Joan Barreda wins Stage 3 of the Dakar Rally and takes over the lead; Benavides and Gonzales give Honda a stage sweep.
After yesterday’s lackluster run in Stage 2 of the 2016 Dakar Rally, race insiders could sense that Team HRC’s Joan Barreda was poised to do something spectacular in Stage 3 and either bring himself back to the front of the rally or compound his woes by charging too hard too soon.
Today, Barreda charged alright, right to the top of the rally standings with a brilliant win in the stage from Termas Rio Hondo to Jujuy in Argentina. The mountainous, which was cut down to just 200 kilometers from its originally scheduled 664 kilometers, was billed as one for opportunists, those who could use their speed to make up significant chunks of time as necessary. In other words, it was practically tailor made for Barreda, and he took full advantage of it to erase the 3 minutes and 4 seconds of deficit to early rally leader Toby Price and move into the rally lead by 14 seconds. Barreda completed the timed special in 2 hours, 30 minutes and 37 seconds. (Barreda was later penalized and had the stage win taken from him. For an update on today’s Stage 3 results, CLICK HERE)
“Today was a good day after yesterday when opening the track was more difficult,” Barreda said. “Today I started in seventh position, so it was better–it was a good day. I just kept pushing and kept focused. It was an easy day without navigation. All the tracks were close. So it’s good, the important thing is to be there, always fighting with the first group and waiting for the most difficult stages.”
Not only was it a good day for Barreda, it was a great day for Honda CR450F Rally machines, which swept the top three spots in the stage. Honda South America’s Kevin Benavides finished a career-best second in a Dakar Rally stage while veteran Team HRC pilot Paulo Goncalves finished third.
“Today was a really good stage for me,” Benavides said. “I feel good with the bike and also with the navigation. As for the rain, I liked it. There were more rocks and mountains, and I am very happy with this. I’ll continue to keep going at it day by day.”
On the flip side, Red Bull KTM’s Toby Price opened the track today, and he could not match the pace of the top three riders. The Barreda, Benavides and Goncalves freight train passed him before the first checkpoint, and Price chose to ride conservatively after that, finishing 37th in the stage and falling to 10th overall in the rally after dropping 5 minutes and 3 seconds off the lead. Even so, the Australian knows the rally is far from over for him as bigger challenges lie ahead, and he already proved last year that he is a good navigator.
“For sure, today was a good way to open the track, but you had to be really careful,” Price said. “There were a lot of animals and a lot of people on the track today. I had a few close calls with some people. It was safer to back it down a little today and put ourselves in a good position for tomorrow, and we’ll go from there. We’re only at day three now so there’s still a long way to go. Anything can happen. We’ve just got to keep ourselves situated in a good position, as close to the front as possible. Five or six minutes behind on day three is virtually nothing. We’ve just got to stay there during the first week and then we’ll start pushing hard during the second week. I’m not disappointed at all. We’re in a good position, and I’m happy. We’ve done what we could and that’s where we want to be. We’re trying to make a smart race of it so we’ll see.”
Price wasn’t the only one to fall back in the standings. After a brilliant second-place finish yesterday, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Ruben Faria finished 26th in the stage today and dropped to eighth place in the overall standings, almost 4 minutes off the lead.
Reigning FIM Enduro World Champion Antoine Meo had a solid day on his Red Bull KTM, finishing fourth today, the best finish yet in his Dakar Rally debut, and he moved up to 13th place in the general standings.
Behind Barreda, Stefan Svitko (KTM), who finished fifth in today’s special, is second overall and 14 seconds behind Barreda, though Svitko also incurred a 1-minute penalty. Benavides is now third overall, 48 seconds behind Barreda.
2016 Dakar Rally
Termas de Rio Hondo-Jujuy, Argentina
Results: January 5, 2016
1. Joan Barreda (ESP)-Hon/2 hours, 30 minutes, 37 seconds
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG)-Hon/+00:00:26
3. Paulo Goncalves (PRT)-Hon/00:00:52
4. Antoine Meo (FRA)-KTM/+00:00:53
5. Stefan Svitko (SVK)-KTM/+00:00:57
6. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL)-Hus/+00:01:18
7. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA)-Yam/+00:02:02
8. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP)-KTM/+00:02:12
9. Alain Duclos (FRA)-She/+00:02:21
10. Mattias Walkner (AUT)-KTM/+00:02:52
2016 Dakar Rally Overall Standings (after 3 of 13 stages)
1. Joan Barreda (ESP)-Hon/6 hours, 26 minutes, 50 seconds
2. Stefan Svitko (SVK)-KTM/+00:00:14
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG)-Hon/+00:00:48
4. Paulo Goncalves (PRT)-Hon/00:01:08
5. Alain Duclos (FRA)-She/+00:01:10
6. Matthias Walkner (AUT)-KTM/+00:01:47
7. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL)-Hus/+00:02:38
8. Ruben Faria (PRT)-Hus/+00:03:57
9. Juan Pedrero Garca (ESP)-She/+00:04:33
10. Toby Price (AUS)-KTM/+00:05:03