Toby Price wins Stage 2 and takes the overall lead as Rodney Faggotter finishes 10th and moves into 13th overall
Speed, hazards on the track and high temperatures were just some of the factors at play on a high-speed day two at the Dakar in the Chaco region. The heat continues to be the leading protagonist in the early part of the rally which is proving to be as punishing to man as it is to machine.
As riders crossed the line their tyres were showing clear symptoms of the extreme conditions that they are being subjected to.
Toby Price started the second stage in 17th place after a cautious start at the Monday short timed special of only 39km. He took the lead by the first checkpoint on his KTM 450 Rally and then stayed in control through to the finish.
“Today was a whole different day. There was a lot of speed; a lot of fast roads and it was really dusty. We also had to deal with a lot of animals. It wasn’t a tricky day in navigation but you can’t put a cow in the road book and it becomes difficult when they are popping out at you. But it’s good to get to the finish with this heat.”
Matthias Walkner settled into second place behind his teammate early in the stage and rode out the race in that position, but got penalised afterwards with a five minute penalty and is now 7.39 minutes behind Price in overall eleventh, clearly gaining in confidence.
“Today it was almost straight with about 20 corners but it was pretty dangerous at the beginning because of the vegetation and there were many animals and a lot of waterholes. But in the end I didn’t think it was such a bad day.”
Joan Barreda, one of the fastest throughout the day, had a near-miss with a cow, the Spaniard choosing to play it safe for the latter part of the special, dropping time to the eventual stage winner.
His Monster Energy Honda Team buddy Paulo Gonçalves, was also riding like a bat out of hell, taking second spot on the day and second overall as the Dakar 2017 leader board begins to take shape.
“We had a really quick part against the clock, filled with a lot of dangers such as animals crossing the track. I’m pleased for the Monster Energy Honda Team: all the riders have arrived safe and in one piece, without having taken any risks; that is the important thing as the race has barely started.”
Enjoying another great day of racing aboard his rally-modified WR450F machine, Xavier de Soultrait raced a well-calculated special to post the third fastest overall time.
Confirming his status as a favourite for top honours at this year’s Dakar, the Frenchman is currently placed fourth in the overall standings, less than four minutes behind provisional leader Toby Price.
Xavier de Soultrait
“Things are going great for me so far. Today we got a proper taste of the Dakar with a hard and hot special stage. There were lots of animals in the special and it was just so easy to get distracted. I pushed hard from the start but quickly realised I was maybe taking one too many risks. At one point I reached Ivan Cervantes and followed him for a little while. I think I lost something like a minute there but it helped me recalculate my priorities for the rest of the stage. I’m excited with my third place finish on today’s stage. I’m now fourth overall so I have to remain 100% focused on each day and each stage from now on.”
It was also a solid day for the third member of the Red Bull KTM factory trio. British rider Sam Sunderland wrapped up his stage in fourth to trail the leader by just 4.19 minutes. Sunderland said he had expected a stage that was a bit more straightforward so he was a bit surprised.
“There were a lot of dangerous areas and a lot of mud holes from the rain and there were also animals on the track. That plays with your confidence and I had a few close calls. But it’s okay. I’m happy I’m here and the bike is good and I am top five again. I want to keep on like this the first week and try to stay consistent. I think that’s the key.”
Chilean rider, Pablo Quintanilla rides this year with the hopes of the South American rally fans and is aiming to improve on his podium third place from the 2016 edition.
Quintanilla also has something of a ‘home’ advantage in an edition of the rally that sees riders competing at altitudes above 3500 meters throughout the first week, and in extremes of temperatures.
“We started at 4.30 in the morning with 420 km of liaison, and that was difficult. But then we started the special and it was really fast for 150 km, with some dangerous parts with water. I started very well and then I caught up to another rider at 60 km. Then I had to ride in the dust until I got past him at the 130 km mark. After that I rode alone and I felt really good with the bike and with the road book, and I think it was a good day. Now we are in the race rhythm so its good for tomorrow and the days after.”
American Ricky Brabec was in the fray too, keeping the pace with his teammates, to post seventh at the flag and sixth in the general standings.
“I think that today was maybe the fastest day of the Dakar. We really couldn’t go much faster than we went today. It’s crazy, it’s so hot outside and we are trying to save our machines but we are also trying to push them. You don’t want to blow your wheels up and get stuck out there with the cows. I was trying to hit all the mud holes to get cooler water onto the wheels. I got to the finish line safe, rode well and hit all the notes. So, I’m already to go again tomorrow. Tomorrow is 364 kilometres so it would be nice to just hang out and not navigate as much.”
Despite suffering a crash after the start of today’s stage Australia’s Rodney Faggotter quickly got back up to speed and managed to bring his WR450F Rally home in an impressive 10th place.
Feeling at home in the warm and dusty conditions in the Argentinean plains, the Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team rider is currently holding on to a solid 13th place in the overall standings.
“It’s been an up and down day for me so to get a spot inside the top 10 feels like a great achievement. I suffered a high-speed crash early in the morning, but managed to recover quickly and kept pushing. Soon after my fall I started getting a good feeling on my WR450F Rally. Conditions reminded me a lot of what I’m used to back home in Australia and that was surely an advantage today. It was dusty, warm and fast in some sections, so I kept plugging away and got to the end of the special feeling great. We’re now less than ten minutes behind the provisional leader so we know anything can happen in the next few stages. I’ll keep doing my best for myself and for the team.”
Fellow Australians, Husqvarna mounted Matthew Hart (All Hart Racing) placed 36th, while Todd Smith (KTM) was 25th. After Stage 2 Smith is 25th overall, while Hart is 59th overall.
The stage took riders from the Resistencia to San Miguel de Tucuman over 803 km, of which 275 km was the timed special for the day. They are currently traveling west in Argentina and the stage took them almost to the north-south spine of the Andes.
On Wednesday they turn north and follow the line of the mountains to San Salvador de Jujuy for another 780 km, including a 364 km timed special that organizers have promised will include difficult navigation.
Much of the first week of the rally is at altitudes above 3500 meters, adding another layer of complexity to this brutal competition. Riders also have to content with extreme variations of temperatures and Tuesday saw temperatures in the high 30s Celsius and 45% humidity as they passed through the difficult Chaco region.
Results Stage 2 Dakar 2017
Resistencia – San Miguel de Tucumán: 275 km timed, 803 km total
PRICE, Toby – AUS – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team – KTM – 2:37’32”
GONCALVES, Paulo – POR – Monster Energy Honda Team – Honda – +3’51
DE SOULTRAIT, Xavier – FRA – Viltais Racing Team HFP – Yamaha – +4’06
SUNDERLAND, Sam – GBR – Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team – KTM – +4’19
QUINTANILLA, Pablo – CHI – Husqvarna Factory Rally Team – Husqvarna – +4’48
SVITKO, Stefan – SLO – Slovnaft Team – KTM – +4’54
BRABEC, Ricky – USA – Monster Energy Honda Team – Honda – +5’40
BARREDA, Joan – SPA – Monster Energy Honda Team – Honda – +6’25
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