Marc Coma, the three times winner of the event, put distance between himself and his rivals on the day’s stage, which was partially shortened due to the extreme temperatures threatening the safety of the bikers.
After four days of racing, a good number of the favourites on the Dakar have already suffered for various reasons or even returned home in some cases. Marc Coma, however, chose the morning of the 5th stage to burst into action and strike a major blow against all his rivals, whether named Cyril Despres, already in difficulty the day before, or Joan Barreda, who ground to a halt on the route to Tucuman.
After having overtaken “Chaleco” Lopez then Juan Pedrero, the winner of yesterday’s stage, the KTM leader re-asserted his status by putting an impressive distance between himself and his pursuers. On completion of the first part of the special stage, a 211-km long section, the comeback king, who had to miss out on the Dakar 2013 due to an injured shoulder, avoided the many traps into which fell Paulo Gonçalves (who dropped out after his bike caught fire) or Cyril Despres (overheated engine, navigation errors, etc.).
Since cohesion is a sacred concept for the Catalans, it was natural that his closest pursuer was none other than his water carrier, Jordi Viladoms, 13 minutes behind. A gap was opened on Despres, who finished 45 minutes later; on Barreda and Pain, who lost out in similar proportions; and on Lopez, who trailed in more than 50 minutes after.
The situation seemed to take a turn for the worst at the start of the second section to be covered, due to a leak spotted on the petrol tank of his KTM. However, when on form, Coma enjoys luck as well as his talent. A quick-fix repair carried out with Viladoms already put a small smile back on his face before, several minutes later, the news was announced that the second section of the special stage had been cancelled, meaning the times at the end of the first section stood for the stage results. In total, the day seems to be an excellent one for Coma, because he now only has three rivals positioned within less than an hour in the general standings, namely Joan Barreda, “Chaleco” and Jordi Viladoms, respectively 41’10’’, 53’40’’ and 58’58’’ behind.
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The quad category witnessed the same modification to the programme, but without seeing such a significant sea-change in the standings. Ignacio Casale retains the lead of the general standings, but his closest rival is now Sergio Lafuente, who added his third special stage victory to his roll of honour, overtaking Rafal Sonik to take the bottom step of the virtual podium.
Paulo Goncalves´ bike in flames, Barreda drops to second overall
Today´s stage five from Chilecito to Tucuman was characterised by very hot temperatures over 40 degrees and a lot of sand and navigation in dry vegetation. Exactly because of this dry vegetation, Paulo Goncalves´ bike became the victim of a fire accident. Dry grass branches collected in the engine protection and caught fire near the hot exhaust during the extreme riding conditions in the deep sand.
Joan Barreda meanwhile battled with the very delicate navigation. The Spaniard dropped back to second place overall.
Paulo Goncalves: “After having lost my chances to fight for a top position following the problems during the marathon stage, I tried my best today to support Joan Barreda. I had a good pace, leading the race halfway through the stage. In the boiling temperatures I suddenly felt my feet getting hot, and I saw that my bike was burning. I jumped off and tried to extinguish the fire with sand, but I could not fight it, the bike burnt down completely. I am extremely disappointed, after all the hard work during the year to be out of the race in this way.”
Joan Barreda: “At the beginning of the stage I lost some minutes due to problems with the fuel system, but I could catch up pretty good and found a decent speed and rhythm in the endless sand whoops. At the end of the stage it was very difficult to find the right way through various dry riverbeds, but I could manage quite well. Unfortunately a few km before the finish I had another a problem with the fuel system, and it took me valuable time to fix it and continue towards the finish. I am happy to be back at the bivouac after this tough day. At least I am still second in the overall classification. We are still in a very good position in the race and we will do everything the next days to assure a top result.”
— KTM Report
Red Bull KTM factory rider and three-times Dakar winner Marc Coma rose to the occasion on Thursday during yet another very difficult day to claim his first stage victory in the 2014 Dakar Rally. Coma led in teammate Jordi Viladoms and KTM supported rider Kuba Przygonski allowing KTM to scoop the top three places.
Coma said it had been another difficult day: “I opened ninety percent of the stage today. Everything was running well but it was soft sand and very technical and when you’re on the camel grass it is tough. At the end of the last part it was very difficult to find the finish line. I got to another river and had to cut back to find the correct one. But in the end it was good.”
Coma, who moved into second behind the leader Barreda on Wednesday by just three minutes has now taken control of the overall lead after winning the stage more than 12 minutes in front of Viladoms. He leads the overall standings by 41 minutes 10 from Barreda.
Przygonski also said the stage had been really tough. “We were riding on the camel grass for about 100 km. That’s really hard physically because we ride in second gear at 50 km h, always jumping, always standing and pushing hard. There was also a lot of navigation and it was very easy to make a mistake because there was so many options to choose.”
KTM-supported rider Riaan van Niekerk of South Africa had his best day out to finish fifth and move up five places in the overall rankings. He is now in seventeenth place at the end of the day’s ride between San Juan and Chilecito
Riaan’s day was not without drama because he nearly collided with the burnt out bike of Paolo Goncalves. “I managed to avoid it but it’s not something you expect to see in the desert,” he said.
“Today was better than yesterday when I messed up the navigation. I gained a bit today but not enough to make up the lost time. But it’s a long race and so much has happened already. We need to take it day by day. It is much harder than I anticipated. Last year was a breeze compared to this year.”
Thursday’s stage saw some of the big names sacrifice a lot of time. Barreda, Cyril Despres and Coma’s team mate Chaleco Lopez lost 43, 45 and 51 minutes respectively after they and other riders took the wrong track after it had split from the main at around the 195 km mark. Lopez, who was second on Wednesday, finished twenty-seventh in the stage but still hangs on to third overall. He now trails Coma by 53.41.
Lopez was philosophical about the outcome of Stage Five. “It was very difficult and the first part was very sandy. It wasn’t a good day for me but it was important to have reached the finish. It’s a long, long race and tomorrow is a new day.”
The physical nature of Thursday’s stage was also evident. Many riders were reported to have suffered from dehydration and exhaustion from the extreme temperatures. Because of this, race officials scrapped the second half of the timed special, originally set for a massive 527 km.
With just five of thirteen stages under riders’ wheels, the rally this year has been marked by the number of top contenders who are either out of the race or are now well down the order. Of the original field of 196 riders, 54 had withdrawn by the end of Stage Four. Many more joined them during today’s stage.
Stage Six takes the field from Tucuman to Salta with a short 64 km liaison and another heavy 400 km of timed special. Riders then take the one rest day on Saturday ahead of the second marathon stage on Sunday and Monday.
— HRC Report
Hélder Rodrigues takes fourth place for TEAM HRC, his best result to date, and climbs the leader-board in the Rally Dakar 2014.
Security reasons have been cited for the cancelation of the second part of the special, which made up almost a third of the overall distance of today’s stage. The first part of the special was run at a cracking place, taking in some dunes and off-route navigation, before arriving at the neutralization zone. The riders had 111 untimed kilometres to run prior to the start of the second part of the special, but the organization decided to call it off completely.
Joan Barreda sped off from sixth place today, looking to make up for lost time and straight away started clocking up some of the best times. Nevertheless, as he caught up with the riders ahead, the group took a path which turned out to be a mistaken one, and thus the rider concedes time to his closest rivals. Barreda finished in 17th place some 44 minutes off the winner of the special. In doing so, the Spaniard drops back into second overall place behind Marc Coma. Javier Pizzolito played it safe and finished in 33rd place. This morning’s stage took the riders through the dry scrubs, one of which got caught up between Paulo Gonçalves’ engine and exhaust setting the area on fire, which then spread to the engine. The flames engulfed the bike of the FIM Cross-Country World Champion, who although escaping unhurt, is forced out of the competition.
The riders on the new production Honda CRF450 RALLY, Pablo ‘Cacha’ Rodríguez and Laia Sanz, finished amongst the front-runners once again. ‘Cacha’ scored the 16th best time against the clock and Laia finished 26th moving up into 16th overall place in the standings.
Helder Rodrigues 4th +25’53 TEAM HRC
Another day at a really long and really tough Dakar. It’s the fifth day of the hardest Dakar yet. Even though it’s only the fifth day, it’s been really difficult. The Dakar is so long and you have to keep up the concentration and be really strong to make it through the day and get a result.
Joan Barreda 17th +44’20 TEAM HRC
It’s been a really hard day, one of the most difficult, with very high temperatures and soft sand. Every day it just gets tougher. I had an issue with the fuel at the start of the special, but after I was able to get back into it. I caught up with Marc Coma and the fuel problems came back when I was looking for a waypoint. I lost a lot of time trying to repair it. The most important thing is that we finished, we are still in the race. Let’s see how the next few days play out.
Javier Pizzolito 33th +1:14’44 TEAM HRC
A really hard special. I had to start out from behind and struggle against the dust. Later the track opened out a bit and I was able to raise the pace and catch up with the riders in front. After I had a slight problem with the fuel that held me back a bit and another stage escaped us. But it’s always a plus to arrive. Today various bikes caught fire and it’s another filtering stage. Over a 120 bikes are out, so to make it back to the bivouac is good news.
— Yamaha Report
Stage five of the 2014 Dakar brought more twists and challenges with it today for the Yamaha Factory Racing riders. What had originally been scheduled to be one of the longest stages of the rally was reduced in length at short notice so the bikes only completed the first 211km of special stage before riding the link stage to the bivouac. Despite the reduction in length there was still plenty of time for challenges to arise and be conquered.
Michael Metge had the best result of the three official Yamaha riders, working past several riders to finish 11th on the stage and move into 17th overall. Cyril Despres was next, coming home eventually in 18th after a difficult stage. Fuel problems forced him to end his search for the elusive WP17 prematurely. He received an extra hour’s penalty for the missing waypoint, dropping him to 34th for the day and 13th overall. Olivier Pain was the last of the three to complete the stage, finishing in 23rd to hold 7th in the standings after no less than three crashes in the soft sand dunes. Due to the number of riders who were also penalised the overall standings are liable to change.
Michael Metge – Yamaha Factory Racing – “After yesterday’s stage I started late this morning and suffered in the dust right at the beginning of the special. After that we got to the first set of dunes and I was pleased to find that, after the changes we’d made to my suspension, my bike handled much better than in the sand on the second stage. All of which meant I was able to attack the second lot of dunes in the camel grass with much more confidence and got past a fair few riders, to finish 11th on the stage. All in all, not a bad day.”
Cyril Despres – Yamaha Factory Racing – “It was very hot in the special and the sand was soft. Because of that I was paying particular attention to engine temperature and even more so when I noticed I was consuming fuel at an alarming rate. I was on my way to get the famous WP17 but had to turn back when I realised I wouldn’t have enough fuel to make it to the end. I was right on the limit of running out when I came across a quad rider who kindly gave me a litre and a half. In all, my various problems cost me 44 minutes, to which will be added the one hour penalty…”
Olivier Pain – Yamaha Factory Racing
“Another difficult day with the heat and soft sand making it hard work, both for man and machine. I had two crashes early on, but they were in the dunes, so nothing serious. Then I had a third one in a rio that was a bit more serious. I hit my thigh with the handlebar, but fortunately the bike was undamaged. Like pretty much everyone else, I did a few extra kilometres with the tricky navigation and ran out of fuel right on the finish line. Luckily Alain Duclos gave me a tow to the fuel station on the liaison.”
— Speedbrain Report
The fifth stage of the recent Rally Dakar will be remembered for a long time. Following the tough marathon stage on Tuesday and Wednesday, another whopping 911 kilometres were scheduled for today. The stage was expected to lead though deep sand, dunes and dry gras, and be another gruelling test of survival for men and machine. But things were about to change early on. The organisers decided to cancel the second part of the special for safety reasons, also because heavy thunderstorms threatened the area. The result proved to be highly controversial. There were plenty of heated discussions afterwards if all riders had passed the mandatory waypoints. The overall classification was turned upside down.
The Speedbrain customer race team nevertheless enjoyed another positive day. All four riders reached the finish line alright. Jeremias Israel Esquerre even led the provisional stage ranking at one point, but was finally listed as 12th on the day.
Speedbrain´s World Cup champ Juan Carlos “Chavo” Salvatierra reached the stage finish in sixth place. He´s now lying inside the top twenty overall. Salvatierra rode a smart and tactical stage, as he found just the right balance to avoid crashes and make up ground. “Chavo” is a well-known figure in his native Bolivia, he´s an ambassador for Unicef and certainly an athlete who his fellow countrymen look up to.
“Chavo” Salvatierra: “It was difficult to navigate today. I was staying concentrated, always looking for the right way. I kept calm and collected and my Speedbrain bike was making it easy. I will brace my energy and want to have a great performance when we enter Bolivia. A big thanks to my team, super job so far.”
Friday brings the shortest stage of the rally (464 km). Still, the special stage is another hefty one, offering 400 km of demanding terrain. Saturday is the only rest day of the race.
Tomorrow – Friday, January 10 – Stage 6: Tucumán -Salta – Liaison: 64 km Special: 400 km Total: 464 km
Once they have left Tucuman, the cars will head north and drive along part of the renowned Ruta 40, and continue on in the heart of one of Argentina’s most beautiful landscapes. The possibilities to widen the gap will be limited but the most skilled riders may be able to seize the opportunity of adding a stage to their list of wins. A new trip to the mountains will take motorcyclists to the banks of the rivers. They will have to remain vigilant until the very end of the stage as the region is frequented to a great extent by animals of all sizes. Then they will finally be able to rest.
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