Red Bull KTM’s Antoine Meo wins the day, and Paulo Goncalves still leads the Dakar Rally overall, but it’s the end of the line for Walkner and Barreda.
Five-time FIM World Enduro Champion Antoine Meo carded his first career stage win in what turned out to be an abbreviated Stage 7 in the 2016 Dakar Rally today, but Red Bull KTM paid a heavy price during the day with the withdrawal of Matthias Walkner.
Walkner, a former MX3 Champion crashed heavily in the stage from Uyuni, Bolivia, to Salta, Argentina, and had to be airlifted from the scene. Team HRC’s Paulo Goncalves stopped to render aid to the fallen KTM man, and was later awarded 10 minutes and 57 seconds off of his time by race organizers for doing so. That dispensation allowed Goncalves to maintain the overall rally lead heading into tomorrow’s scheduled day off before the event resumes for the second half on Monday.
Meo completed the stage, in which the 230-kilometer timed special was to be divided into two parts, with a time of 2 hours, 27 minutes and 27 seconds, followed by rejuvenated Honda South America rider Kevin Benavides, who finished with a time of 2 hours, 29 minutes and 20 seconds. Goncalves was credited with third place, with a time of 2 hours, 29 minutes and 23 seconds.
Goncalves is now 3 minutes and 12 seconds ahead of Red Bull KTM’s Toby Price, who finished fifth today., behind Team HRC’s Michael Metge of France.
“At the start of the special, I stopped to help Matthias Walkner, who had taken a tumble, and I stayed with him until Pablo Quintanilla got there,” Goncalves said. “The first part of the stage featured some navigation, but then the profile was a bit like two days ago, with lots of rios [rivers]. In the second special, after the neutralized sector, it was raining cats and dogs. I was almost scared, it was almost snow. The weather cleared up a bit towards the end. I’m rather pleased with today’s stage, and even this week. If I can repeat this in the second week, I’ll certainly be very pleased, but I think the stages will be very different, so we’ll see.”
Today spelled the end of the rally for Goncalves’ Team HRC teammate Joan Barreda. Nearly 5 hours out of the lead after suffering mechanical ills during Stage 6 yesterday, Barreda opted not to start Stage 7. He joins injured factory riders Walkner and Ruben Faria (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna), the latter suffering a broken arm during a crash yesterday.
American rider Ricky Brabec had another good day, finishing 10th in Stage 7. The Dakar rookie is now 12th overall.
2016 Dakar Rally
Uyuni, Bolivia-Salta, Argentina
Results: January 9, 2016 (Stage 7 of 13)
1. Antoine Meo (FRA)-KTM/2 hours, 27 minutes, 27 seconds
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG)-Hon/+00:01:53
3. Paulo Goncalves (PRT)-Hon/+00:01:56
4. Michael Metge (FRA)-Hon/+00:03:51
5. Toby Price (AUS)-KTM/+00:04:33
6. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL)-Hus/+00:04:52
7. Txomin Arana (ESP)-Hus/+00:05:03
8. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP)-+00:06:01
9. Stefan Svitko (SVK)-KTM/+00:06:03
10. Ricky Brabec (USA)-Hon/+00:06:17
2016 Dakar Rally Standings (after 7 of 13 rounds)
1. Paulo Goncalves (PRT)-Hon/22 hours, 52 minutes, 30 seconds
2. Toby Price (AUS)-KTM/+00:03:12
3. Stefan Svitko (SVK)-KTM/+00:09:24 (1-minute penalty)
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL)-Hus/+00:18:06
5. Kevin Benavides (ARG)-Hon/+00:21:01
6. Antoine Meo (FRA)-KTM/+00:21:06
7. Helder Rodrigues (PRT)-KTM/+00:24:44 (2-minute penalty)
8. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP)-KTM/+00:29:57
9. Alain Duclos (FRA)-She/+00:30:32
10. Juan Pedrero Garcia (ESP)/+00:31:45 (2-minute penalty)