Monster Energy Honda’s Joan Barreda must find himself in a precarious position in the 2018 Dakar Rally.
The Spanish rally ace has come back from being well off the lead pace after navigational errors in Stage 3 to post the win in Stage 5 and fight his way back into contention for his first career Dakar Rally overall win. However, the marathon stages of the Dakar Rally have proven to be a downfall for Barreda in past editions.
But after a challenging Stage 7 from La Paz to Uyuni in Bolivia, Barreda not only came through the first of the two marathon days unscathed, he actually won again to post his 22nd career Dakar Rally stage victory, even after crashing along the route.
The start of the second half of the 2018 Dakar Rally began with a liaison stage from La Paz to Uyuni before the riders went on the clock for 425 kilometers of times special along rain-soaked sections that required the riders to exercise extreme caution in order to avoid getting stuck. Swollen river crossings only added to the challenge.
Even so, Barreda wasn’t afraid to ride aggressively, and his time of 5 hours, 11 minutes and 10 seconds topped Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally’s Adtien Van Beveren by 2 minutes and 51 seconds. Barreda did pay a small price, however, as the crash he suffered late in the timed special resulted in a knee injury.
“I was doing well and had recovered several minutes when in the middle of the storm I left the track and the bike fell on me, hitting my left knee,” Barreda said. “I had the doctors look me over and they have told me that there is nothing broken, but that I have some liquid inside the knee. Let’s see if they can fix it and tomorrow we will start to try to hold on to the stage, although I saw the stars when I had to put my leg down on some corners.”
While he was second in Stage 7, Van Beveren now finds himself back in the 2018 Dakar Rally overall lead after he was able to pull back time on Monster Energy Honda’s Kevin Benavides who had a decent day, starting and finishing third, but the Argentinian lost 5 minutes and 11 seconds to AVB, erasing the slim 1 minute and 57 seconds he had accrued over the Frenchman at the end of Stage 6. As it stands, AVB once again holds down the top slot overall with a total time of 21 hours, 49 minutes and 18 seconds, 3:14 ahead of Benavides while Barreda is now third, 4:45 off the lead time.
“I want to give it my best shot every day, and it’s working so far,” Van Beveren said. “I try to ride smart and avoid any falls. I managed to open up a gap, which is great. You absolutely have to avoid falls during the marathon stage because the mechanics won’t be there to help you out. Finally, this was a stage for pushing hard. Technical courses are right up my alley because my bike is very easy to handle. It feels great to be leading the Dakar. I’ll try to keep it up because I’ve got good sensations on my bike.”
Benavides said that the rainy conditions added up to a very difficult day for him.
“At the beginning there was a lot of navigation and dunes with vegetation, and it was very difficult,” Benavides said. “At kilometer 100 I caught the riders in front and we opened the track together until halfway through the race. We knew we had lost time because we were slow opening the track. Then we started attacking towards the end to recover a good pace. We hope to finish this marathon stage well tomorrow.”
The 2016 Dakar Rally Champion, Toby Price, finished fourth again in Stage 7, leading one to believe that the Red Bull KTM-backed Australian is still biding his time before going all-out. Price was followed by two other men who are still in podium contention, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla and Red Bull KTM’s Matthias Walkner.
American Ricky Brabec finished the stage after riding defensively. Brabec came home 10th with a time of 5:24:58, 13 minutes and 48 seconds behind Barreda. Brabec currently sits 11th overall, a little more than 5 minutes behind current 10th place overall rider Stefan Svitko of the Slovnaft team, but the American is hoping to be able to charger harder in Stage 8.
“In this seventh stage, the first part of the first Marathon, I didn’t feel comfortable with the rain, which has not left us all day,”Brabec said. “But the tracks were quite quick and I could go fairly fast, but without taking too many risks because I wanted to get to the Uyuni bivouac in one piece and with the bike without problems. Now let’s see how we prepare tomorrow’s stage.”
Stage 7 spelled the end of the road for Monster Energy Honda’s Michael Metge. The Frenchman, who was already outside of the top 10 coming into the second week of the rally despite finishing a solid 10th in Stage 6, suffered a broken rear wheel and could not make it to the parc ferme in the allotted time. Thus, Metge has been forced to withdraw from the 2018 Dakar Rally.
The second part of this marathon stage will conclude Sunday in Tupiza, after 498 kilometers of timed special and 87 kilometers of liaison ain be able to receive help from their mechanics.
2018 Dakar Rally
La Paz, Bolivia, to Uyuni, Bolivia
Results: January 13, 2018 (Stage 7 of 14)
1. Joan Barreda (SPA)-Monster Energy Honda Team / 5 hours, 11 minutes, 10 seconds
2. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA)-Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team / +00:02:51
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG)-Monster Energy Honda Team / +00:08:02
4. Toby Price (AUS)-Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team / +00:08:43
5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI)-Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Rally Team / +00:08:53
6. Matthias Walkner (AUT)-Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team / +00:09:16
7. Stefan Svitko (SLO)-Slovnaft Team / +00:09:30
8. Xavier de Soultrait (FRA)-Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team / +00:10:03
9. Antoine Meo (FRA)-Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team / +00:12:46
10. Ricky Brabec (USA)-Monster Energy Honda Team / +00:13:48
25. Mark Samuels (USA)-MEC Team / +00:49:30
28. Andrew Short (USA)-Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Rally Team / +00:54:25
2018 Dakar Rally Overall Lead (after 7 of 14 stages)
1. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA)-Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team / 21 hours, 49 minutes, 18 seconds
2. Kevin Benavides (ARG)-Monster Energy Honda Team / +00:03:14
3. Joan Barreda (SPA)-Monster Energy Honda Team / +00:04:45
4. Matthias Walkner (AUT)-Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team / +00:08:18
5. Toby Price (AUS)-Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team / +00:13:34
6. Xavier de Soultrait Xavier (FRA)-Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team / +00:16:39
7. Antoine Meo (FRA)-Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Team / +00:18:40
8. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI)-Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Rally Team / +00:20:47
9. Gerard Farres (SPA)-Himoinsa Team / +00:33:27
10. Stefan Svitko (SLO)-Slovnaft Team / +00:33:53
11. Ricky Brabec (USA)- Monster Energy Honda Team / +00:39:34
25. Andrew Short (USA)-Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Rally Team / + 02:09:47