Dakar 2016 – Stage 6, 7, 8 & 9

The First Week Of Dakar Has Been Eventful

Toby Price riding KTM 450 at 2016 Dakar Rally 2016.
Toby Price on KTM 450 at 2016 Dakar Rally 2016.Courtesy of KTM/Kin M.

After a relatively drama free first few days of the 2016 Dakar the race broke wide open before leaving Bolivia with the retirement of several top competitors. As expected the ridiculously high altitudes of Bolivia played a big part in this year’s rally with more than a few riders and crew members suffering from altitude sickness and exhaustion.

The one guy who seemed unaffected by the altitude was Australian Toby Price. Toby dominated stages 5-6, basically demoralizing his competition over the crazy high-speed stages. I was most impressed by his stage 6 victory, where he was able to lead out and still win the stage. This is nearly unheard of these days in rally because generally the first guy out must do the majority of the navigation and is usually caught pretty quickly; even Coma and Despres, the best navigators in the world would rarely win a stage from the front. After Dominating Stage 8 From Salta to Belene, Toby has retaken the overall lead by 2:05’ over Goncalves but will be forced to lead out Stage 9, the marathon stage through the infamous Dunes of Fiambala. Expected to be the decisive stage of the 2016 Dakar, Stage 9 is probably the one stage that riders do not want to be first on the road. Adding to the difficulty, the top 10 bikes will start mixed in with the top 10 cars, which to me seems completely crazy! Hopefully Toby can limit his losses to rival Goncalves who will be starting 3 minutes behind him in second position.

Retirements

The other big news was the retirements of top riders like Berreda, Faria, Walkner and Renet. It is pretty normal to lose a few big names before the rest day but Bolivia seemed to be particularly hard on the top 10; its very possible that the altitude played some factor in this shake up. I know from my personal experience that when the race goes up in elevation I needed to back it down a notch so I could process my road book, as my brain wouldn’t react as quickly due to the lack of oxygen.

First to go was Renet on stage 4, when he had a big crash and was knocked unconscious for several minutes. Next was Faria with a broken wrist, which is a shame because Ruben came into this Dakar with a bad wrist and was facing a full wrist fusion immediately after Dakar. I was particularly bummed to see Mattias Walkner go out with a broken Femur on Stage 7. I felt like his quiet, consistent top ten finishes were going to set him up for an outstanding second week.

The biggest news of all was the retirement of Joan Barreda after stage 6 with mechanical issues. He was able to make it to the end of the stage after being towed by his teammate for almost 250km but apparently he injured his hand in the process and was unable to start Stage 7. It may seem like Barreda has a black cloud over his head but like I said in my preview, you can’t ride at 110% all the time in a race like Dakar or bad things will happen. 2016 was probably Barreda’s best chance to win the Dakar, now with guys like Price and Meo learning on the job, Barreda will have a very difficult time matching their skills in coming years.

With 5 Stages left to run, Price and Goncalves look to be separating themselves from the field with Slovak Stefan Svitko still relatively close in third overall. I think things are going to get interesting over the next few days, as navigation and high temperatures will begin to affect the race. I still believe that anyone within about 30min of the overall lead has a reasonable shot at a podium finish. At this point only time will tell how things will play out.

The Americans

Ricky Brabec continues to impress, with several top 10 stage finishes in the first week, the HRC team is extremely happy with their young American recruit. After an 11th place finish on Stage 8 he currently sits 11th overall. Ricky just needs to keep doing what he’s doing and he will put himself inside the top 10 overall.

Ian Blythe has steadily improved throughout the first week, on stage 8 he finished 24th, moving him up to 29th Overall.

Alexander Smith has been strong and steady with improved stage finishes each day. I expect to see him continue to improve as we move into the more technical second week. He finished stage 8 in 55th and he now sits 45th Overall.

Scott Bright is soldering through his first Dakar consistently finishing in the top 80. He now sits 59th Overall.

C.R. Gittere has executed his plan perfectly and continues to finish each day inside the top 100; he now sits 84th Overall.

[Ed Note: Below are the most current results, after the next stage, Stage 9. Ricky Brabec have moved up to 8th place overall, Ian Blythe is in 32nd, Alexander Smith is 40th, Scott Bright is 57th, and CR Gittere is not listed inside the top 84.

UPDATED! CURRENT OVERALL RANKING AFTER STAGE 9

Pos. No. Name Make Time Variation Penalty
1 3 PRICE (AUS) KTM 29:53:15 - -
2 5 SVITKO (SVK) KTM 30:18:02 00:24:47 00:01:00
3 4 QUINTANILLA (CHL) HUSQVARNA 30:25:29 00:32:14 -
4 47 BENAVIDES (ARG) HONDA 30:26:20 00:33:05 -
5 49 MEO (FRA) KTM 30:33:52 00:40:37 -
6 7 RODRIGUES (PRT) YAMAHA 30:40:06 00:46:51 00:02:00
7 23 FARRES GUELL (ESP) KTM 30:45:25 00:52:10 -
8 48 BRABEC (USA) HONDA 30:55:57 01:02:42 -
9 42 VAN BEVEREN (FRA) YAMAHA 31:01:25 01:08:10 -
10 18 BOTTURI (ITA) YAMAHA 31:10:32 01:17:17 00:04:00
11 17 PEDRERO GARCIA (ESP) SHERCO TVS 31:18:07 01:24:52 00:02:00
12 20 DUCLOS (FRA) SHERCO TVS 31:18:11 01:24:56 -
13 12 SANZ (ESP) KTM 31:23:33 01:30:18 -
14 45 MONLEON (ESP) KTM 31:32:52 01:39:37 -
15 30 DE SOULTRAIT (FRA) YAMAHA 31:46:09 01:52:54 00:02:00
16 61 METGE (FRA) HONDA 31:50:42 01:57:27 -
17 9 CASTEU (FRA) KTM 31:59:24 02:06:09 -
18 33 GYENES (ROU) KTM 32:00:23 02:07:08 -
19 52 CERVANTES MONTERO (ESP) KTM 32:01:08 02:07:53 00:02:00
20 44 PATRAO (PRT) KTM 32:05:12 02:11:57 00:01:00
21 50 CERUTTI (ITA) HUSQVARNA 32:10:48 02:17:33 -
22 15 VERHOEVEN (NLD) YAMAHA 32:13:20 02:20:05 00:02:00
23 11 VILADOMS (ESP) KTM 32:46:02 02:52:47 00:01:00
24 34 VAN PELT (NLD) HUQSVARNA 32:50:59 02:57:44 00:07:00
25 92 GIMENO GARCÍA (ESP) KTM 32:58:50 03:05:35 00:01:00