Slovak KTM rider Stefan Svitko, competing in his seventh Dakar Rally, on Wednesday mastered the second half of the second marathon stage to take his first ever stage victory in this epic annual race. Meanwhile, exercising the necessary caution, overall leader Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price finished third in the stage and is now in front by just over 23 minutes.
Price finished behind second-placed Kevin Benavides, just five minutes 47 off the leading time. Paolo Goncalves of Portugal was fourth in the stage, but after problems in stage nine, the rally’s early leader is now 34 minutes 15 behind Price in the overall standings.
Price: “Today was really good. I backed it off a bit to make sure we didn’t make any mistakes and I hit all my waypoints with a big smile on my face. There were no problems, no dramas. It was a strong day and now we just have to try to manage it (the rally) now until the end.”
Commenting after the stage Svitko said he had not expected to be in overall second at this stage of the rally: “There are three more stages before the end but I’m very happy with the classification. I didn’t expect that.”
Riders were coming off the second marathon stage where overnight they are not allowed any contact with their teams and must manage their machinery and tires to last over two days of very hard riding. The first half of the marathon was somewhat controversial after it was called to a halt at the second CP for most of the field. Price and 11 other riders rode over the whole distance, more than 100km more in very tough conditions.
Reflecting on Tuesday’s ride Price, who sealed his fourth stage win that day commented: “It was a tough day, the hardest terrain and in a straight line for more than 100km. I was almost on the limit in the hot temperatures in the sand dunes. It was difficult but we did a good pace.”
“Today was long sand dunes, a few little river beds and about 95% off track. We had to make sure we stayed on top of the road book and made no mistakes. It was very difficult at around the 30km mark, so I took my time around that spot and I think that’s where I lost some time. In the last two days I’ve probably learned more than in my last six rallies. For sure it’s built my confidence up a bit and it shows I can navigate. And yesterday showed I can navigate with a bit of speed.”
The 278 scheduled kilometres of timed special stage that connect the Belén bivouac with La Rioja were cut short, 30 kilometres shy of the final finish-line. Again a swollen river, too deep to cross, was enough for race authorities to stop the course prematurely.
At the end of yesterday’s drama-filled escapade, Paulo Gonçalves, alongside Team HRC sidekicks Michael Metge, Ricky Brabec and Paolo Ceci, set to work on the Honda CRF450 RALLY, whose radiator had been pierced by a log. Once substituted, they were able to see that the piston, previously believed to be damaged, was in fact sound and some adjustments to the bike’s compression were all that were necessary to get the machine road-worthy.
After the cancellation yesterday of the latter part of stage nine, Goncalves started out today from thirteenth position and fought his way up the field before posting a final fourth position some six minutes off the day’s winner. Gonçalves thus consolidates his overall third place.
Ricky Brabec continues to take to his debut Dakar like a duck to water. After the second place finish in yesterday’s stage, the American today picked up an eighth place, 13’47” behind the stage victor. Brabec also lies in eighth in the general standings. “Today, here at the second and final marathon, I knew it was going to be difficult so I sat back and took my time, just played it smart and safe, because I knew that the dunes would get me, so I took it easy. I’m happy to be at the finish-line and I’m ready to go for the next three days. I’m also happy that Paulo got back and running. I know that we can end up on top. So, I’m glad that Paulo is out there and that I’m here and we are all safe and ready to go.”
Alexander Smith has his best day so far in 30th place. That puts him in 38th overall as he continues an uncanny mistake-free rookie ride.
|1||SVITKO Stefan||5||SLO||Slovnaft Team||3:47’23|
|2||BENAVIDES Kevin||47||ARG||Honda South America Rally Team||+2’54|
|3||PRICE Toby||3||AUS||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||+5’47|
|4||GONCALVES Paulo||2||POR||Team HRC||+6’01|
|5||MEO Antoine||49||FRA||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||+7’43|
|6||QUINTANILLA Pablo||4||CHI||Husqvarna Factory Rally Team||+9’55|
|7||RODRIGUES Helder||7||POR||Yamaha Motor Europe||+12’01|
|8||BRABEC Ricky||48||USA||Team HRC||+13’47|
|9||VAN BEVEREN Adrien||42||FRA||Yamaha Motor Europe||+18’01|
|10||FARRES Gerard||23||SPA||Himoinsa Team||+26’46|
|1||PRICE Toby||3||AUS||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||34:49’04|
|2||SVITKO Stefan||5||SLO||Slovnaft Team||+23’12|
|3||GONCALVES Paulo||2||POR||Team HRC||+34’15|
|4||QUINTANILLA Pablo||4||CHI||Husqvarna Factory Rally Team||+42’49|
|5||MEO Antoine||49||FRA||Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team||+44’04|
|6||BENAVIDES Kevin||47||ARG||Honda South America Rally Team||+45’10|
|7||RODRIGUES Helder||7||POR||Yamaha Motor Europe||+56’17|
|8||BRABEC Ricky||48||USA||Team HRC||+1:12’08|
|9||FARRES Gerard||23||SPA||Himoinsa Team||+1:15’09|
|10||VAN BEVEREN Adrien||42||FRA||Yamaha Motor Europe||+1:21’5|
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