Price emerges as Dakar clear favourite
The riders were looking for more demanding stages and the loop Belen – Belen, 285 of timed section (436 in total) around the white soft dunes of Fiambala met the expectations. With only 14 riders at the finish line and all the rest stuck in the sand, the organizers decided to stop the special stage at KM172 where there was the CP2.
Toby Price (KTM), who opened the track, claimed the win in front of the best rookie of the 2016 edition, the 27 year old Argentinian Kevin Benavidez (Honda), second at +7’10 and Stefan Svitko (KTM) third at +10’33. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) and Ricky Brabec (Honda) closed the top 5, while the Yamahas of Van Beveren, Rodrigues and Botturi finished 7th, 9th and 12th respectively. It was a disappointing 57th place for Viladoms, the veteran of the KTM squad, still sick since the start of the rally.
It was a real pity for Paulo Goncalves, stuck before the CP2 because a branch pierced his radiator and consequently broke the engine. In the first part of the second marathon stage, the Honda rider, who lost all the hopes to give Honda a win in Buenos Aires, could still re-join the race, if he succeeds to change the radiator with the support of his two team mates Ceci and Metge, and arrive at the bivouac where no assistance is allowed.
Despite the success, the leader Toby Price was a bit disappointed for the cancellation of part of the stage: “it was definitely a tricky navigation today. I still feel solid, I still feel really good. It’s been a good day, I can’t complain. I got to the finishing line and then they cancelled the rest of it… That’s a bit of a shame, but that’s the way it is. We’ll just have to wait and see and see what call they come up with. It’s a bit of a bummer for me… I have to get to the finishing line and I’ve done that, but they’ve called it. I guess that’s just the way it is. It’s job done today, but everyone’s got lucky since we’ve stopped at CP1 and CP2. We’ll see if it will be all good. The bike seems really good, really strong and still going really well. The mechanics have done a really good job over the lead-up to the race and during the event. I think we’re cruising along alright, so we can’t complain. For the lead over Paulo, maybe; maybe not... we'll just have to wait and see for the decision.”
“Favourite for the win? My approach doesn’t change” continued the KTM rider, who thanks to today’s result is first in the overall in front of Svitko and Benavides, the great revelation of the 2016 Dakar, “tomorrow another surprise, the Super Fiambala stage that will see at the start the first 10 top bikes, 10 top cars and 5 trucks.”
“I crashed at the beginning and broke my handlebars, but I pushed the same and tried to make it a good day” said Rodrigues, 6th overall and first Yamaha, “I think it was a difficult day for everybody. For me it was very difficult with a bike like this trying to push… It was a very hard day. But I finished today and I’m happy to finish one day more on the Dakar. I saw that Paulo had some problems, but I don’t know what. I tried to push and tried to get a good result at the finish, but sometimes you crash or make a mistake and it is not possible, but I’m happy: I hung in there and finished the day. The riding today was difficult but today and tonight I’ll fix the damage, no problem - it's easy to fix.”