Price wins the stage and takes the lead

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Stage 8 Salta – Belen SS 393 km – liaison 373 km

The second week of the Rally started with a stage of genuine navigation in the varied terrains of the Catamarca region with the competitors tackling the first section of dunes of the 2016 edition.

With the change of terrain, the Dakar rally enters into a new phase of the race, where a small mistake can cost a lot of time. Started “easier” than other editions, the Rally hasn’t been too selective so far with “only” 34 withdrawn in the bike and quad category, 20 in the cars and 4 in the trucks out of 189 bikes and quads, 110 cars and 55 trucks on the rest day which marks the half way of the race.

The bike category is looking for the successor of Marc Coma, the new Sports Director of the Organization, and with todays stage win, Toby Price looks like the favourite,  

Started this morning 3’12 behind the leader of the general, Paulo Gonçalves (Honda), the Australian  (KTM) triumphed in Belen, 5’17 ahead of the Portuguese rider, and took command of the general standings by 2’05’’.

Setting off at pace, trailing Gonçalves by 53 seconds at the first CP, Price masterfully completed the first passage through the dunes. Irreproachable from a navigational point of view, the Australian also took advantage of his rival’s problems. Indeed, Gonçalves crashed and damaged his navigation instruments, which was the worst case scenario on a navigationally demanding stage.

As a result, Price climbs to the top of the general standings with a lead of 2’05’’ over his nearest pursuer. Chilean Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) set the third fastest time, while it’s Stefan Svitko (KTM), 5th at the finished line, who moved up onto the third step of the virtual podium in the overall standing, only 14’14’’ behind the Australian. 

Having won his first stage on the Dakar on Saturday, Antoine Méo experienced a difficult day. Obliged to open the way, the Frenchman got lost in the dunes. He lost 11 minutes to his team leader, but it could have been worse and indeed he lies in a respectable sixth in the general standings.

After the withdrawn of Barreda on Stage 7, another Honda factory rider experienced a difficult day. Some technical problems slowed down Michael Metge since the early phases of the race and he finished 111th at the end of first timed section.  At the end of stage 8, Honda can count on only Goncales, 2nd, and Brabeck 14th, for the positions that count.

Regarding Yamaha, Helder Rodrigues (7th) was the fastest of the “blue” squad, followed by Van Beveren, 10th, Botturi 12th and De Soultrait 13th.  

“We really got a good day and I could gain some important minutes on Paulo (Goncalves)”said the new leader Toby Price, “we have being battling since the start. We take time off each other and I think it's going to come down to minutes and seconds by the end of the week. He's a real strong competitor and he's got a lot more navigation skills than what I do, but we're trying our best and keeping ourselves in front as much as we can. It is a little bit stressful, but once you throw your leg over the bike and you get going, we just have to make sure we make all the right calls and be confident with what we decide to do. We did that today and we've come out pretty good. Tomorrow will be another crucial stage as it’s a 285 km loop around the famous dunes of Fiabala. It’s also the first part of the second marathon stage so in addition to a careful navigation we will need to preserve the bike”. 

“Today we finally tackled the dunes, but a crash in the middle of the stage on the off-piste area spoiled my performance, said Goncalves, second in the stage and in the general standing,  “the bike broke a little on the tower but I was lucky not to have any injuries. At the end I needed to ride more slowly to fix the tower back on with my hand and avoid breaking the cables whilst trying to finish as best as possible. Despite this I was able to catch the riders who started in front of me. I’m also lycky that I suffered this problem today because the team is already fixing the tower. Tomorrow, on the contrary, we have to try to avoid any mistakes because it’s the first part of the marathon stage”.

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Maria Guidotti

By Maria Guidotti