Toby Price claims his third stage win while Joan Barreda sees his hopes for an elusive Dakar Rally take a serious turn for the worse.
Red Bull KTM’s Toby Price has clawed back to within 35 second of overall 2016 Dakar Rally leader Paulo Goncalves by winning Stage 6 in Bolivia today while Joan Barreda suffered yet another disaster that effectively ended his hopes for an overall win.
Price rolled to his third stage win after falling as much as 2 minutes behind Goncalves in the massive 542-kilometer stage, which included a run across the Salar de Uyuni—the largest salt flats in the world and a real bike-eater when wet. The entire stage takes place at a high altitude, between 3500 and 4600 meters (as high as 15,000 feet above sea level), and the terrain that includes sand and rock sections. The Australian was able to finish the stage with a time of 5 hours, 51 minutes and 48 seconds, besting teammate and reigning FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion Matthias Walkner of Austria by 1 minute and 7 seconds and third-placed Goncalves by 1 minute and 12 seconds.
“I’m actually pretty happy,” Price said. “I led for the whole course today and made the tracks. It’s the first time I’ve done that, which I’m pretty stoked about. It didn’t start off in the best way. Around 22 kilometers there were a couple of cows stuck in the sand. I went to go around one of them, but it pulled in front of me and I hit it. So it wasn’t the best start to the race. We just regrouped and made sure to be back on top of the road-book.”
Price alluded to a couple areas where the navigation was tricky, but he said that made sure to take his time so that remained on course.
“We didn’t make any mistakes today so we’re really happy with that, and I think it puts us in a good spot now. So hopefully tomorrow we can do the same thing. For leading out the trail and leading out the tracks, I’m stoked at the pace I was going. It’s going to be a close fight all the way to the finishing line, I think. It’s a long way away yet, but we’re pushing hard and I’m pushing along nicely and feeling comfortable, so we’ll see how we do. Once we get to the end of this first week and the second week kicks in a little bit, that’s when these little things go wrong, plus the bikes have been through a lot already in the first week…As long as we minimize the mistakes, we should be pretty good.”
In a day that saw a high attrition rate, Spain’s Joan Barreda saw his hopes for his first career Dakar Rally take a turn for the worse. In a scene eerily similar to last year’s rally, Barreda’s Team HRC Honda CRF450 Rally ground to halt and teammate Paolo Ceci of Italy ended up towing Barreda toward the finish line. As a result, Barreda is now effectively out of the hunt for the rally win, having lost nearly 5 hours on course.
Walkner has not been the most assertive rider in the rally, and yet he has consistently moved forward in the standings over the past couple stages, and now finds himself third overall, just 2 minutes and 15 seconds behind Price.
“I was not perfect, but at the beginning, Meo and Svitko got lost, and arrived in front of me taking the right way,” Walkner said. “So I was in their dust until what seemed to be like 160 kilometers. That was not perfect, but after he made a small mistake and I was in front. Then it was really cool, and I found a good rhythm. Until the end the last 50 to 80 kilometres was pretty rough, because it was a really long day. Also, you feel the altitude a lot. In the end, it was a really good day for me and it doesn’t matter if I’m second or fifth.”
However, there is still hope for Team HRC as Goncalves still holds the overall rally lead, although it has now been cut to just 35 seconds by Price.
“Today really was a very long day,” Goncalves said, “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.”
And Honda’s hopes aren’t restricted to Goncalves, although Argentinian rider Kevin Benavides lost a lot over 15 minutes today, finishing 16th and dropping to seventh overall in the standings, now some 21 minutes off the pace. However, Team HRC’s Ricky Brabec had an excellent day, the American coming home eighth, just 8 minutes and 16 seconds off Price’s fast time. Brabec has now climbed to 14th overall in the rally, 33 minutes and 46 seconds behind Goncalves but within striking distance of teammate Michael Metge, who is currently 12th overall.
“Today the stage was really, really fast, a lot faster than I like to go actually,” Brabec said. “It wasn’t only fast, but it was super-dusty. Starting 24th, over the first 150 to 200 kilometers I was in the dust just, hanging out. At the first refueling 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.”
2016 Dakar Rally
Stage 6 of 13
Results: January 8, 2016
1. Toby Price (AUS)-KTM/5 hours, 51 minutes, 48 seconds
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT)-KTM/+00:01:05
3. Paulo Goncalves (PRT)-Hon/+00:01:12
4. Stefan Svitko (SVK)-KTM/+00:04:44
5. Helder Rodrigues (PRT)-Yam/+00:05:23
6. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL)-Hus/+00:07:52
7. Txomin Arana (ESP)-Hus/+00:07:59
8. Ricky Brabec (USA)-Hon/+00:08:16
9. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA)-Yam/00:08:47
10. Alessandro Botturi (ITA)-Yam/+00:09:19
2016 Dakar Rally Overall Standings (after 6 of 13 stages)
1. Paulo Goncalves (PRT)-Hon/20 hours, 23 minutes, 07 seconds
2. Toby Price (AUS)-KTM/+00:00:35
3. Mattias Walkner (AUT)-KTM/+00:02:50
4. Stefan Svitko (SVK)-KTM/+00:05:17 (1-minute penalty)
5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI)-Hus/+00:15:10 (1-minute penalty)
6. Helder Rodrigues (PRT)-Yam/+00:20:12
7. Kevin Benavides (ARG)-Hon/+00:21:04
8. Antoine Meo (FRA)-KTM/+00:23:02
9. Alain Duclos (FRA)-She/+00:26:09
10. Joan Pedrero (ESP)-She/+00:27:17