Toby Price leads Dakar 2016 after taking victory on stage eight
The Dakar Rally course has now veered off towards Belén in the south east without losing sight of the Andes. The course towards the leadership has also taken a turn with respect to the opening week. The stage was split into two parts with a neutralization zone for the passage from Salta to Catamarca. The backdrop has changed as the race moves on to far tougher navigation compared to the previous week’s racing. The eighth stage took in some 766 kilometres, including a 393km timed section.
Toby Price’s fourth stage win came immediately after the one rest day in Salta, but there are still many kilometres left to ride and race officials have promised difficult conditions and challenging navigation, particularly in the second half of the rally.
Price finished the stage in four hours 33 minutes and 14 seconds, giving him a five-minute 17-seconds lead over Goncalves. The stage went from Salta to Belén and gave riders the opportunity to test their skills in the sand dunes. Pablo Quintanilla was third, some six minutes 32 behind Price.
“It was never perfect. We still made a couple of little errors in there. I think we got a little bit lucky on a couple of caps. When we got to the end the way point opened for me and I was all good to go. If I’d had to lead out a stage like that I think it would’ve been pretty good. It’s been a good day.
“We’re in first at the moment. There are still a few guys coming through, so anything can happen between now and then. We really got a good day in and I’m stoked to be here for day… I think it’s day eight now.
“With Paulo, me and him are battling. It’s pretty much day for day. We take time off each other and I think it’s going to come down to minutes and seconds by the end of the week. He’s a real strong competitor and he’s got a lot more navigation skills than what I do, but we’re trying our best and keeping ourselves in front as much as we can.
“It is a little bit stressful, but once you throw your leg over the bike and you get going, we just have to make sure we make all the right calls and be confident with what we decide to do. We did that today and we’ve come out pretty good. If it all goes to plan I’d say we might be leading out tomorrow and we’ll just make sure we get through and in one piece.
“For sure this is another important part of the Dakar now. Having the marathon stage, we’ve got to make sure on the first day that we don’t do anything silly and break the bike or damage the bike in any way because it makes the second day a whole lot worse. We’ve just got to make sure we get through and look after ourselves those two days”.
The Australian cautiously confirmed that he was getting more comfortable and more confident with the navigation but underlined that there was still a long way to go to the finish at Rosario.
Paulo Gonçalves concluded the special stage as runner-up 5’17” adrift of stage winner Toby Price. Team HRC’s Portuguese title contender was unable to avoid a high speed crash in a very pot-holed stretch that left the instrument panel of the Honda CRF450 RALLY damaged. Gonçalves after the accident, on a damage-limitation exercise, battled on at a slightly slower speed and managed not to concede much time to his main rival.
“In the middle of the stage on the off-piste area with a lot of bumps I had a crash. I was lucky not to have any injuries. The bike only broke a little on the tower. At the end I needed to ride more slowly to fix the tower back on with my hand and avoid breaking the cables whilst trying to finish as best as possible. In the end, I’m happy because at the end it was a normal day because I caught the riders who started in front of me.
“The guys, especially the fast riders, started behind me so they caught up with me, but it’s like this. I’m happy and tomorrow I really hope to have a good day. For the moment the damage is not really bad because I finished, but it could have been serious if the tower had broken completely. Maybe the bike would have stopped. But luckily it’s a strong bike and I finished well. The marathon stage is only tomorrow, so I’m a lucky guy”.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna factory rider Pablo Quintanilla of Chile on Monday continued to deliver impressive results in the eighth stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally.
Quintanilla finished the stage in third place only 6-minutes 32-seconds behind leader Toby Price. The stage took riders from Salta to Belén and confronted them with some of the most difficult navigational challenge so far in this year’s rally. The Husqvarna rider is currently also in fourth in the overall standings.
“This was the first day in the desert and with navigation. It was a difficult stage, but also a positive one. I felt good during the day so I think we made a good step. I finished third and that was the intention at the start of the day, so I think it was a really good day.”
Holding at fourth place in the stage and now third in the overall standings is Slovak KTM rider Stefan Svitko, who is contesting his seventh Dakar and is aiming to improve on his overall fifth place last year.
Honda South America’s Kevin Benavides, set off at a gallop from second place this morning in his home town and even managed to lead the race for a while. However, the navigation almost proved his undoing, slowing him down to a final fifth place on the day. Likewise, the Argentinean rider lies in fifth place in the overall standings.
“The stage was split into 2 parts: first the region of Salta, then the region of Belen. On the first part, there were lanes and earthen tracks. Afterwards we had sand and rocks with lots of navigation and it was much more difficult. With Antoine Méo we rode well and were able to find the right tracks and correct direction.
“The biggest difficulty was the heat and soft sand. Otherwise, the rest day went well. I was in my home region, near to my family and people that I know. I slept in my own bed. Recovering strength like that will be useful for the rest of the rally. I’m attacking every day. To attack better, it will be better to start a little bit further back”.
Yamaha’s Helder Rodrigues finishes the stage sixth overall and lies seventh in the outright rankings, 30-mins 55-secs behind race leader Toby Price.
It was another good day for Antoine Meo of France, the winner of stage seven and the team rookie. Meo rose to the challenge of a difficult stage and finished eighth just under eleven minutes behind the leading time. He is now sixth overall. Meo said he had been quite nervous to have the responsibility of opening the stage for the first time.
“I’m very, very happy. I opened the stage from the start to the finish. On the first part I rode pretty well. I was just twenty seconds behind Benavides, so it was not bad. On the second part I preferred to slow down a little bit to make sure I did some good navigation. I think it was a good option, because I didn’t make a mistake for my first time opening. Just in the last part Paulo and Benavides passed me, but he made a mistake and I passed him again, so I’m very happy”.
Fellow KTM factory teammates and Spaniards Jordi Viladoms and Laia Sanz finished the stage in 17th and 18th place. Viladoms who fought off a fever last week said it had been a good day and a nice stage.
“At the beginning I was trying to push but it is not possible to recover energy in just one day. I’m getting better but I need more time, and at the end I slowed down. There was soft sand and camel grass so it was difficult to ride.”
Sanz also said she was not in the best form on Monday. Sanz is now overall 14th and Viladoms is 15th
“It was not my best. When you don’t feel so good its better not to push because you can make mistakes and crash. But I’m happy I’m here, I didn’t miss any waypoints and I didn’t make mistakes. I slowed down, especially in the last part but the navigation was not so difficult and I hope tomorrow is going to be better.”
Tuesday is the shortest stage of the rally, with 436km of total distance and 285km of timed special. But it is also the first day of the second marathon stage, where they must preserve energy, machinery and tyres to last overnight and through to the end of Wednesday’s stage and riders will have no contact with their teams overnight. More challenging navigation and terrain are definitely on the program.