In what’s becoming the dominant theme of not just the 2017 Dakar, but the past few years, rain once again interfered with Stage 8 of rally, shortening today’s timed special section from 492 km to 174 km, and causing the cancellation of Stage 9.
Honda’s Joan Barreda picked up the win in the greatly shortened Stage 8, with Matthias Walkner (KTM) and race leader Sam Sunderland (KTM) taking the second and third spots on the podium, respectively.
Barreda’s win earned him a bonus from Honda, but little else — he’s still more than an hour back of Sunderland, and with stages shortened or canceled, there’s no hope of making that time back.
Overall, the race is quickly turning into a bit of a disappointment. A shortened stage or two isn’t the end of the world, but now massive chunks of the route are being cut out due to bad visibility grounding the rescue helicopters, landslides covering the track, or other weather-related issues. Today’s stage is a good example; a massive special stage after the first marathon day (last night, riders had to camp out and fix their bikes alone, with no team assistance) could have made for a lot of drama today on the field. Instead of hundreds of klicks, the riders covered dozens. They aren’t being given a chance to show what they and their machines are capable of.
If there’s any bright spot in the mess, it’s that at least the ASO has been able to lend their rescue equipment to help people affected by the natural disasters.
It’s not the fault of the Dakar organizers; when the weather has been good, the route has appeared to be the best since the race moved to South America, largely due to the efforts of Marc Coma. But no matter how good the route is, the organizers can’t control the weather, which is proving to be a nightmare year after year, as rainstorms destroy their best-laid plans.
It’s hard to say what will happen in the remaining days; for now, the plan this evening is for riders to make their way to a new end point, even further down the road than the original Stage 8 bivouac. However, not all support vehicles are able to reach the bivouac today — larger trucks can’t make it on the same route. So, instead of running Stage 9 tomorrow, the race caravan (all the support crews, etc.) will regroup at Chilecito, and on Thursday, the Chilecito-San Juan route will hopefully run as planned.
Stage 8 results
1). Barreda, Honda
2). Walkner, KTM, +00:03:51
3). Sunderland, KTM, +00:03:54
4). Metge, Honda, +00:04:25
5). Pedrero Garcia, Sherco, +00:06:00
6). Goncalves, Honda, +00:07:06
7). Quintanilla, Husqvarna, +00:07:07
8). Renet, Husqvarna, +00:09:26
9). de Soultrait, Yamaha, +00:09:31
10). Farres Guell, KTM, +00:09:42
1). Sunderland, KTM
2). Quintanilla, Husqvarna, +00:20:58
3). Van Beveren, Yamaha, +00:28:49
4). Walkner, KTM, +00:34:14 (00:05:00 penalty)
5). Farres Guell, KTM, +00:34:24
6). de Soultrait, Yamaha, +00:50:10 (00:07:00 penalty)
7). Renet, Husqvarna, +01:08:09
8). Goncalves, Honda, +01:08:34 (00:48:20 penalty)
9). Barreda, Honda, +01:10:53 (01:01:00 penalty)
10). Rodrigues, Hero/Speedbrain, +01:36:00