Dakar 2016 – Stage Nine Report
By Trevor Hedge
Dakar Stage Nine saw yet another victory for Toby Price. If not for organisers calling a premature halt to proceedings, due to a number of not well enough conditioned competitors suffering the effects of heat exhaustion, Price’s overall lead would have blown out to well over half-an-hour after the second timed special section.
Price’s competitors were somewhat saved by the intervention of race control when they cancelled the event’s times from checkpoint two onwards, cutting Price’s overall advantage.
Stage nine marked Price’s fifth stage victory in Dakar 2016, the most stage victories of any Australian across Dakar history.
“I haven’t heard too much on the navigation and it all as yet on the stage. We’ve got through pretty good. We made a couple of little mistakes around the 100-km mark. We got a little bit lost but luckily we found the way point and got ourselves back on track and going again. Other than that, we’ve had a fairly decent day, a fairly solid day. It was just good that we didn’t get lost. It was definitely tricky navigation today.
“I still feel solid, I still feel really good. It’s definitely hot right now at the moment, but we’ll suit up again, get going, get some air flowing and it shouldn’t be too bad. It’s been a good day, I can’t complain.
“I get to the finishing line and then they cancel the rest of it… That’s a bit of a shame, but that’s the way it is. We’ll just have to wait and see and see what call they come up with. It’s a bit of a bummer for me… I have to get to the finishing line and I’ve done that, but they’ve called it. I guess that’s just the way it is. It’s job done today, but everyone’s got lucky since we’ve stopped at CP1 and CP2. We’ll see if it will be all good.
“The bike seems really good, really strong and still going really well. The mechanics have done a really good job over the lead-up to the race and during the event. I think we’re cruising along alright, so we can’t complain. For the lead over Paulo, maybe; maybe not… we’ll just have to wait and see for the decision”.
Price’s main rival throughout Dakar 2016 thus far has been Portuguese Honda rider Paulo Goncalves. A mistake on stage nine, that catapulted Goncalves over the bars, had seen the 36-year-old recover well but lost ground to Price. On Tuesday’s stage ten Goncalves CRF450 Rally suffered a punctured radiator, just what you need when temperatures in the dunes were registering 45-degree celsius. A branch had managed to puncture his radiator and only a few kilometres later, predictably, the CRF went silent and ground to a halt. Team-mate Paolo Ceci then towed Goncalves to checkpoint two.
Goncalves stopped at checkpoint two to try and affect some running repairs and when the day’s proceedings were then cancelled, the Honda man has been thrown a significant lifeline. But with this a marathon stage, riders are not permitted to receive any outside mechanical assistance, only that of his teammates. Thus, it is questionable if Goncalves will be able to proceed when stage ten gets underway on Wednesday morning. Currently the timesheets have Goncalves credited with 13th for the stage, and placing third outright.
Wolfgang Fischer – Team HRC Team Manager
“Today we have experienced one of the most incredibly hard days in the Dakar, maybe the hardest in the history of the Dakar until now, with a situation of extreme temperatures that have affected the normal development of the stage.
“Paulo, fortunately, continues to be in the race in spite of a serious setback before the refuelling. A log pierced the radiator and the coolant leaked out. With the heat that there was, he arrived extremely overheated at refuelling and wouldn’t have been able to carry on if it hadn’t been for the race authorities’ decision to stop the stage at CP2, which means Paulo keeps his possibilities of continuing open. He was helped by his team-mate Paolo Ceci to make it back to the bivouac and there they will attempt to repair the bike so that he can start tomorrow and continue his adventure in this Dakar.
“Tomorrow there will be a new starting system although the organisation hasn’t yet given us the information about what the order will be, but we believe that there will be various cars out ahead of the bikes. It will be especially tough for those who start out from behind.”
Official stage and overall times did not register Goncalves on the leaderboard at all for many hours after the completion of proceedings. Which certainly added to the confusion, but eventually the Portuguese rider was credited with the time he arrived at the second checkpoint, 31-minutes behind Price.
However, we understand that discussions are taking place as to exactly what point the clock should be officially register as being stopped, thus at this point the stage results, and overall standings, are still somewhat up in the air. The confusion stemming from the fact that when the race was stopped, leading competitors, such as Price had already completed the entire regulation distance.
The highlight for Honda today on amended time was Ricky Brabec, the American credited with second place for the day, moving him up into ninth outright.
Slovenian Stefan Svitko continues to impress, the KTM supported rider fourth on Tuesday and now up to second place outright.
While Benavides has been provisionally credited with second on stage, seven-minutes behind Price, the Honda man seemed to lose out when times were taken back to CP2, going from second on stage back to tenth on stage, and slipping back to sixth overall.
Yamaha’s Helder Rodrigues was eighth on stage and holds down seventh overall. The top finishing Yamaha man today however was Frenchman, Adrien Van Beveren, who with that impressive performance moved into tenth outright.
“I crashed at the beginning and broke my handlebars, but I pushed the same and tried to make it a good day. I think it was a difficult day for everybody. For me it was very difficult with a bike like this trying to push… It was a very hard day. But I finished today and I’m happy to finish one day more on the Dakar.
“I saw that Paulo had some problems, but I don’t know what. I tried to push and tried to get a good result at the finish, but sometimes you crash or make a mistake and it is not possible, but I’m happy: I hung in there and finished the day. The riding today was difficult but today and tonight I’ll fix the damage, no problem – it’s easy to fix”
Antoine Meo was third for the day and holds down fifth place overall.
“It was a hard day. For me it was quite good at the beginning. I made a mistake in the first bit of navigation. I got a piece of tree in the wheel, so I crashed and fell off. I was passing Farrès, but that set me back again. In the second part, I did very well on the navigation, so I was very happy. I passed Farrès and Helder. I was just behind Benavides, so it was quite good.
“But it’s like this, they stopped the stage early because it was very hot. I’m still in one piece and the bike is okay, so I’m hoping for better tomorrow… I think in the Dakar you also need to be lucky. For Paolo Gonçalves , I don’t think he was lucky. He got a piece of tree in the radiator and lost the water, something that never usually happens. I think you need to have a bit of luck. At the moment, I’m lucky. The bike is working well and still in one piece so that’s important”.
Husqvarna rider Pablo Quintanilla delivered another strong performance in stage nine of the 2016 Dakar Rally to finish fourth but then was demoted to seventh when times were taken back to checkpoint two. The Chilean would have been third outright on his original time but on the amended times is registering as fourth outright, one position behind Honda’s Paulo Goncalves who despite his broken radiator does have to thank his lucky stars that officials called an early end to proceedings.
“For sure, today was a really hard stage. From the beginning there was a lot of navigation a lot of off-piste with dunes and vegetation. For sure, the heat was important today, so I think the race has been stopped at CP2 because the heat was too much. Let’s see how I finish today. I saw Paulo at CP1 and I think he had a problem with his bike. I think he crashed and broke something off the bike. The Dakar is like this, you know.
“You have to take care always until the last kilometre. I was trying to ride regularly, trying to push with confidence and not take many risks. It’s important to take care of the bike and take care of the body by avoiding crashes. We still have some stages in front of us and we have to try and be regular. I feel really good, I have confidence and I’m really happy with the bike and with the team. The team did an awesome job, so I’m really happy”.
The ninth stage, the shortest in this year’s rally, was not only tough off-piste riding with plenty of rocks and low scrub, but riders also had to contend with extreme heat and difficult navigation. It was a significant contrast to the fast but relatively straightforward stages in the first week of competition, but organisers had promised that conditions would get harder as the race progressed.
On Wednesday riders must tackle the notorious Fiambalá dunes in a stage that could be decisive in this year’s edition. What awaits them is a total distance of 561km from the overnight bivouac near Belén to La Rioja, including a timed special of 278km. On Wednesday evening they will again have the support of their teams.
Dakar 2016 – Stage Nine – Provisional Stage Results
Dakar 2016 – Stage Nine – Provisional Outright Overall Standings on completion of stage nine
Tomorrow’s Stage – Dakar 2016 January 13 – Stage 10: Belén – La Rioja
Special sections: 278km – Total: 561km
The Fiambalá dunes have become one of the decisive stages of the Dakar. This year, they feature at the heart of the most critical rally sequence, when drivers and their vehicles will have to demonstrate their aptitude for extreme endurance. Moreover, the day’s stage presents the longest dune section in the shared history of the Dakar and Fiambalá, off-piste for most of the time. In short, an open door for desert specialists.