Having gone from racing in 50 degree temperatures just a few days ago, the Dakar riders had to endure freezing temperatures on stage eight of the race. Ran at an altitude approaching 4000m on the Bolivian salt flats the planned 781km route was shortened due to poor weather conditions but that was not enough to prevent reports of over 40 riders either retiring or being treated for hyperthermia.
The conditions were also exceptionally tough on machine as well as the rider with the hours of riding through salt water caking the bikes in mud the consistency of cement which caused serious problems for a host of big name riders.
The highest profile casualty was race leader and factory Honda rider Joan Barreda. The Spaniard lost time on Sunday when he was forced to ride the final 120km with a broken handlebar following a crash, and Monday’s stage didn’t get any better. Having lost over 3 hours, Barreda surrendered the lead he has held since stage two and is now effectively out of the race for victory finishing the day in 72nd place. Barreda’s team-mate and stage six winner Helder Rodrigues also ran into technical problems along with last years runner-up Jordi Viladoms who has been forced to retire from the race on his factory KTM.
The upshot of Barreda’s misfortune is that KTM rider Marc Coma now leads the overall standings by 9m 11s with five stages still to run. The four time Dakar winner didn’t have his most competitive day, finishing ninth on the stage, but it was enough for him to take control of the race. He now leads by 9m 11s from HRC rider Paulo Goncalves.
Coma said who had his own technical problems said: “Conditions were very complicated, for me over the limit. To ride over the salt and the water was like a kind of cement on the bike and there was a lot of stress to try to take care of the engine of the bike and everything. To arrive here today is like a victory. I am happy we are leading now but we still have five days in front of us. We have a long way to go and every day there is something different. We just have to take it kilometer by kilometer.”
The stage was won by Chilean rider Pablo Quintanilla but it was a close run thing. The KTM rider beat Yamaha mounted Joan Pedrero Garcia by just 11s with early stage leader Stefan Svitko 1s further back on his KTM.
Honda rider Laia Sanz secured her best ever stage result claiming fifth place a result that moves her up into the top ten of the overall standings.
She said: “Today was a really hard day. At the beginning some riders didn't want to start because it was dangerous and cold, but in the end for me it was a good stage. I was third until the dunes but then Toby and Quintanilla passed me very fast. Anyway, I'm very happy with this fifth position”.
Stage 8 results (provisional)
1, Pablo Qunitanilla, CHI, KTM 2 hours 56.19
2, Joan Pedrero, ESP, Yamaha at 00.11
3, Stefan Svitko, SVK, KTM at 00.12
4, Toby Price, AUS, KTM at 00.41
5, Lila Sanz, ESP, Honda at 2.36
6, De Soultrait, FRA, Yamaha at 6.36
7, Alain Duclos, FRA, Sherco at 6.42
8, Hans Vogels, NLD, KTM at 7.34
9, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM at 7.37
10, Ruben Faria, POR, KTM at 7.44
Overall Standings after Stage 8
1, Coma at 28:51.12
2, Goncalves at 9.11
3, Qunitanilla at 11.11
4, Price at 15.56
5, Svitko at 26.30
6, Faria at 34.34
7, Duclos at 58.08
8, Casteu at 1:10.48
9, Sanz at 1:18.51
10, Pedrero at 2:06.10