Stage 7 of the 2016 Dakar Rally was another long one, with 793km in total on the route and 353km on the special. With more trecherous weather, not all of the motorbike competitors crossed the finish line, with some turning back at their discretion, with the blessing of Race Control. The special stage was also trimmed, leaving out the second checkpoint.
The day’s results mark the halfway point of the Dakar Rally thus far, with Sunday serving as a much needed day off for the riders.
Despite the long and technical route, not much has changed overall in the standings. With Antoine Meo winning the stage, and Kevin Benavides finishing second, Paulo Gonçalves got some breathing room on his overall lead position, with his third place finish on Stage 7.
His closest competitor, KTM’s Toby Price, finished the day 5th quickest, and is now over three minutes behind Gonçalves.
A true testament to the riders’ code in Rally Rai, Gonçalves stopped around the 17th kilometer to help KTM’s Matthias Walkner, who had crashed and broken his femur. The ASO has credited that lost time to Gonçalves’s results for the day.
“Today I found Walkner who had fallen so I stopped; it was a normal situation for the Dakar: you give help when it’s needed,” explained Gonçalves. “I stayed with him until they were able to come to his rescue and then I carried on very carefully.”
“This week has been very fast and I have had some problems with the altitude. The first week has been really fast with difficulties at altitude. Now we are back in Argentina again with riding that we are more accustomed to. The position that I took was a good one and we have to continue to push until the end.”
HRC rider Joan Barreda failed to start Stage 7, though it’s not clear if that is because his Honda CRF450 Rally was still having the technical difficulties that brought his race to an early end yesterday, or if he was dropping out because he was out of contention of a good result.
Either way, Honda’s hopes now rest firmly on Paulo Gonçalves’s shoulders, and it looks like the 2016 Dakar Rally will come down to duel between him and Toby Price. With KTM dominating the last 14 Dakar Rallies, 2015 could see Honda finally upset that tally – a result they have been building towards the past few years.
Meanwhile, Saturday must have been a long one, because both KTM and Husqvarna haven’t released any rider quotes or a press release yet for Stage 7, and Yamaha Racing is using photos taken from Stage 6 for its media briefing.
Hopefully Sunday’s day off will allow not on the riders and mechanics to refresh and regroup, but the photographers and press officers as well.
Top 10 from Stage 7 – Uyuni to Salta – of the 2016 Dakar Rally:
Overall Top 10 of the 2016 Dakar Rally:
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Source: Dakar; Photos: HRC, KTM, & Yamaha Racing