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Race officials for the Dakar Rally have just released their initial plans for the 2019 edition of the grueling off-road race, and next year Dakar competitors will compete in only one country: Peru. The news is a bit of a shock, since in the past The Dakar has found hosts in multiple South American countries (Argentina, Bolivia, & Chile). But, South America’s hospitality has been on the wane, which leads us to our next bit of news… There is a growing idea that the Dakar Rally could be headed back to Africa for the 2020 edition and onward. Boom goes the dynamite. All of this means that for the first time in The Dakar’s history, the iconic race will be held in only a single country. This is because of the growing austerity movements in Argentina and Chile.

For the second year in a row, Chile will not feature as part of the Dakar Rally, as the Chilean government has opted not to host the iconic rally raid.

The recent decision comes from the Chamber of Deputies of Chile (the lower house of Chile’s bicameral Congress), which failed to get the needed majority vote to continue hosting the race.

With 42 votes in favor of hosting the Dakar Rally again, 33 against, and 17 abstentions, the failed proposal was opposed mostly on environmental grounds, as many deputies thought that the environmental impact of the race on Chile’s terrain has been too great.

This news is an about-face for the Dakar Rally, as the ASO (the organizers of the Dakar Rally) seemed to have all but confirmed Chile and Argentina for competition back in January of this year.

With massive floods devastating northern Chilé, the Chilean government has had no choice but to end the country’s involvement in the 2016 Dakar Rally.

The decision was made in conjunction with the ASO, the Dakar Rally organizer, who will have to sort out a new route for the next Dakar, likely one that differs considerably from past events, as Chilé has been an integral part of the iconic rally raid since it moved to South America in 2009.

Fresh off their rest day on Saturday, the 2015 Dakar Rally competitors were back to work on Sunday for Stage 7. A difficult round on the road, riders had to contend with 11,000+ feet in elevation, rain, and snow — all while crossing into Bolivia.

The big news from Stage 7 was Marc Coma halving the difference to Joan Barreda, mainly as a result of the HRC rider breaking his handlebar in two, after a crash during the time special section. The factory KTM rider now trails Barreda by only 6 minutes, and more importantly will have a significant gap on the course from his rival, on Stage 8.

“It was a tough stage where you had to be careful, but when I came to a muddy section around kilometre 200, while I was breaking before a danger marked on the road book, the bike slid and I crashed,” explained Barreda.

“The handlebars were damaged, so I had to do the last 120 kilometres just with the right hand. I was pushing hard to lose a minimum of time, but that was not easy. We are now at the marathon stage, we are a great team and we will solve the problem with my teammates.”

Barreda finished the day 10th on the stage, while Coma crossed the line in second, in a close pack with stage winner HRC’s Paulo Goncalves and fellow KTM rider Matthias Walkner, who finished third and continues to impress.

As if the route of The Dakar wasn’t hard enough, riders will not have the support of their teams at the end of the stage, as Stage 7 is the start of the first marathon stage for the motorbikes.

The timing of the marathon stage and Barreda’s crash could be fortuitous for Coma, but HRC has proven itself ready for this year’s Dakar, winning the lion’s share of the stages.

Saturday is a rest day for the 2015 Dakar Rally, giving riders and teams a chance to catch their breath, tune their bikes, and hone the strategies for the next eight stages, one of which is a marathon stage, where the teams cannot help the riders work on their bikes.

For KTM and Marc Coma, the day will be spent trying to figure out how to shake Joan Barreda from the four-time Dakar winner. For HRC and Barreda, the game is simple, cover Coma’s every action and don’t let him eat into the 12-minute gap that the Spaniard has built with his hard riding.

Meanwhile, Yamaha Racing’s Alessandro Botturi has been waiving the banner for the blue and white contingency, which has otherwise had an abysmal Dakar Rally without Cyril Despres in its ranks — Despres is racing this year in the car category. Botturi is 11th overall, having made up some serious time during the shake up on Stage 6.

Other rankings notables are Laia Sanz in 14th, the top female racer in the 2015 Dakar Rally. Alain Duclos of France is the top Sherco rider, which this year has partnered with TVS making the Sherco/TVS team.

With a lot of Dakar still to race, expect these standings to still move around. After the jump is the full listing of all 110 bike entries to The Dakar.

Stage 6 of the 2015 Dakar Rally saw the riders head into Iquique, and while the course was fairly straight-forward, a navigational error at the front of the pack caused a shuffling in the stage’s finishing order.

Though first out of the gate, Marc Coma finished the day 7th, after crashing in the early parts of the stage. He was quickly caught by Joan Barreda, whose strategies seems to be sticking close to Coma at all costs, minimizing the KTM rider’s ability to gain time on his Honda rival.

This left HRC’s Helder Rodrigues who took the stage win, planting another flag for Honda in this year’s Dakar. The Japanese manufacturer is proving to be a serious contender in the Dakar Rally, and could upset KTM’s dominance of the rally raid event.

“I started out from behind, but I caught up with the riders who were opening the road. They were very quick, but I also had the speed to catch them,” said Rodrigues. “I’m pleased with the way it turned out and was very calm until the end. It’s rest-day tomorrow, which we really need, to get the energy back and plan next the second week as well as possible. I want to keep attacking and claw back a bit of time in the overall standings.”

Marc Coma has finally chalked up his first stage win of the 2015 Dakar Rally, gaining back several minutes from the overall leader Joan Barreda.

With 10 minutes still between the two top riders from HRC and KTM, it seems Barreda is content to manage the gap, as he let Coma lead Stage 5 and followed the Spaniards tracks and navigation decisions in the difficult fesh-fesh minefield that is the Atacama Desert.

“I am happy about the stage win but the fact is that Joan enjoys a significant advantage and we will try to trim it,” said Coma. There is still a lot of race left. The second part (of the rally) is longer with the marathon stages and it will be a fight every day. We are going in the right direction and we will keep fighting.”

After Yesterday’s fateful round, the 2015 Dakar Rally was back in action today with Stage 4, Chilecito to Copiapo. The stage would lead the riders out of Argentina and into Chile, for the first time this rally raid.

A mixture of sand dunes, rocks, and high elevation, the day was the second longest overall (909km), but featured only a 315km timed special stage.

Answering yesterday’s KTM 1-2 victory, Honda’s Joan Barreda set out to maintain is top spot in The Dakar standings, though would have to contend with KTM’s Marc Coma, who stuck to him like glue once the two were riding together.

While Barreda’s lead over Coma was increased by a couple of minutes, Coma’s spot on the overall time sheets is now second, and well within striking distance of the HRC rider — especially with two marathon stages left to contend with.

The start of the 2015 Dakar Rally is just about a week away now, and already we have news of a retirement: local favorite Francisco “Chaleco” López. The Chilean rider has been one of the top contenders at The Dakar, but he has clarified his intentions to switch from two-wheels to four, after his name was found missing from the 2015 entry list. As such, Chaleco plans on returning to the Dakar rally-raid come 2016, though he will be with the Rally Mobile car team, which he will race with the rest of this season as well. The move by Chaleco is not without precedent, as many top riders have gone on to continue their rally-raid careers behind a steering wheel.

The route for the 2015 Dakar Rally has been confirmed, and details have been dropped on what could be the most grueling motorcycle event on Earth. The 14 day, 13 stage Dakar will take competitors through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and back to Argentina again, making for roughly 9,000 kilometers of terrain to navigate.

The 68 motorcycle competitors will have the added challenge of two marathon stages — stages where only the riders can work on their bikes, and can receive no help from their support crews.

Marc Coma is a heavy favorite for the 2015 edition, especially with rival Cyril Despres making the career switch to race on four wheels with Peugoet. However Coma can expect strong competition from his teammate Ruben Faria, not to mention from the likes of Joan Barreda on his Honda, and Olivier Pain on the Yamaha.

The final stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally, Stage Thirteen was a formality for most, but proved was still another day in the office for these riders as they tackled the 157 km special. Cyril Despres was quickest across the line, but the Frenchman was caught speeding in the liaison stage, and suffered a 15 minute penalty because of it. The error tossed Despres back to fifth for the day, leaving HRC’s Joan Barreda to win his fifth stage in this year’s Dakar Rally.

Barreda would surely have been a podium finisher this year, and possible rally winner, had he not suffered a catastrophic electrical problem on Stage Twelve. Surely disappointed with his result, the Spaniard can take solice in proving the competitiveness of HRC’s Honda CRF450 Rally package.

“Today is the last day of the Dakar. For us it feels tough because I lost a lot of time with a problem after a fall at kilometer 200,” said Borreda. “But today I was back in the saddle like a pro, and I did a really good job in the special. In the end it wasn’t the result that we were working for in the Dakar. Well, now it’s time to go home and try to get to grips with what happened, how and where we went wrong and see how we can sort them out for next year.”