Dakar stage 6: Honda in control as Dakar reaches the rest day

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With six stages of the 2015 Dakar complete the HRC Rally team remain in control of the standings with yet another days accomplished performance. Helder Rodrigues secured his first stage win since 2011 after starting in sixth position. The 36 year old rode the technical and physically challenging 318km stage superbly to win by 1m 10s ahead of Australian Dakar rookie Toby Price.

Rodrigues’ stage performance escalates him up to sixth overall with Honda teammates Joan Barreda and Paulo Goncalves holding first and third respectively in the overall standings as Dakar reaches the rest day.

Rodgrigues, a former Dakar runner-up and stage winner said: ““I started very badly with my body at the beginning of this rally. I had three days that were not so good. On day four I had a problem with the bike due to mechanical problems, but today I had a good stage. Of course, I'm happy and I have one week more to attack. On this stage I started out from behind, but I caught up with the riders who were opening the road. They were very quick, but I also had the speed to catch them. I’m pleased with the way it turned out and was very calm until the end. It’s rest-day tomorrow, which we really need, to get the energy back and plan next the second week as well as possible. I want to keep attacking and claw back a bit of time in the overall standings.”

Barreda enters the rest day after a faultless and accomplished performance over the last six days. The hard riding Spaniard so far appears to have eliminated any of his previous navigational issues, technical problems or crashes to lead the overall standings by 12m 27s with two stage wins in this years race to his credit.

Barreda said: “I caught up with Marc quickly and we were together all the way from then on. There were some parts of fast track, some stretches were harder, some were like trial, and when we got to the dunes some of the other riders caught up with us and stayed there until the end. It was what we had expected but you still had to be careful. The second week will see the first days in Bolivia. It’ll be tough, and also the Iquique desert will be a tricky one for the navigation. In the end, the entrance into Argentina is not likely to be easy with some stages at over 4300 metres. There is a lot of race left, but the way to do it is the one we’ve been doing up until now.”

KTM rider and four time Dakar winner Marc Coma holds second place having matched Barreda every step of the way apart when a rear tyre problem forced him to slow dramatically in the closing stages of the now infamous stage two. Coma will need to call on all his experience to try and overhaul Barreda in the second half of the race which starts on Sunday and includes the marathon stage, where riders sleep in a separate bivouac and are not allowed any outside assistance from their teams.

He said: “At the beginning I had a small crash, nothing important. I'm lucky. But it meant that I did not feel comfortable at the beginning of the stage. Then the navigation was also a little bit tricky. I lost some time looking for a way point, but it was nothing dramatic. In the end, I was opening all the day with Joan together, but this is the game. Now we have a rest day in front of us. It will be perfect for the bike and for my body too, to rest a little bit, and then of course to prepare for the marathon stage because we know how tough it will be, with the altitude, with no mechanics and no spare parts, so it's something that we have to take care about”.

KTM rider Toby Price, competing in his first Dakar, showed his undoubted potential, pushing eventual stage winner Rodrigues all the way for the days victory. The 27 year old is now fifth in the overall standings

He said: “It's a good day. I think at the moment I'm sitting in second. I didn't think I'd be up there that close. I almost missed a way point and had to turn around and go back and find it. Then every time I came to a cap heading I just stopped and recalibrated everything to make sure I was heading the right way to make sure I got through it fairly smoothly. I've come away with a pretty good time. It's a little bit surprising. It's good, though; we had a good run through there, no crashes and I kept the bike on two wheels and that's the main thing.”

Simon and Llewelyn Pavey showed their race credentials once again to reach the rest day, an achievement 44 other riders have failed to match.

Simon Pavey now holds 75th overall after finishing 91st on stage six. Llewelyn lost time at the end of the stage and dropped to 93rd at the finish but is now 73rd overall.

Stage 6 result
1, Helder Rodrigues, POR, Honda at 3:40.10
2, Toby Price, AUS, KTM at 1.10
3, Paolo Goncalves, POR, Honda at 1.42
4, Pablo Quintanilla, CHI, KTM at 6.11
5, Stefan Svitko, SVK, KTM at 6.42
6, Joan Barreda, ESP, Honda at 7.20
7, Jeremias Israel Esquerre, CHI at 8.55
8, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM at 4 hours 9.14
9, Ruben Faria, POR, KTM, at 9.34
10, Ivan Jakes, SVK, KTM at 13.59

Overall Standings
1, Barreda 21 hours 38.35
2, Coma at 12.27
3, Goncalves, at 17.12
4, Qunitanilla at 29.75
5, Price at 33.44
6, Rodrigues, 36.04
7, Faria at 40.27
8, Svitko at 41.27
9, Duclos at 52.56
10. Casteu at 1:14.52

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Michael Guy

By Michael Guy

Sports Editor, former 250-racer and adventure rider