—  Dakar 2014 – Stage Three – San Rafael – San Juan – 665 km stage including 373 km special test
—  Dakar Stage 3, Marathon Day 1: Barreda wins, first to break altitude record
—  High Altitude Navigation errors cost Ben Grabham, Paulo Goncalves and Sam Sunderland dearly

In the lead since the start of the rally, Joan Barreda won his second special stage this year and now boasts a lead of more than 13’ over Despres and Coma, the two other beneficiaries of a particularly decisive stage.

Joan Barreda set a new record today. He became the first Dakar rider to reach an altitude of 4,300 metres on a special stage. This unofficial honour gave him an unbeatable preview of the spectacular landscapes on offer at this height in the Andes Mountain range. Although a keen geographer, it is most certainly the sporting performance he accomplished today that will satisfy the Spanish Rider. Impressive throughout the 243 km of a special stage slightly shortened in order to avoid unstable terrain on the first part of the route, “Bang Bang” again made a big impact, picking up his second stage victory this year after having opened the way for the majority of the day. With a lead of 4’41’’ over Cyril Despres on arrival at the bivouac which marks the mid-way point in the marathon stage, Barreda opened a gap of 13’04 over the title holder. The Frenchman can consider himself to have enjoyed a good stage: 8th in the general standings this morning, he is now the closest pursuer of the race leader. This tough stage has thus revealed the best technicians in the discipline. The day’s leading trio, like the podium in the general standings, was completed by Spaniard Marc Coma, who is 52” behind Despres.

Behind them, Alain Duclos and Chaleco Lopez are still in with a shout, less than 20 minutes behind, but there will already be plenty of disillusioned riders, even before they tackle the evening on their own without assistance. The dream is over for Ruben Faria, who has dropped out of the Dakar after a fall, as well as for Frans Verhoeven, who injured his shoulder. Still stuck 30 km from the finishing line almost two hours after the leaders finished, Portugal’s Paulo Gonçalves lost all hope of final victory and the highest step on the podium will be also inaccessible for Sam Sunderland and Juan Pedrero, who have still not yet finished at the time of writing. David Casteu can still hope for a place of honour, 22’ behind the race leader, as can Olivier Pain, who lies 36’ behind. It will however be very difficult for Helder Rodrigues, relegated to more than an hour of his team-mate Joan Barreda after just 3 stages!

The route to the isolated bivouac in Barréal also proved to be cruel in the quad category, which lost its emblematic champion. Marcos Patronelli was forced to drop out after suffering from dehydration. The hopes for the title have also evaporated for Lucas Bonetto, who was still stuck 100 km from the finishing line at the end of the afternoon. Rafal Sonik has benefitted from their misfortunes, inheriting both the stage win and the lead in the general standings.

Joan “Bang Bang” Barreda: “Today was really unbelievable, the conditions were extreme by any means. After the stage started, I could soon pass Chaleco Lopez to follow Sam Sunderland in the riverbeds until he took a wrong turn. Opening the track, the uphill sections got more and more steep and extreme. In trial-type conditions I had to stay full-throttle in second gear to make the steepest sections and keep it all together to make it over the loose rolling stones. It was very exhausting in the high altitude and I needed to stay very calm to avoid mistakes. As I was over the highest point, the navigation downhill was getting very delicate, with many changes of directions and possibly wrong ways to follow on very steep trails. I stopped and made sure I was choosing the right way several times. Eventually it paid out to keep a cool head. The last part down in the valley was more easy and I put the hammer down again. I think today many riders will have extreme difficulties. I am happy I improved a lot my physical conditions training hard the last year.”

Joan Barreda showed his brilliance in riding technique and navigation skills by winning the stage in front of Cyril Despres and Marc Coma, increasing his overall lead to over 13 minutes.
Joan Barreda showed his brilliance in riding technique and navigation skills by winning the stage in front of Cyril Despres and Marc Coma, increasing his overall lead to over 13 minutes.

Provisional Result
Dakar 2014, Stage 3
1. Joan Barreda (ESP, Honda) 3:47:03 hrs
2. Cyril Despres (FRA, Yamaha) +00:04:41
3. Marc Coma (ESP, KTM) +00:06:56
4. Alain Duclos (FRA, Sherco) +00:10:51
5. David Casteu (FRA, KTM) +00:11:17
6. Francisco Lopez (CHL, KTM) +00:16:36
7. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP, Gas-Gas) +00:16:50
8. Stefan Svitko (SVK, KTM) +00:19:06
9. Jakub Przygonski (POL, KTM) +00:20:12
10. Olivier Pain (FRA, Yamaha) +00:20:34

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Provisional Overall Standings after Stage 3:
1. Joan Barreda (ESP, Honda) 09:56:44 hrs
2. Cyril Despres (FRA, Yamaha) +00:13:04
3. Marc Coma (ESP, KTM) +00:13:56
4. Alain Duclos (FRA, Sherco) +00:16:38
5. Francisco Lopez (CHL, KTM) +00:18:39
6. David Casteu (FRA, KTM) +00:22:16
7. Jordi Viladoms (ESP, KTM) +00:34:33
8. Olivier Pain (FRA, Yamaha) +00:36:33
9. Jakub Przygonski (POL, KTM) +00:37:54
10. Stefan Svitko (SVK, KTM) +00:40:09

KTM Australia Report (Ben Grabham)

Just a day after logging his best ever result in the famous Dakar Rally, Australian KTM ace Ben Grabham has tumbled down the order in the fallout to a simple navigation error on day three of the race, between San Rafael and San Juan, Argentina.

Grabham was poised to again eclipse his best result in the first hour of the competitive stage after speeding into an incredible third place at Checkpoint One, 57 kilometres in.

However two hours later Grabham and three others including yesterday’s winner Sam Sunderland followed one of the lead riders in the wrong direction, causing a domino effect that would result in Grabham entering tonight’s Marathon Stage bivouac in 73rd place provisionally.

“Myself, the two Honda guys Sam and Paulo, Juan Pedrero on the Sherco and Ruben Faria all went down the wrong mountain,” said Grabham. “In the first 20 meters we knew it was wrong but it was just way to steep to get back. We tried for about an hour but it was damaging the bike too much.”

Next, KTM Factory Team rider Faria crashed heavily and required airlifting, so the Aussie, Sunderland and Goncalves waited with him for the helicopter to arrive.

“Then to get out of where we were was quite a mission,” said Grabham, “all of us had to help each other lift our bikes down rock ledges and that took us a lot of time and energy.
“I’m not happy about it but there’s not much I can do about it.”

The day’s result sees Grabham drop to 33rd in overall motorcycle classification, and as he is away from his team in the Marathon Stage bivouac it is not yet known whether he and the other riders will be credited any time for their assistance of the injured Faria.

Tomorrow, Grabham must nurse his bike and tyres a further 550 kilometres, including 352 kilometres of special stage in order to complete the Marathon Stage.

HRC Report

Joan Barreda took victory in the third stage of the Rally Dakar 2014, and in doing so widens the deficit over his nearest rival to 13’04 minutes. This is the third straight win for Honda in three outings so far in the rally, and the second victory for the Spanish rider from Castellón, bringing his career track record at the Dakar up to seven.

Sam Sunderland, as victor of the last stage, set off from the front of the rally. The British rider from TEAM HRC held his place firmly until the arrival of Joan Barreda, who quickly took over the leadership of what was a very complicated third stage of the Dakar. Barreda stayed at the head until the race wound up in San Juan.

The second rider from TEAM HRC to finish turned out to be Helder Rodrigues who arrived home in 15th position. In spite of some setbacks, the Portuguese rider pulls back various positions and is now 14th in the overall standings. Sunderland and Paulo Gonçalves, after wait the helicopter for another rider injured, both made navigational errors and finished the special further back as Javier PIzzolito.

The riders arrived back at the bivouac, and as this is the first of the marathon legs, will find no one other than their own TEAM HRC members.

Today’s route had been reduced to 130 kilometres, as the first stretch of the special was in no condition for racing after the heavy rains of the previous week. The rest of the special covered a more normal route including some mountains zones, with hard ground and a lot of complicated handling.

One again Laia Sanz, a member of Team Argentina put in an excellent performance finishing in 20th place. Likewise, Jean De Azevedo (Honda Brasil) and Cacha Rodríguez (Honda Argentina). All the riders that Honda will shortly have bikes available for have began the rally really well.

Joan Barreda 1st 03:47’03 TEAM HRC
“This has been a really exceptional special, one like the Dakar has never seen before. Not only for the altitude but also for the hills and the steep slopes that we have had to endure. It was like a trial. In second gear, revved up, then stopping for breath before taking off again. A real trial run where you just had to try and not make any mistakes and keep up the concentration. The navigation was really tough and at no time did I really stop to see if I was on the right path. We crossed a few rivers at the start. I caught up with Chaleco and then Sam, who I saw had taken the wrong route. From then on I did the rest of the special on my own. In the final few kilometres on the way down I was able to open the throttle until the end. It really was a difficult one for everyone.”

Joan Barreda showed his brilliance in riding technique and navigation skills by winning the stage in front of Cyril Despres and Marc Coma, increasing his overall lead to over 13 minutes.
Joan Barreda showed his brilliance in riding technique and navigation skills by winning the stage in front of Cyril Despres and Marc Coma, increasing his overall lead to over 13 minutes.

Helder Rodrigues 15th +37’36 TEAM HRC
“A really difficult stage. I got lost and it took me a long time to get back on the right track. But I’m very happy to be back at the bivouac. Today I could have lost the race, but I’m still in with a shout in spite of dropping a few minutes.”

Paulo Goncalves 52nd 2:13’56 TEAM HRC
“I was up at an altitude of 4,500 metros with Sunderland and Grabham and we couldn’t find the right way. Grabham took a path which wasn’t the right one and we followed him. We lost loads of time looking for the right one. I realize that my Dakar is over. From now on I’ll be focused on helping out Joan Barreda.”

Sam Sunderland 54th +2:28’06 TEAM HRC
“For a while I opened the way, but I had a fall on a very steep slope. I lost a lot of time looking for the right route… at 4000 metres you get a bit disoriented. I found Gonçalves who was waiting for a helicopter to help Faria and we rode together. I fell several times as well as getting lost a lot. It’s an experience that we will have to learn from.”

For a while I opened the way, but I had a fall on a very steep slope. I lost a lot of time looking for the right route... at 4000 metres you get a bit disoriented. I found Gonçalves who was waiting for a helicopter to help Faria and we rode together. I fell several times as well as getting lost a lot. It’s an experience that we will have to learn from.
For a while I opened the way, but I had a fall on a very steep slope. I lost a lot of time looking for the right route… at 4000 metres you get a bit disoriented. I found Gonçalves who was waiting for a helicopter to help Faria and we rode together. I fell several times as well as getting lost a lot. It’s an experience that we will have to learn from.

KTM Report

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing riders faced a physically and tactically tough day on Tuesday for Stage 3 of the 2014 Dakar Rally, which saw the team’s most experienced rider, Marc Coma home in third and maintaining third place in the overall standings.

Coma came in behind Stage winner Joan Barreda and old rival Cyril Despres and registered 6 minutes 56 behind the leader. He is currently 13 minutes 04 off Barreda overall lead time.

Next fastest KTM rider on Tuesday was Frenchman David Casteu at number five, followed by Coma’s teammate Chaleco Lopez at sixth. Stefan Svitko of Slovakia and KTM supported rider Kuba Przygonski of Poland finished eighth and ninth to give KTM five of the top 10 places.

KTM Factory rider Jordi Viladoms of Spain was eleventh home, trailing the leader by 21.21 and KTM’s South African support rider Riaan van Niekerk was thirteenth at 28.15. Following the stage, competitors are isolated in the bivouac following the first half of this marathon stage and are not available for comment.

Australian KTM-supported rider Ben Grabham, who delivered two very strong rides in the first stages, came in very late in the stage and he is now is in overall thirty-third place. He and some of the other riders took the wrong valley and had to retrace their tracks to arrive at the finish.

Red Bull KTM Factory rider Ruben Faria crashed and is out of the rally. Faria of Portugal was reported by the team to be okay, but it was a disappointing end to his bid for a top position. He was third overall in the 2013 edition.

Even though organizers decided to shorten the timed special it was still a very big day in the 2014 edition as riders negotiated their way between San Rafael and San Juan. The bikes started at the 130 km point on the original route, making the distance of the timed special 143 km plus 292 of liaison to make up the day’s ride.

Riders also had their first taste of the mountains as they climbed to 4300 meters during the special, traversing on a ridgeline with spectacular views before a sharp descent to the bivouac.

Tuesday’s ride tested both competitors’ technical skills and tactical guile on what was the first part of the first marathon stage. It was not only vigorous physically but they also had to ride smart to preserve tires and bikes for the second half of the marathon. They are not permitted mechanical assistance or new tires overnight.

Speaking after the stage, Red Bull KTM Team Manager Alex Doringer commented: “We knew before the start of this stage that it would be exciting. Unfortunately Ruben had a crash today. He’s been taken to the hospital for a (control) scan but I spoke to him at the medical center and he’s quite okay. Marc did a good job and finished safe, which was the goal. He lost a bit of time but that’s not a big issue. There’s still 11 days to go and we’re quite positive after Stage 3.”

On the subject of tires, which took a beating in Tuesday’s stage and still have to last through another big ride on Wednesday, Doringer said: “We know its true that in the marathon stage its not about winning but surviving. The goal tomorrow is to finish and most of the riders will, because they are professionals.”

Wednesday’s Stage 4 completes the first of the two marathon stages and takes competitors from San Juan to Chilecito over 210 km liaison and a timed special of 353 km for a total of 563 km. The Red Bull KTM Factory Team are competing on the KTM 450 RALLY machine.

Chaleco Lopez moved into fifth place overall after stage three
Chaleco Lopez moved into fifth place overall after stage three

Yamaha Report

The first of the 2014 Dakar Rally Marathon stages saw Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cyril Despres make up valuable time today with an impressive ride on his YZ450F machine to close the gap to the front. The five-time Dakar winner’s experience and race craft saw him make short work of the day’s timed riding, finishing in second position, 4m’41s behind the leader. The result moves him up the overall standings from eighth to second, now just 13m04s behind the current Rally leader. The special was reduced in distance at the last minute to 243km to avoid instable terrain at the start of the route.

As part of the marathon stage, the riders are unaided tonight in their own bivouac and are responsible for the maintenance of their own bikes before continuing tomorrow.

Fellow Yamaha Factory Racing rider Olivier Pain also improved from yesterday, Pain took tenth place on the Special stage to move up to eighth place in the rally standings, 36m33s from the top. Michael Metge made a big improvement from yesterday, the Frenchman’s training with Despres clearly paying off on the long Special stage. Metge came home in 16th to move up to 15th overall.
Michael Metge

Yamaha Netherlands Verhoeven rider Frans Verhoeven was forced to retire from the Dakar Rally today, the Dutch rider falling and breaking his elbow on the special stage. Having ridden carefully and defensively since the Rally began, Verhoeven was caught by surprise by a boulder at low speed, causing the fall.

Cyril Despres – Yamaha Factory Racing
“Today’s special has to go straight into the Top 5 most stunning specials I have done in 13 years of racing rallies – and in that time I’ve been to some pretty amazing places! As announced, the recent rains had really cut up the first part of the special and the riding was far from easy. Then at kilometre 299 we came to this incredible 3km climb. It was a really, really hard to get up and I can only begin to imagine how many riders will go out of the race at that point – and it’s not just the amateurs who are going to struggle. Then after that we rode for about 60km on stunning tracks over a series of mountain ridges, as beautiful as they were difficult to navigate. Towards the end I came up behind and past both David Casteu and Marc Coma. All in all an excellent day that more than makes up for yesterday’s disappointments.”

Olivier Pain – Yamaha Factory Racing
“A really spectacular special, climbing to an altitude of over 4000m – not every day you ride in places like that. From the point of view of the overall rankings not too bad either. It could have been even better if I hadn’t struggled to find the right piste at the end, something which must have cost me between 5 and 10 minutes. This evening there isn’t too much to do on my Yamaha YZ450F Rally, though we’ll all have to manage the second part of the marathon stage and I have no doubt they’ll be a few more upsets before we get to Chilecito tomorrow evening. These kind of stages are a big reminder that rally-raid is as much about patience as it is about speed and I intend to keep repeating that to myself over the days to come.”

Michael Metge – Yamaha Factory Racing
“This morning I started off really slowly, perhaps too slowly, and then found an optimum pace using the ‘berms’ left by the riders in front of me so as to keep my speed as constant as possible and stay off the brakes. The big positive from today was the route designed by David Castera, which was just amazing. Today we went to places you could only ever go on a motorcycle, preferably a trials bike, and it was a unique experience. And just to top it all, Cyril and I have very little to do to the bikes. We’ll do our road books now and then change the oil when it cools down a little.”

Frans Verhoeven – Yamaha Netherlands Verhoeven
“Just after the famous climb up on the ridges, I was riding with Farres, taking it steady in second gear, when I hit something, went over the bars and broke my left elbow. As you can imagine I’m extremely disappointed. Somehow it seems unjust, as from the very start I have ridden defensively, with the objective of being consistent and not taking any risks. I suppose you have to be philosophical about these things but this evening it is very difficult for me to accept I’m out of the race.”

Speedbrain Report

The third Dakar stage on Tuesday lived up to the promise of the organisers, who announced this year´s race would be tougher and go higher than ever before. The first part of the marathon stage tested the skills and stamina of the motorcycle racers around the Aconcagua mountain. It was a brutal hindsight of what´s to come in the Andes. For the first time ever in Dakar history a special test led up to 4,300 metres altitude, as the course was characterised by lots of treacherous turn-offs leading into nowhere.

After Alessandro Botturi unfortunately had to drop out of the rally on Monday, the Speedbrain customer race team enjoyed a very good day during stage three. Jeremias Israel Esquerre gave an error-free, calculated and very impressive performance, putting him in touch with the top ten overall. Juan Carlos Salvatierra also rose to the occassion. The Bolivian, who started 34th, gained ten positions in the overall ranking. Paolo Ceci and Pedro Oliviera also moved up.

Tonight the riders have to take care of their bikes themselves, outside assistance is not allowed during marathon stages. It would not be possible anyway, the team and rider bivouac are set up 50 km apart.

Team Coordinator Ulrich Hanus: “That was a brutal stage. Hats off to the riders, they provided fabulous motorsport. We are experiencing a great team spirit these days and we´re all looking forward to what´s ahead.”

Wednesday brings the second part of the marathon stage. The 563-kilometre distance leads through technically demanding terrain and again navigation will be important.


Tomorrow’s Stage – Stage 4: San Juan-Chilecito – Liaison: 210 km – Special: 353 km – Total: 563 km

Mountain and countryside – The strategy of the motorcyclists will come into play: initially their navigational skills will be seriously tested at the beginning of the morning, and then they will be faced with the problem of worn tyres, as they have already been over-used the day before. The Dakar’s competitors haven’t faced a special stage this long since the historical one from Zouerat to Tichit in 2005! They will have to cross rivers, descend the canyons in a Wild West setting and beware of the other participants: as these terrains are often wide o pen, it will be entirely possible to overtake fellow competitors.

Dakar 2014 - Stage 4
Dakar 2014 – Stage 4