The Spanish HRC Honda rider appears to be the lone holdout for a Big Red victory in the 2014 Dakar Rally after just three stages, but a pair of former champions is now hot on his heels.
HRC Honda’s Joan Barreda rebounded from yesterday’s third-place finish to win his second special test of the 2014 Dakar Rally during a mountainous Stage 3, which ran from San Rafael to San Juan in Argentina today.
Barreda set a new record in the process, becoming the first Dakar rider ever to reach an altitude of over 14,100 feet above sea level during a special test, as today’s route ran through the majestic Andes Mountain range. The special test distance had to be cut from 373 kilometers to 243 kilometers to keep the competitors away from an area of unstable terrain on the first part of the route.
Barreda completed the special test in 3 hours, 47 minutes and 3 seconds to remain atop the overall leaderboard, but two former Dakar Rally champions enjoyed extremely successful days as well, recovering from slow starts over the first two stages to roar back into contention for the overall win. Reigning Dakar motorcycle champ Cyril Despres stormed brought his factory Yamaha into the bivouac with time of 3:41:44, while KTM factory rider Marc Coma finished right behind him with a time of 3:53:59. Another noteworthy performance was turned in by France’s Alain Duclos, who finished with a time 3:57:54. The Sherco rider has very nearly matched Barreda’s consistency through the first three stages.
With today’s win, Barreda extended his overall lead to 13 minutes and 4 seconds over Despres, whose Stage 3 performance vaulted him from eighth to second in the overall standings. Likewise, Coma has jumped up to third place and lies just 52 seconds behind Despres.
But the Stage has been disastrous for other motorcycle contenders. Stage 2 winner Sam Sunderland and Juan Pedrero fell woefully off the pace today, effectively ruining their chances for a podium finish, while David Casteu and Olivier Pain have a lot of ground to make up if they hope to make the podium. HRc Honda’s Helder Rodrigues has also fallen well off the lead pace, as he is more than an hour behind teammate Barreda with just three of the rally’s 13 stages in the books. Today’s stage also spelled the end of the line for some of the motorcycle class’ top contenders. KTM’s Ruben Faria crashed heavily during the stage and has withdrawn from the event, as has Yamaha rider Frans Verhoeven, who suffered an injured shoulder.
Stage 4 tomorrow will depart from San Juan and end in Chilecito. The motorcyclists will navigate a 210 kilometers in transfer sections along with a 353-kilometer special test. The stage is expected to reward riders with exceptional navigation skills as well as those who know how to preserve their equipment. The terrain will include river crossings and speed canyon descents as well as wide open area where speed is king. Thus, it will not be surprising if Despres and Coma move up to the top of the standings, although Barreda is proving to be a worthy challenger.
San Rafael-San Juan, Argentina
Results: January 7, 2014
1. Joan Barreda-Hon/03:47:03
2. Cyril Despres-Yam/+00:04:41
3. Marc Coma-KTM/+00:06:56
4. Alain Duclos-She/+00:10:51
5. David Casteu-KTM/+00:11:17
6. Francisco Lopez-KTM/+00:16:36
7. Gerrard Farres-Gas/+00:16:50
8. Stefan Svitko-KTM/+00:19:06
9. Kuba Pryzgonski-KTM/+00:20:12
10. Olivier Paiin-Yam/+00:20:34
Dakar Rally Standings (After Stage 3 of 13)
1. Joan Barreda-Hon/09:56:44
2. Cyril Despres-Yam/+00/13:04
3. Marc Coma-KTM/+00:13:56
4. Alain Duclos-She/+00:16:38
5. Francisco Lopez-KTM/+00:18:39
6. David Casteu-KTM/+00:22:16
7. Jordi Villadoms-KTM/+00:08:10
8. Olivier Pain-Yam/+00:36:33
9. Kuba Pryzgonski-KTM/+00:10:05
10. Jeremias Israel-Spe/+00:10:59