Photo: Marcelo Maragni / Red Bull Content Pool
Honda’s Joan Barreda continues to pick off stage wins at the Dakar, with another victory in Stage Eleven, on an engine that should have probably been scrapped after Stage Eight, while KTM maintained their dominance in the top 10, placing another rider on the podium (Ivan Jakes was third).
Stage Ten was the start of another marathon stage, with the riders forced to work on their own bikes with no mechanics or other outside help. The Honda factory team took another hard hit, readying for Stage Eleven, as Paulo Goncalves decided his motor was about to grenade.
The solution? Goncalves (second in Stage Eleven) got Barreda’s engine, which had been replaced after the end of Stage Eight. Logical, right? What happened next makes no sense, though. Barreda in turn got Jeremias Israel Esquerre’s motor – the same motor that had towed Barreda’s broken-down Honda through much of Stage Eight. That left no motor for Esquerre, who had to bow out. It’s rough, but that’s the fate of a support rider at Dakar. He’s proved he’s got team spirit in truckloads, though, and he’s sure to be back next year.
So what’s the problem – Big Red had to do what they had to do to stay in the race, right? The problem with all this maneuvering is, it was entirely nonsensical for Honda not to replace Israel Esquerre’s motor after towing Barreda through Stage Eight. As a water carrier, he could have handled the 15-minute penalty, and he wasn’t a podium threat anyway. Now he’s out of the race, and as a result of all the shuffling, Barreda now has a penalty for a second engine change – a 45-minute penalty. If he changes to yet another motor (highly possible), he’ll incur another even greater two-hour penalty.
While Honda might have had some reasons for not changing Israel Esquerre’s motor out earlier, it’s cost them dearly, and may cost them more. This move just looks dumb, dumb dumb.
Meanwhile, as the male Honda riders rush around changing each other’s engines, Laia Sanz continues to smoothly earn respectable finishes. She’s still in eighth overall, on the motor she started the rally with.
KTM once again holds all the cards. Now; unless Marc Coma meets with disaster, he can easily cruise to victory, while the other orange riders can fight over remaining spots in the top 10. Laia Sanz looks like she’ll take a top-10 spot for Honda, and Olivier Pain is still holding down tenth for Yamaha. That means seven of the top 10 will likely be KTM riders at race’s finish, and four of the top five.
While Coma’s undoubtedly happy his win seems secure, fellow KTM rider Toby Price (who’s allegedly riding a “customer bike,” not a factory bike) is likely even happier. Price moved up into third overall today, and might equal the record fellow Aussie Andy Haydon set back in 1998, when he earned a podium (third) in his first and only Dakar appearance.
Dakar 2015 : Bike rankings after Stage 11
1. Coma (KTM) – 41:43:03
2. Goncalves (Honda) – 42:04:15 (00:21:12) (00:16:00 penalty)
3. Price (KTM) – 42:14:46 (00:31:43)
4. Quintanilla (KTM) – 42:16:18 (00:33:15)
5. Svitko (KTM) – 42:31:10 (00:48:07)
6. Faria (KTM) – 43:23:46 (01:40:43) (00:40:00 penalty)
7. Casteau (KTM) – 43:29:54 (01:46:51)
8. Sanz (Honda) – 43:56:23 (02:13:20)
9. Jakes (KTM) – 44:07:49 (02:24:46)
10. Pain (Yamaha) – 44:38:20 (02:55:17)