Four time Dakar winner Marc Coma lived up to his word of attacking in the second half of the rally, finishing the stage seven in second place and more significantly halving the overall deficit to current race leader Joan Barreda who hit trouble. Barreda arrived at the end of the stage onboard his factory Honda with a badly road book and broken handlebars following a heavy crash.
The stage was the first Marathon stage of the race where riders are allowed no outside assistance from their teams, will sleep in a separate bivouac and have to prepare their own bikes. And it could be a turning point for the race with Barreda needing to fix his bike if he is to have any chance of retaining his lead.
He said: “It was a tough stage where you had to be careful, but when I came to a muddy section around kilometre 200, while I was breaking before a danger marked on the road book, the bike slid and I crashed. The handlebars were damaged, so I had to do the last 120 kilometres just with the right hand. I was pushing hard to lose a minimum of time, but that was not easy. We are now at the marathon stage, we are a great team and we will solve the problem with my teammates.
Coma is now 6m 28s behind his fellow Spaniard, having trailed Honda man Barreda by over 12 minutes at the start of the day,
The significance of this could be telling given that stage eight is the longest timed special of the race – 781km. The correct strategy and experience will be essential, assets Coma has in abundance.
The stage itself was won by Honda rider Paulo Goncalves which sees him hold third overall just 4m 31 s behind Coma. The top ten in the overall standings is currently made up of three Honda’s, six KTM and the sole Sherco of Alain Duclos.
British interests continue to upheld by father and son pairing Simon and Llewelyn Pavey who have endured a tough first week, but are still pushing to achieve their dream of finishing the race. Following a heavy crash of Friday, Llewelyn is riding injured with ligament damage in his ankle.
Simon ended today’s first part of the marathon stage in 76th meaning he is 71st overall with Llewelyn 73rd on stage and 70th overall.
1, Paolo Goncalves, POR, Honda 3 hours 56.00
2, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM at 00.14
3, Matthias Walkner, AUT, KTM at 00.30
4, Pablo Qunitanilla, CHI, KTM at 1.32
5, Toby Price, AUS, KTM at 1:49
6, Joan Pedrero, ESP, Yamaha at 3.20
7, Alain Duclos, FRA, Sherco at 3.48
8, Helder Rodrigues, POR, Honda at 4.05
9, Stefan Svitko, SVK, KTM at 5.00
10, Riaan van Niekerk, RSA, KTM at 6.06
Overall Standings after Stage 7
1, Barreda 25:40.48
2, Coma, KTM at 6.28
3, Goncalves at 10.59
4, Qunitanilla KTM at 25.16
5, Price, KTM at 29.20
6, Rodrigues at 33.56
7, Svitko, KTM at 40.23
8, Faria, KTM at 40.55
9, Duclos at 50.31
10, Casteu, KTM at 1:16.52