Today´s stage seven after the rest day was characterized by rain during the night and a new Dakar country – Bolivia. After an early start at 4:30 in the morning, the first 100 km of the special stage into Bolivia had to be shortened due to rain and poor visibility. No problem for Joan Barreda, who enjoyed a furious beginning of the second race week. The Spaniard´s goal is to catch overall leader Marc Coma and make up those 41 minutes that separate him from his fellow countryman.

Barreda did a perfect job, passing Marc Coma during the technical first part of the stage and clawing back four minutes and three seconds. Today marks the second marathon stage so no team assistance and external service is allowed. Barreda has to check his bike all by himself tonight, as also his team mate Paulo Goncalves is not in the race anymore to assist him. The riders will stay overnight in Uyuni, at an altitude of over 3,000 metres.

Joan Barreda: “It was a good day today, I could push and gain some minutes back from Marc Coma. It was not so easy, some tricky sections with mud from last night´s rain. I am happy to be able to attack and I am confident for the coming stages.”

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Classifications Stage 7 – Dakar 2014
1 Joan Barreda 03:28’41 ESP HONDA TEAM HRC
2 Marc Coma +04’03 ESP KTM KTM Red Bull Rally Factory
3 Cyril Despres +05’35 FRA YAMAHA Yamaha Racing
4 Joan Pedrero +06’57 ESP SHERCO Sherco Rally Factory
5 Kuba Przygonski +08’56 POL KTM KTM Rally Factory
6 Jeremias Israel +10’04 CHL SPEEDBRAIN Team Speedbrain
7 Helder Rodrigues +10’57 POR HONDA TEAM HRC
8 Mario Patrao +11’27 POR SUZUKI RR Motos Credito Agricola Suzuki
9 Olivier Pain +11’37 FRA YAMAHA Yamaha Racing
10 Jordi Viladoms +11’57 ESP KTM KTM Red Bull Rally Factory

Joan Barreda: "It was a good day today, I could push and gain some minutes back from Marc Coma. It was not so easy, some tricky sections with mud from last night´s rain. I am happy to be able to attack and I am confident for the coming stages."
Joan Barreda: “It was a good day today, I could push and gain some minutes back from Marc Coma. It was not so easy, some tricky sections with mud from last night´s rain. I am happy to be able to attack and I am confident for the coming stages.”

General standings after Stage 7

1 Marc Coma 26:40’44 ESP KTM KTM Red Bull Rally Factory
2 Joan Barreda +38’14 ESP HONDA TEAM HRC
3 Jordi Viladoms +01:16’03 ESP KTM KTM Red Bull Rally Factory
4 Alain Duclos +01:16’35 FRA SHERCO Sherco Rally Factory
5 Jeremias Israel +01:39’29 CHL SPEEDBRAIN Team Speedbrain
6 Olivier Pain +01:50’42 FRA YAMAHA Yamaha Racing
7 Kuba Przygonski +01:54’52 POL KTM KTM Rally Factory
8 Helder Rodrigues +02:08’18 POR HONDA TEAM HRC
9 David Casteu +02:23’50 FRA KTM Team Casteu
10 Cyril Despres +02:26’13 FRA YAMAHA Yamaha Racing

Marc Coma retains the overall lead
Marc Coma retains the overall lead

— HRC Report
The Rally Dakar left Argentina today and for the first time in the race’s history entered Bolivia. It was Joan Barreda who took the honours in the Salta-Uyuni stage, giving Honda TEAM HRC the fourth victory in 7 days of racing. Hélder Rodrigues finished in seventh place and Laia Sanz twelfth.

Week two of the Rally Dakar got underway this morning from the Argentine city of Salta, in the northern region, heading towards Bolivia, for the first part of the special. Nevertheless, the meteorological conditions were such that the start had to be moved 103 km further up the course to the site of the way-point.

Joan Barreda started at a cracking pace, clocking up the best times in both parts of the the special before arriving home with a 4.03 minute deficit over Marc Coma, the stage runner-up and overall leader.

A fine performance too from Hélder Rodrigues in the seventh stage on the Honda CRF450 RALLY, who holds on to eighth overall place. The team’s third rider Javier Pizzolito, made a significant improvement in this stage, always up among the top twenty riders, arriving in Uyuni in 18th, where the riders will be without mechanical assistance, as this is the first part of the race’s second marathon stage.

It was also a day of success for the team supported by TEAM HRC with the new Honda CRF450 RALLY machine. Laia Sanz goes from strength to strength and today recorded some excellent times on the stopwatch. She crossed the line in twelfth place. Her Honda Argentina Rally Team colleague, Pablo González put in a steady performance too.

Joan Barreda 1st 03:28’41 TEAM HRC
“For sure I´m very happy about my result. Anyway it was very hard to stay focused. The high altitude made me feel a bit dizzy. Especially when the going got tough in the water and mud of the river.”

Helder Rodrigues 7th +10’57 TEAM HRC
“In this high altitude I was happy not to worry about any power loss of the motor. The engine with its self adjusting fuel injection worked very fine. Also I was impressed by the bolivian crowd waving flags the last 40 kilometres.”

Javier Pizzolito 18th +18’42 TEAM HRC
“It was a nice stage which made a lot of fun despite the rain in the first part. Honestly I didn´t expect such a overwhelming welcome by the bolivian crowd. It was incredible.”

Joan Barreda - "For sure I´m very happy about my result. Anyway it was very hard to stay focused. The high altitude made me feel a bit dizzy. Especially when the going got tough in the water and mud of the river."
Joan Barreda – “For sure I´m very happy about my result. Anyway it was very hard to stay focused. The high altitude made me feel a bit dizzy. Especially when the going got tough in the water and mud of the river.”

KTM Report

Red Bull KTM’s Marc Coma of Spain finished second in Stage Seven of the Dakar rally on Sunday to continue to lead in the overall standings by a substantial 38 minutes 14 seconds from Joan Barreda of Spain. Red Bull KTM’s Jordi Viladoms moved up to third overall as the Rally moves into its second week.

With the rest day behind them riders set off in the early morning on the first part of the second scheduled marathon stage, also breaking new territory for the Dakar Rally by entering Bolivia. The start was initially delayed because the rescue helicopters were unable to get airborne because of low-lying clouds.

Respectful of the fact that the marathon stage requires riders to take good care of their machinery and tires, Coma rode a cautious stage and clipped only four minutes off his overall lead.

It was also a good day out for KTM supported rider Kuba Przygonski of Poland who finished fifth in the stage just 8 minutes 56 behind Barreda. He is now seventh overall. KTM’s South African supported rider Riaan van Niekerk was eleventh in the stage and advanced one place in the overalls to thirteenth place.

Their route took them to the famed salt flats of Salar but before they reached it they had to negotiate a difficult mountain trail where a clear head and perfect navigation was key to getting through. The timed special was in two parts, the first of just over 100 km followed by a small neutralized stretch and second timed sector of 161 km, which was quite fast.

Added to the challenges of Stage Seven, competitors rode at an average of 3500 m altitude and wound up their day crossing the 20 km of great, white expansive salt flat, said to be the biggest in the world, that because of rain was very muddy.

KTM Factory Team Manager Alex Doringer said he continued to be very happy with his team. “This was the first part of the second marathon stage and Marc rode a very good race today to maintain his lead. I’m also super happy with Jordi (Viladoms). He’s done brilliantly to be in third overall at this stage, and as I said last week, both Kuba and Riaan are getting better and better. Both of them are happy and focused.”

Doringer underlined that the next step was to get through the second half of the marathon stage. “Then we will be in Chile. There’s still a lot of kilometers to go and we’ll be taking things one day at a time.”

 Yamaha Report

After a challenging end to the last stages before the rest day of the 2014 Dakar Rally, Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cyril Despres has broken back into the top ten today as the event entered Bolivia for the first time.

The day’s ride, from Salta in Argentina to Uyuni in Chile, marking the start of the second marathon stage of the rally, saw the start of the special moved 103km due to weather conditions affecting the piste the day before. Despres was a strong contender throughout, leading the stage at times before eventually finishing in third, 05m35s behind the leader. The result moves him up into the top ten again, putting him in tenth position overall.

Olivier Pain was the next official Yamaha rider in the day’s stage results, taking ninth position. The result keeps the Frenchman in sixth in the overall standings. Third Yamaha factory Racing rider Michael Metge came home in 17th today to hold 14th overall on the standings.

The riders will spend the night away from the main bivouac in their own small camp before returning tomorrow night after part two of the special.

The return to action in the quad class saw another strong day for the three Yamaha Raptor 700cc riders at the front of the field. A shuffle of the top three sees Chile’s local hero Ignacio Casale climb from third to now lead the standings, Uruguay’s Sergio Lafuente drops from the top spot to second and Polish rider Rafal Sonik drops to third.

Cyril Despres – “I made sure to breathe in deeply on a couple of ridges, because it’s true that when you go on the attack you feel that the altitude affects you a bit physically. A nice special, not too difficult, but with lots of technical, fun parts. I’m always wary when I see mud because you never know what lurks beyond a puddle. If the water is brown, you can’t see whether it’s 20cm or 50 cm deep, so it’s easy to fall. Of course, it’s not easy to drive in the mud and fill the radiators and air inlets with filth, but no worries, we’ll clean it up.”

TOMORROW’S STAGE – Monday, January 13 – Stage 8: Uyuni – Calama – Liasion: 230 km – Special: 462 km – Total: 692 km

Uyuni, a vision of white – The Salar de Uyuni is quite simply the biggest salt flat in the world! And the motorcyclists will be able to realise this, since they will have to go right round this gigantic stretch during the eighth stage of the rally. The route will be marked out around and across the salt flat, a marvel stretching over more than 400 kilometres, and will also pass by several islands which make this site so exceptional. The stature of the Tunupa Volcano (5,300m in altitude) will be a permanent feature on the landscape. An amazing daydream vision between heaven and earth on a white backdrop may be apparent, weather permitting!

TOMORROW'S STAGE - Monday, January 13 - Stage 8: Uyuni – Calama - Liasion: 230 km - Special: 462 km - Total: 692 km
TOMORROW’S STAGE – Monday, January 13 – Stage 8: Uyuni – Calama – Liasion: 230 km – Special: 462 km – Total: 692 km