Helder Rodrigues wins stage 9 – Paolo Goncalves closes on Coma
Toby Price loses 23-minutes but retains fourth outright
Helder Rodrigues wins ninth stage. Four Honda CRF450 Rally machines among the top five spots over a 450 kilometre timed special, which proved Rodrigues second triumph thus far in the campaign. He had his work cut out, on a route that tackled broken-up paths, rocky terrain, and dirt track, requiring riders to be at their technical and navigational best just to make headway.
Helder Rodrigues, Stage winner – “I’m fine. I’ve worked very hard for this Dakar and to be up front. Yesterday, I lost it all and now I don’t want to take any chances, but I will give everything to win. Today I started out from behind, I caught up with Paulo and Joan, but I got lost in the dunes. Later, at the refuelling I saw that I was going well and I kept pushing. It was a hard day with a lot of navigation and loads of stones on the track, but I’m very happy with the way things went.”
Tucked in behind was fellow-countryman and team-mate from HRC, Paulo Goncalves, who whittled almost four minutes off Marc Coma’s final time. The Portuguese rider stands just 5-minutes 28-seconds off the overall race leader.
Paulo Goncalves – “Today was a good stage. I started out from behind looking to make up time. At kilometre 326, there was a waypoint that was quite difficult to find and I dropped a bit of time. There were 220 km still left to push and I clawed back some time, finished well, and cut down the distance in the overall standings. I’m very pleased with Helder’s win, and I believe that it has been a great day for Team HRC.”
Outright Dakar leader Marc Coma did manage to put a little distance between himself and Pablo Quintanilla, finishing 23-minutes 15-seconds behind the stage winner, the Chilean suffered a major blow.
Pablo Quintanilla, 9th on stage – “It was very tough, very complicated right from the start of the special. I had to open the way and that was complicated too. It was difficult to find the way through the dunes at the start, because it was foggy and not easy to navigate. After the dunes, the terrain was very rocky and bumpy with fesh-fesh as well. I still rode a good stage. I didn’t make too many mistakes and tried to be as quick as possible. I don’t know whether I’m fighting for the title: I’m just riding my own race and trying to keep my wits about me. In any case, there are still plenty of kilometres to be covered before the finish”.
Marc Coma, 3rd on stage – “It was foggy at the start of the special and I made one small navigation mistake and I lost some time there, but then I tried to push with a high rhythm to come back to my position. The last part was also tricky navigation and it was difficult to find one of the waypoints. I am lucky because maybe I am faster than some of the others and I can push until the end. It’s okay. It was a good day for us.”
Toby Price lost more than 23-minutes to the stage winner through a navigational error. As a result Price saw his margin to race leader Coma, who was third on stage, extend from 16-minutes yesterday to 32-minutes today. Thanks to Quintanilla also having an off day Price remains less than five-minutes from the third placed rider, and lost only a few seconds to fifth outright Stefan Svitko. Thus the Australian still has a very good chance of securing an outright podium.
Toby Price, 8th on stage – “This morning was going well and we were making up ground. I made a small navigational error in the sand but I got on top of it. We were about one minute off the lead at the first CP but then we went into the fesh-fesh area and it was really tough. Then at about the 360 km mark there was a waypoint and we all got lost and the other guys made up ground. It was frustrating to lose time there but I am happy we’re here. As long as we can get to the finish line, that’s the main goal. But if we can stay in the top five that’s even better.”
Joan Barreda, after conceding three hours in yesterday’s exhausting marathon, was once again back in the hunt, with the special stage heading from Iquique to Calama, keeping up with the pace on the first half of the special, Joan Barreda finally finished almost 19-minutes 47-seconds behind Gonçalves, whilst Javier Pizzolito and Stefan Svitko, respectively 5th and 6th, were also more than 20 minutes off the pace.
Joan Barreda – “It was tough. Especially after yesterday’s stage when we arrived back at the bivouac exhausted after having to push the bikes so far yesterday. We did a good job today and we intend to finish the rally with the same working method that we have used up until now. We will do everything to help our team-mate Paulo achieve victory.”
As for Laia Sanz and Juan Pedrero, their performances today were nothing like yesterday, finishing 43-minutes 20-seconds and 1-hour 8-minutes behind the stage winner.
Laia Sanz – “Today was a very hard, physical day, with some difficult navigation, but it went really well for me. I didn’t make any mistakes, and that’s what it’s all about, carrying on like that until the end. Let’s see how tomorrow’s marathon stage goes tomorrow. We’ve already seen that it doesn’t need anything spectacular, just hard work and no errors.”
The bikers will set off for their second marathon stage tomorrow. After the Chile-Argentina border, this time the day’s special stage will start on the Salinas Grandes, more than 3,600m above sea level. The altitude should curb the competitors’ enthusiasm and cool down their engines. The more technical final phase will separate the toughest of them from the rest. For the Liaison, the route will then follow the Paso de l’Acay, at an altitude of 4,970m.
Stage Nine Dakar 2015 – Iquique to Calama
88 km liaison, 451 km special (539 km) – (Provisional Stage Results)
- Helder Rodrigues, POR, Honda, 5 hours 05.14
- Paolo Goncalves, POR Honda at 3.51
- Marc Coma, ESP, KTM at 7.34
- Joan Barreda, ESP, Honda at 19.47
- Javier Pizzolito, ARG, Honda at 20.07
- Stefan Svitko, SVK, KTM at 21.40
- Matthias Walkner, AUT, KTM at 22.02
- Toby Price, AUS, KTM at 23.09
- Pablo Qunitanilla, CHI, KTM 23.15
- Olivier Pain, FRA, Yamaha at 28.09
- David Casteu, FRA, KTM at 28.09
- Ruben Faria, POR, KTM at 34.22
- Ivan Jakes, SVK, KTM 38.18
Provisional Overall Dakar 2015 Standings after Stage 9
- Coma, KTM at 34:05.00
- Goncalves, Honda at 5.28
- Qunitanilla KTM at 26.52
- Price, KTM at 31.31
- Svitko, KTM at 40.36
- Faria, KTM at 1:31.26
- Casteu, KTM at 1:31.26
- Sanz, Honda at 1:54.37
- Jakes, KTM at 2:18.31
- Pain, Yamaha at 2:36.13
- Rodrigues, Honda at 3:18.07
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Tomorrow’s Stage – Stage 10 – Wednesday, 14th January – Calama (CHI) – Cachi (ARG)
Liaison: 520 km – Special stage: 371 km – Total 891 km