With a full day’s rest under the belts, after Sunday’s day off, the competitors of the 2016 Dakar Rally once again had to go back to work. Tackling the difficult and taxing route ahead of them in Argentina, Stage 8 showed that the true Dakar Rally starts now.
With two special stages divided by a neutralization zone, there were plenty of opportunities to make time and to lose it. For Honda’s Paulo Gonçalves, it was the latter. The overall race leader crashed hard, and lost time in the process.
For KTM’s Toby Price though, it was the prior. Price will start tomorrow’s stage knowing that he has two-minute advantage over Gonçalves. As is the often the case with the iconic race, the 2016 Dakar Rally is far from over.
It all went bad for Gonçalves when the Portuguese rider had a high-speed crash in a potholed section of the course. Violently thrown from his bike, Gonçalves was lucky to escape without injury, but his Honda CRF450 Rally didn’t fare as well, with its instrumental panel broke.
“Today’s stage was typical of the type that we expect at the Dakar, with a lot of navigation,” said Gonçalves. “I fell in a bumpy, sandy area and luckily I didn’t get hurt but I damaged the instrument panel. I had to grip onto it with one hand and ride with the other for quite some kilometres. I’m happy to have not lost too much time. Tomorrow I will try and win it back.”
Winning the stage by a five-minute margin, Stage 8 was a good day for KTM’s Toby Price. He now leads Honda’s Paulo Gonçalves by two minutes, and is looking more and more confident in this Dakar Rally.
“The first part started out on big open roads and I think we dropped a little bit of time there,” said Price. “But just getting through it was a pretty fast track so we were looking forward to the second part where it was going to get more technical and more difficult. We did pretty well in the sand dunes and we pushed through the navigation.”
14 minutes back, and in third place overall is Stefan Svitko. The Slovakian rider is having a fantastic Dakar, and giving the KTM Factory Racing boys something to be embarrassed about. With hard stages ahead, one cannot rule him out of the overall win, though he will have to begin his attack tomorrow on Stage 9.
Also in the hunt is Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla, who was third-fastest on Stage 8, and sits fourth overall, 21 minutes back. He will need some help from his competitors to have a real chance at the 2016 Dakar Rally, but in rally-raid racing, a 21-minute deficit is not insurmountable.
“This was the first day in the desert and with navigation. It was a difficult stage, but also a positive one,” said Quintanilla. “I felt good during the day so I think we made a good step. I finished third and that was the intention at the start of the day, so I think it was a really good day.”
Tomorrow’s Stage 9 will be the shortest day of riding for the 2016 Dakar Rally Competitors, with 436km total distance and a 285km special.
Just because it is short though, doesn’t mean it will be easy, as Tuesday is also the start of the second marathon stage. This means that once the riders enter Belén, they will not be able to have contact with their team mechanics.
Top 10 from Stage 8 – Salta to Belén – of the 2016 Dakar Rally:
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Overall Top 10 of the 2016 Dakar Rally:
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Source: Dakar; Photos: HRC, Husqvarna, & Yamaha Racing