Regardless of what happens next, Monster Energy Honda’s Joan Barreda showed that counting him out of the 2018 Dakar Rally was definitely premature.
After suffering a terrible Stage 3 in which he fell 22 minutes and 45 seconds off the pace and then failed to put much of a dent in that time deficit during Stage 4, the Spanish rider showed just how fast he can go on a rally bike in Stage 5 yesterday, where he dominated the 266-kilometer timed special to make up a whopping 14 minutes on the leaders as he grabbed his 21st career Dakar Rally stage win.
Barreda was practically unstoppable on the route from San Juan de Marcona to Arequipa in Peru, a route that sent the riders through the Peruvian dunes for the last time before the 2018 Dakar Rally moves into the mountains that border Peru and Bolivia, with the 2018 Dakar Rally field making its next stop in La Paz, Bolivia, at the end of Stage 6. The last of the Peruvian sand routes proved to be challenging, with a technical track that forced riders to pay careful attention to their navigation as they negotiated the tall Tanaka dunes before finishing with a high-speed run over a rocky two-track section.
Starting ninth, Barreda navigated the Tanaka section flawlessly and blazed to victory with a stage time of 3 hours, 19 minutes and 42 seconds, a full 10 minutes and 26 seconds ahead of stage runner-up Matthias Walkner on the Red Bull KTM. Barreda’s teammate, Kevin Benavides of Argentina, finished third in Stage 4, 12 minutes and 20 seconds behind Barreda.
Even better, Barreda made up 14 minutes and 35 seconds on Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally’s Adrien Van Beveren, who finished fifth today, 1 minute and 35 seconds behind the fourth-placed man, fellow Frenchman Antoine Meo.
“I knew that today we would have to battle to make up the time as it was the final stage in the sand dunes,” Barreda said. “I went all out, at very high speeds, and it went well. I was able to pull back some minutes, and we are back in the top 10 that keeps us practically with the same options as the first day. This is really important, and I hope that we get the chance to make up even more time.”
Barreda is now fourth, just 7 minutes and 30 seconds out of the lead—a very manageable deficit, while teammate Benavides inched closer to the rally lead. Benavides is in second place overall, just 1 minute behind AVB, while Walkner is holding fast in third place, just another 14 seconds adrift of Benavides, making the 2018 Dakar Rally a real battle at the front.
“The idea was to go out and attack, and it went pretty well, but I had a slight mishap with the fuel and I lost some time fixing it,” Benavides said. “I went ahead, pushing hard until I had a scare, and then I took it more calmly. I finished third, and I think it was a good stage, as hard as it was. The dunes were very soft and there was a lot of fesh-fesh, and the second special was ruined by the cars and trucks that went before us.” (The 2018 Dakar Rally features a new system of inverted sections in some stages, which means that the cars and trucks will compete in one section while the motorcycles and ATVs simultaneously compete in the other. Then the classes switch sections.)
Stage 5 was a rough one for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla, who was hampered by motorcycle issues. The Chilean did the best he could, running steadily in the timed special before heing foced to stop just a few kilometers before the finish. Quintanilla was able to fix the issue and cross the line with the 16th fastest time, 28 minutes and 52 seconds behind Barreda, dropping him down to ninth place overall, 16 minutes and 12 seconds out of the lead.
“It was a tough day for me today,” Quintanilla said. “We knew it would be a tricky day to navigate. I started the special stage really cautiously, but five kilometers before the finish of the timed special I had a small technical issue that made me lose a lot of time. I am happy I managed to fix the small issue and went on to finish the stage. It was not our best day, but the race still has a long way to go. Nothing is lost yet, and I will keep racing and doing my best.”
American riders Ricky Brabec and Andrew Short put in solid results during Stage 5 of the 2018 Dakar Rally, with Brabec finishing ninth while Short was 23rd. Brabec’s time of 3 hours, 38 minutes and 58 seconds, 19 minutes and 16 seconds behind Barreda, and that was good enough to set him back into 10th overall, 25 minutes and 48 seconds out of the lead.
“The day was tough,” Brabec said. “There was a lot of sand dunes again, and the first special was really good for me with a lot of tracks to follow. The second special was horrible because all the cars started ahead of us, and that made it difficult for me to go to the dunes. I didn’t choose the correct tire. But we’re here, and we are ready to go again for tomorrow.”
Stage 6 into Bolivia will be the last before the rest day. It features 313 kilometers of special stage in a route that totals 760 kilometers.
2018 Dakar Rally
San Juan de Marcona to Arequipa, Peru
Results: January 10, 2018 (Stage 5 of 14)
1. Joan Barreda (SPA)-Monster Energy Honda Team / 3 hours, 19 minutes, 42 seconds
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT)-Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team / +00:10:26
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG)-Monster Energy Honda Team / +00:12:20
4. Antoine Meo (FRA)-Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team / +00:13:00
5. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA)-Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team / +00:14:35
6. Xaver de Soultrait (FRA)-Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team / +00:14:43
7. Toby Price (AUS)-Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team / +00:15:00
8. Gerard Farres (SPA)-Himoinsa Team / +00:16:54
9. Ricky Brabec (USA)-Monster Energy Honda Team / +00:19:16
10. Jonny Aubert (FRA)-Gas Gas Racing /+00:21:17
2018 Dakar Rally Overall Results (after 5 of 14 stages)
1. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA)-Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team / 14 hours, 37 minutes, 40 seconds
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG)-Monster Energy Honda Team / +00:01:00
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT)-Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team / +00:01:14
4. Joan Barreda (SPA)-Monster Energy Honda Team / +00:07:33
5. Xavier de Soultrait (FRA)-Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team / +00:07:42
6. Toby Price (AUS)-Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team / +00:10:39
7. Antoine Meo (FRA)-Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team / +00:12:12
8. Gerard Farres (SPA)-Himoinsa Team / +00:15:24
9. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI)-Husqvarna Factory Rally Team /+00:16:12
10. Ricky Brabec (USA)-Monster Energy Honda Team / +00:25:48