Toby Price up to third place outright as Dakar tightens at the top
Already quick when leading the rally, Joan Barreda becomes almost untouchable when he is free from any pressure. The Spaniard seemed to have decided to show that he was indeed the quickest rider on the 2015 edition by picking up a second consecutive triumph, his fourth since the start.
Joan Barreda – “Yesterday we had to change Paulo’s engine with mine, which was fresher, and I had to put Jeremías’ one in. We were working until two in the morning and we only rested for a couple of hours. Today the first part of the stage was complicated by the rains of last night, mainly with the swollen rivers. I got to the refuelling fine, and after that I pushed really hard on the mountain paths. Everything went well and I was able to win. We have proved that we can win not only stages, but also the whole race. Right now, the main priority is a win for the team.”
A most noteworthy performance on Thursday came from Paulo Gonçalves who has still not given up on final victory. The Portuguese rider regained 2-minutes 23’-seconds from Marc Coma, who finished sixth on stage 11, to move within 5-minutes 12-seconds of the outright leader.
However, the efforts of the Honda HRC rider could be in vain because he will receive a fifteen minute penalty in the general standings for having changed his engine. He borrowed this engine from Barreda who in turn had benefitted from the sacrifice of Jeremias Israel Esquerre, forced to exit the race after giving the engine of his Honda to his team-mate during this marathon stage.
Paulo Gonçalves – “I had a problem with my engine yesterday and had to change it. Since it was a marathon stage, of course one of our riders had to stay in Cachi. It was C’est Jeremias Israel who gave his engine. It’s very brave to have done that. It’s the end of the race for him so I’m going to try and get the best position so that I can dedicate it to him. Because of the penalty, I’ve given a free 15 minutes to all my rivals, but that’s the rules of the race and they’re the same for everybody. It was already difficult 7 minutes behind, even if I managed to regain around two minutes on the stage today. But now it’s even more difficult. That said, others can also have the problem that I had yesterday, so it’s not too late to hope to finish in the top position”.
Coma still remains in the lead, but will have to pull out all the stops over the next two stages if he decides to keep the same engine on his KTM.
Marc Coma: “We come from a marathon stage that is always more stressful and always with mechanical work. Our time is good but we still have a difficult day tomorrow and also the last day. I am still not able to see the end to this rally but I am happy with how things are going so far. If you look at how far we have already come, it is an eternity. So far we can say we are still very happy.”
Ivan Jakes had a field day with third place, 1-minute 35-seconds behind the stage winner, which is his best result since the start of the rally, finishing ahead of Ruben Faria and Toby Price.
Toby Price took advantage of Pablo Quintanilla feeling very ill to regain more than two minutes and thus climbs onto the provisional podium in the general standings for the first time. He stands a fair chance of a podium finish in his first Dakar, provided he manages to hold onto the advantage over two more stages. Quintanilla has also been having an excellent Dakar and will not want to give up on going for the minor podium place.
Toby Price: “I can’t get too excited just yet. Two days is still a long way away. There are still a lot of kilometres to cover. We’re just trying to do the best we can, stay fit and healthy, keep the bike in good shape and that’s just been my plan the whole way, pretty much.
“We’re doing all we can and at this stage we’re having fun while we’re doing it. It’s not too far from the finish. Today was not so bad. It wasn’t extremely fast, but it was a good clean run with nothing crazy. You couldn’t afford to run wide on turns today.
“It was just a good clean day, that was the main goal, to look after the bike, because it was marathon day. You don’t want to be stuck out there or destroying the bike and we’ve done that so we’re happy.
“On the last two days the stages have been really good, because I’m still trying to learn the navigation, and there wasn’t really that much navigation on the last two stages. They kind of suited me a bit more, but then there was still a good amount of danger in there and I had a couple of little moments on the first day, so I just backed off and tried to just get through it. I don’t want to be going and getting an injury and going out of the race with an injury this close to the finishing line. But everything is good”.
Price, new to this type of navigation and the road book said this aspect had also started to come together for him over the past couple of days.
Pablo Quintilla is hoping to take the fight back to Toby Price on the final days – “It was a very difficult marathon stage for me. Yesterday I was ill. There were cliffs, I was dehydrated and suffering from headaches. The main thing is that we are nearing the finish. There are 2 stages left and I’m going to keep on fighting until the last kilometre. But I didn’t feel great again today with headaches on the mountain tracks once more. At the bivouac, I’m going to go and see the doctors”.
Helder Rodrigues, Alain Duclos and Stefan Svitko were the other riders in the day’s top 10.
KTM Factory Team Manager Alex Doringer said conditions had been very tough for the entire team who had endured temperatures up to 45 degrees Celsius on Thursday as well as dust storms and even flooding in past days.
“We are in good shape,” Doringer said. “Marc is happy and smiling ahead of tomorrow’s stage and no one believed that we would see Toby up here fighting for third place on his first time out at the Dakar.”
Doringer said the team was in a strong position for Friday’s stage with Faria,Price and Coma starting at places four, five and six.
HRC Team Manager Wolfgang Fischer – “So, we have just arrived here at the end of this second marathon stage of this Dakar. This year the marathon stages have been a real rollercoaster for Team HRC.
“Yesterday, we had a very nice stage result with a victory from Joan Barreda after a very long day travelling over the mountains in Chile, but also without any problems at the end of the stage. On arriving back at the bivouac yesterday, they found out that Paulo’s engine had a problem and obviously, in the bivouac, the riders were on their own without any tools, but the four managed to work very well together, with a great team spirit, to help Paulo find out if they could fix the engine. Finally, after everything, they decided that they had to change the engine, so that Paulo could continue. The best way to do that was to remove the engine from Joan’s bike, because it was freshest and had only been removed two days before. They mounted it into Paulo’s bike and got everything working.
“Also, the decision was made to get Jeremias’ engine and put it into Joan’s bike, so we had to sacrifice one rider and now he’s out of the race so that the other riders could continue with the engines correctly mounted and working.
“Even after all the first marathon stage and only getting three hours sleep, they still managed to win and be second in the stage today; so it’s really fantastic team effort, and I’m really proud of the guys and what they did last night. So many thanks to Jeremias who was doing so well, always supportive and always making a super-human effort; first towing Joan back after the disaster in the salt flats, otherwise he would not be here; and yesterday he sacrificed his own race too, to help Joan finish today. We lost fifteen minutes for the engine change, but still anything is possible – nothing is won, nothing is lost. Two days to go.”
Overnight riders were not permitted any mechanical support from teams although they may do the work themselves. Engine changes do incur time penalties, even if riders carry out the work themselves.
On Friday riders travel from Termas Rio Honda to Rosario, another 1024 km with 298 km of timed special. Teams will be permitted to transport the bikes for part of the long liaison section.
With the finish line in Buenos Aires now looming large on Saturday and riders and teams worn down from the rigors of a very hard edition, riders tackled a total of 512 km, of which 351 km were timed special on the way to Termas Rio Honda.
Dakar 2015 – Stage 11 – Marathon Stage to Termas Rio Honda – 161 km liaison, 351 km special (512 km)
Provisional Stage 11 Results
Tomrorow – Friday’s penultimate Stage 12: Termas Rio Honda to Rosario – 725 km liaison, 298 km special (1024 km) Dakar 2015 – Stage 12 – Friday, 16th January – Termas de Río Hondo (ARG) – Rosario (ARG) – Liaison: 726 km – Special stage: 298 km
The Dakar will spend the night near the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit, which regularly hosts the Argentine rounds of the GP motorbike and WTCC championships. But the Dakar’s competitors are set for a long cross-country journey, battling it out in this tension-packed penultimate day. Any riders who become too distracted could be caught by surprise by the surrounding vegetation!
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