Price draws first blood as racing finally gets underway

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akar is more than a race, it’s an adventure and the 354 competitors of the 2016 edition (143 bikes, 46 quads, 110 cars and 55 trucks) had to cover 1000 km and wait two days to enter into the real action thanks to the weather pheonomenn El Nino which has brought wide spread rain and flooding to South America.

“We had a difficult start with the car incident at km 6.6 of the 11 km Prologue when the Mini of the Chinese Guo Meiling went off the track and hit ten spectators”, said Etienne Lavigne, the race Director, “but the medical rescue was fast and the injured were quickly transported to the hospital. Following the crash, we cancelled the stage for the remaining cars. We also had to cancel the first special stage on day 2 due to the heavy rain that transformed parts of the route into torrents of water and the impossibility for helicopters to fly in case of emergency. Safety comes first”.

With the second stage Villas Carlos Paz – Termas de Rio Hondo, 450 km of special stage of fast tracks with no particular difficulties of terrain, and 787 km of liaison, the Dakar has finally started.

A race against the clock for the riders but also for the manufacturers as Honda and Yamaha are determined to break KTM supremacy and their 11 consecutive successes. “Each factory team has at least one potential winner. It will be an interesting race”, said the 5 time Dakar winner and new Sport Director Marc Coma at the start.  Yamaha built a complete new bike and hired the experienced Helder Rodrigues alongside Alessandro Botturi, while Honda worked to make the CRF 450 Rally a more reliable and easier bike for the maintenance and reinforced the rider line up with two aces (Barreda and Goncalves) and two experienced and consistent water boys Ceci and Metge. 

Joan Barreda (Honda), Rubens Faria (Husqvarna) and Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha), the fastest of the prologue opened the track, but it was the Aussie Toby Price to set the best time at the CP1. The KTM factory rider didn’t shine in the prologue as he struggled in crossing a river with the water reaching 1 meter high. He was not the only one. Laia Sanz, Antoine Meo and “Pela” Renet  had the same problem, while Paulo Goncalves suffered an electrical problem in the prologue and had to be tow tracked by team mate Paolo Ceci on day 1.

“This is the Dakar”, said Price, one of the favorite after last year 3rd overall position on his debut, “we went a bit wider on the left in the river and instead of 30 cm, we dropped to 1 meter! We lost some time, but this was just the start. After finishing on the podium last year I cannot deny that I have much more pressure, but I can cope well with it. The pressure gives me an extra motivation, it keeps me awake and focused. I’m ready for this new challenge. My approach doesn’t change from last year. It’s easy to get excited and make some mistakes at the beginning. It’s a long race and the key is to manage the bike and the energy for 14 stages”.

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Maria Guidotti

By Maria Guidotti