Third stage win for Red Bull KTM’s Toby Price at Dakar 2016
Friday’s stage took riders in a loop from and to Uyuni (Bolivia), which also skirted along the western side of the famed Uyuni saltpans. Plans to send riders across the saltpans had to be changed because of rain in the region. Price, as winner of stage five was the first rider out and was consistently up front in the special.
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“It was a good day, a long day on the bike but we got through the stage really well. We slowed down at the times we had to navigate, and that’s the first time I’ve led from start to finish. We’re sitting in a good position and it’s a good fight.
“The altitude takes a bit of power out of the bike (because of the thinner air) but it’s the same with everyone’s, also with the cars. But for me, I’m doing well with the altitude, and the body’s holding up well. Also the bike. We’re looking after it pretty well and we’re keen, so I’m looking forward to the second week.”
Team HRC’s steadfast Portuguese rider Paulo Gonçalves held firm through a tricky special to post third place just 1min-12secs adrift of stage winner Toby Price. As a result Gonçalves continues to head the leaderboard with a 35 second advantage over the Australian who holds down second place overall.
“Today really was a very long day. Really tough as we had to ride in altitude. For me it was really hard as I had a terrible headache because of the altitude. I tried to stay as focused all the time and not make any mistakes, but while trying to be quick on the bike. I’m happy to have arrived here and to be able to rest a bit and prepare for tomorrow’s stage.”
KTM rider Matthias Walkner was also a challenger throughout the special and rode very close to Price in the closing stages. Both riders made their Dakar debuts with KTM in 2015. Walkner was second on the stage and now lies third outright.
“At the beginning it wasn’t perfect. I was in the dust of two riders for 160km. Then I was able to pass them and I found a super rhythm. It was a very tough, long stage, particularly the last 50-80km, also because we were at a very high altitude. But in the end it was a super day for me.”
Husqvarna factory rider Pablo Quintanilla on Friday finished sixth in the stage six of the Dakar Rally after an exhausting 723km ride that included 542km of timed special. The Chilean rider is now fifth in the overall standings, seven minutes 52 seconds off the pace of stage winner Toby Price.
“It as a really tough stage, it was a really long day on the bike and it was very difficult to focus all the time because of the altitude. But it was important to finish the stage well, and now its time to focus on the last day before the rest day on Sunday. As we know the second week is going to be the toughest of the Dakar, so lets see how we do in the next stage.”
Unfortunately it was the end of the rally for Quintanilla’s factory teammate Ruben Faria of Portugal who crashed about half way through the timed special and had to retire. Faria sustained a fractured arm and some other minor injuries that were being treated in Uyuni. He is expected to be able to return to Europe on Sunday.
Joan Barreda came out gunning for victory in this, the longest special stage of the Dakar 2016 at 542 kilometres. After a gutsy start climbing the field, the Spaniard was suddenly forced to halt and lost time trying to sort out a technical issue.
Team-mate Paolo Ceci was soon on hand to help out and was towing his colleague back to base in an attempt to salvage something from the Dakar. What exactly caused the machine to stop is yet unclear.
Wolfgang Fischer – Team HRC Team Manager
“Of course today we had a big disappointment with the bike problem of Joan Barreda, with all his aspirations of winning the race gone today. But, of course, we will not give up fighting and doing everything to get a result. We are especially happy that Paulo could keep his leading position overall in this very difficult and demanding stage. Now, over the next few days we will have to stay focused to do everything in our power to give him the necessary support.”
American Dakar debutant Ricky Brabec turned in his best performance to date, finishing in seventh on the day and jumping to fourteenth in the general rankings.
“Today the stage was really, really fast, a lot faster than I like to go actually. It wasn’t only fast but it was super-dusty. Starting 24th, over the first 150-200 kilometres I was in the dust just hanging out. At the first refuelling I was closer to the people in front of me. I was playing it safe all day, riding consistently. I made a mistake in the dust on a stony corner. The front wheel just washed out on me and I laid the bike over. Other than that, the stage was good… good and dangerous! So, I’m happy to be here again and we can go again tomorrow.”
KTM factory team rider Jordi Viladoms was in tenth place.
“It was the longest stage but the kind I like. That’s why my results was better, because normally the Dakar is these kind of stages. My energy has been a bit down these last days but I think I went well until the second refuelling, and tenth position was better than before. I hope to recover the energy a bit and I think the second week will be much better for me.”
Antoine Meo was thirteenth and speaking after the stage Meo said he had made a mistake at the beginning of the day that had cost him about six minutes. He also discovered the dreaded fesh-fesh, the very soft dust that looks deceptively like solid ground.
“I didn’t know what it was before, but I do now,” he remarked with some irony. “After that mistake it was all good, but I was riding behind Matthias (Walkner) and the speed was a little too fast for me because it was tricky and dangerous, so I slowed down a bit. I’m happy with the stage.”
Argentinean Kevin Benavides continues to excel with Honda South America Rally Team, who in spite of not finishing as well in today’s special as he had done recently, still manages to rub shoulders with rally’s elites near the top of the overall standings. Benavides lies 21 minutes off the race leader Paulo Gonçalves.
“It was a difficult day for me today. 540 km of special stage is really long. It was going well and I felt comfortable but with 60 km left to go I started to have trouble with the instrument panel and had to stop to fix it. I lost a few minutes but the important thing is that we are still in the running.”
The end of the first week of racing is always a decisive intermediate objective. This year, anyone who has put in the ground work during their preparation and who has respected the major recommendations of the discipline will be able to reach it. However, they still need to get to the end of this exhausting day, which will involve getting their feet wet crossing rivers. It is likely that half of the vehicles will arrive in Salta after nightfall… but perhaps before their assistance teams, who also have a long road ahead of them.
Dakar 2016- Stage Six Results – Uyuni – Uyuni
- PRICE Toby 3 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM 5:51’48
- WALKNER Matthias 14 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +1’05
- GONCALVES Paulo 2 POR Team HRC Honda +1’12
- SVITKO Stefan 5 SLO Slovnaft Team KTM +4’44
- RODRIGUES Helder 7 POR Yamaha Motor Europe Yamaha +5’23
Dakar 2016 Provisional Outright Standings after Stage 6
- GONCALVES Paulo 2 POR Team HRC Honda 20:23’07
- PRICE Toby 3 AUS Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +00’35
- WALKNER Matthias 14 AUT Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +2’50
- SVITKO Stefan 5 SLO Slovnaft Team KTM +5’17
- QUINTANILLA Pablo 4 CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team Husqvarna +15’10
- RODRIGUES Helder 7 POR Yamaha Motor Europe Yamaha +20’12
- BENAVIDES Kevin 47 ARG Honda South America Rally Team Honda +21’04
- MEO Antoine 49 FRA Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team KTM +23’02
Tomorrow’s stage seven is another long day with a total of 793km and 353km under the clock. Riders leave Uyuni, where they have had a rapturous welcome from the Bolivian fans, and return to Argentina to finish at the city of Salta. They will face a number of river crossings made more difficult because of the amount of rain that has been falling recently. Sunday is the one rest day on this epic 9,000 km journey, a chance for teams to service machinery and for riders to draw a resume of their race performance so far.