Thanks to heavy rains, today’s Dakar stage was shortened, with riders done at WP5, only 219 km into the timed special stage. Sam Sunderland (KTM) ended up with the win.
Sunderland pulled into the overall lead with that win, a whopping 12 minutes ahead of Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna), who led overall yesterday.
This year’s complicated navigation has slowed everybody down at some point, creating much turmoil on the leaderboard.
It’s certainly more entertaining than the usual pattern of the past few years, where one of KTM’s aliens has grabbed the lead early and kept a choke hold for the rest of the event.
Sunderland is probably the KTM with the best chance at the overall win now, although Matthias Walkner and Stefan Svitko could be contenders as well. It would be surprising if one of those riders wasn’t at least on the podium at the end.
Speaking of the weather-shortened stage — there’s no word yet on whether Stage 6 will be affected, but it would be surprising if it wasn’t impacted.
Honda’s Paulo Goncalves finished second in Stage Five, with his experience likely helping him navigate where others went off-track (teammate Joan Barreda, in particular). Goncalves is the top-rated Honda rider, now, but he’s still 48 minutes back of the lead, which is likely insurmountable. Barreda had a really lousy day, getting lost and ending in 22nd; he’s well over an hour back of Sutherland, in eighth. He’s out of a podium spot unless disaster strikes the leaders and he’s able to put together a string of flawless stages from here on.
Despite today’s bad navigation, Borreda would still be in second place if he had no penalty. That’s gotta hurt.
Some more details on the one-hour penalty applied to Honda’s factory team: Supposedly, they earned the punishment by refueling when going from Paraguay into Bolivia, allegedly on bad advice from team management. It explains why the whole team got the slap, instead of just one low-on-gas rider. No doubt Big Red will appeal the ruling, but even if the penalty is halved, it is still crippling to their effort, and no doubt the riders are bitter about it being applied on the very same day their biggest competition was eliminated from the race, after reigning champ Toby Price crashed out.
But that’s how things go at Dakar. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a competitor potentially ratted out by another team, and riders should realize the consequences of being caught breaking the rules (and maybe they should start paying more attention to the rulebook to start with). However, given that it’s only a 15-minute penalty to change an engine, an hour’s penalty for a fueling infraction seems ridiculous. No doubt we’ll hear more about this in the days to come, as it’s almost guaranteed another KTM-dominated podium.
It’s not just KTM who’s benefited greatly from Honda’s misfortune. Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren has now moved into third spot overall, and Helder Rodrigues is only a few minutes back of Joan Barreda. Yamaha’s factory team hasn’t been strong in recent years, but even with a couple of their top riders gone yesterday, they still have two men in the top 10, with Van Beveren a definite podium threat.
Jose Kozak is currently the lead competitor in the Malle Moto (unassisted) class, taking today’s stage and looking pretty good compared to everyone else. Lyndon Poskitt, of the Races to Places YouTube series, has had some rough luck in the past few days; he’s currently third in the class.
Stage 5 results
1). Sunderland, KTM
2). Goncalves, Honda, +00:07:07
3). Van Beveren, Yamaha, +00:07:29
4). Pedrero Garcia, Sherco, +00:09:40
5). Caimi, Honda, +00:12:13
6). Farres Guell, KTM, +00:15:07
7). Quintanilla, Husqvarna, +00:18:12
8). Espana Munoz, KTM, +00:21:32
9). Salvatierra, KTM, +00:23:44
10). Oliveras Carreras, KTM, +00:24:29
1). Sunderland, KTM
2). Quintanilla, Husqvarna, +00:12:00
3). Van Beveran, Yamaha, +00:16:07
4). Farres Guell, KTM, +00:20:57
5). Walkner, KTM, +00:29:01 (00:05:00 penalty)
6). Svitko, KTM, +00:48:43
7). Goncalves, Honda, +01:08:21 (00:48:20 penalty)
8). Barreda, Honda, +01:12:39 (01:01:00 penalty)
9). Rodrigues, Yamaha, +01:23:38
10). Metge, Honda, +01:49:25 (+01:11:30 penalty)