general standings.
Joan Barreda came very close to pulling off a spectacular result today after having the misfortune to be first in the day’s starting order. The Spanish ace managed to lead for over three-quarters of the race, but a minor navigational distraction in one of the trickier stretches of the route put paid to his victory aspirations and meant that he had dropped time as well as his overall second position before the day was through.
Barreda’s comrade-in-arms Paulo Gonçalves took up the torch, coming from behind to take the triumph which will now allow him to choose tomorrow’s starting position amid the first six starters, as determined by new race regulations.
It wasn’t all good news for Team HRC as Jeremías Israel was forced out of the race. The Chilean rider had to turn back and head for base some 70 km into the race as his arm – injured by the impact of a rock yesterday – began to play up. Jeremías should be back in competition for the Argentinean Desafío Ruta 40.
Tomorrow (Thursday) sees the penultimate stage of the rally. Once more, riders will be faced with 400 km of timed special stage as the fight for room on the rostrum heats up and the Sealine Cross-Country Rally of Qatar nears its end.
Paulo Goncalves – STAGE: 1ST OVERALL: 4TH
A great day and a fine special today. I started out from eighth which was a good position and I did pretty well as I managed to catch up with the riders who had started out before. I pulled back quite a bit of time. I’m now ten minutes off the top-position in the general with the chance now to choose which of the first six positions I’d like for tomorrow’s start. I’m pleased for me and for the team which is running really well. There’s still a couple of days to go, so let’s see how it turns out.
Joan Barreda – STAGE: 7TH OVERALL: 6TH
I’m very happy. I worked really hard all stage long. I arrived at the refuelling first at kilometre 200 with a real fast pace. I was really paying attention to the navigation that was really complicated. I found the right path and was confident and thought that everything was going right. But towards the end I took a route a bit out of the way, which I then thought I could make up, but it didn’t turn out that way. In the end I had to double back some fifteen kilometres. It was a shame, but I had to give it a try! Still, it’s one of those days that you feel pleased with the job done.
Jeremias Israel – STAGE: DNF OVERAL: DNF
Today I’m a bit demoralized. Even though I had the arm problem and was in a lot of pain, I had the chance to push and help the team out. I did what I could but I couldn’t really do that much. I gave it a try, but it didn’t turn out. Right now I’ll have to start thinking about getting back into shape for the next race.
Wolfgang Fischer – Team HRC Team Manager
Paulo Goncalves was able to make the most out of his starting position coming from the rear and taking a nice stage victory. It helped him to recoup valuable minutes that he hadn’t been able to do over the previous days. Joan tried to make the impossible possible starting from first position and showing impressive navigation. He did everything at the start of the race, opening the track with very tricky navigation and tried to change the game-plan to his advantage, but of course, in these conditions just one little mistake can mean that you lose minutes. He tried everything but it didn’t work out. In the end we don’t have such a bad starting position for tomorrow. Anyway, there are still two days to go. Let’s see what we can fight for. It wasn’t such a good day for Jeremias. He was trying to help the team and was pushing from the beginning despite his injured arm from yesterday. But in the end it didn’t work out and he had to give up. He was in too much pain and was not physically able to control the bike. So it’s the end of the race for him.