After the first day of racing, Toby Price is the frontrunner at the 2016 Dakar rally.
After Stage 1 was canceled due to weather concerns, riders took off on a shortened Stage 2 yesterday. In the first day for 10 years without either Marc Coma or Cyril Despres, other KTM riders rose to the challenge, plowing their way to the front. Three of the top five riders were on KTM machinery, including first-place Toby Price, then Matthias Walkner in fourth, and Stefan Svitko in fifth.
All three of those riders have a legitimate chance to win this year’s Dakar, with newcomer Price (he was a Dakar rookie last year) the most likely to assume the dominance of Coma and Despres.
The second-place rider (Ruben Faria) was also aboard a KTM, sort of; he’s riding a Husqvarna, and looks like he might use his years of experience
Alain Duclos was an impressive third on his Sherco. Duclos is becoming a Dakar legend; he manages consistent top-10 finishes with an underfunded team, riding a bike most motorcyclists have never heard of, and he’s not even a full-time pro in the off-season. This year, the word on the street is that some extra money came in from somewhere, allowing Duclos to take some time off his day job (he’s an engineer by occupation) and spend more time training. As a result, the French rider could see his breakthrough year, barring the usual bad luck that torpedoes so many Dakar efforts from smaller teams.
Honda’s star rider, Joan Barreda, started the day in first but ended up dropping further back, ending up tailing Faria towards the end. That’s a tactic Barreda used last year with Coma — hang back and benefit from the frontrunner’s navigation, and hope to blow by and rack up enough time margin to win. It didn’t work yesterday, as Barreda ended in seventh, behind teammate Paulo Goncalves.
Barreda blamed his performance on the mud, saying he was badly stuck several times during the day.
Rookie Kevin Benavides piloted his Honda to an impressive eighth on his first Dakar stage ever. Joan Pedrero took ninth on his Sherco (a very respectable feat for the team), and Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla rounded out the top 10.
Although the usual lineup of backmarkers crashed out on Stage 2, none of the frontrunners did, which was likely a particular relief to Honda; Big Red can’t afford to keep losing top riders early on. Conversely, KTM has nine riders in the top 20, so even if a couple crash out, they still have plenty of solid talent that can take over. Some of their other fast riders are lurking in the top 20 (Ivan Jakes, 12th; David Casteau, 15th; Laia Sanz, 16th), and are perfectly capable of taking a stage podium or even a win, and could move up the standings if a few frontrunners have to bow out.
Today, riders are facing the possibility of precipitation on the course; they have 112 klicks to CP1, where a special stage of roughly 200 kms will take them through mountain tracks, climbing higher and higher as the day goes by. Once again, the day’s racing has been shortened because of conditions.
After winning yesterday, Price will start today’s stage. He’s not as experienced at navigation as most of his competition, so he may be picked off by a teammate as the day goes by.
Dakar Stage 2 results
- Price (KTM) 03:46:24
- Faria (Husqvarna) 03:47:44 (+00:01:20) (00:01:00 penalty)
- Duclos (Sherco TVS) ( )
- Walkner (KTM) 03:48:24 (+00:02:00)
- Svitko (KTM) 03:48:52 (+ ) ( penalty)
- Barreda (Honda) 03:49:46 (+00:03:22)
- Benavides (Honda) 03:50:00 (+ )
- Pedrero (Sherco TVS) 03:50:49 (+ )
- Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 03:50:56 (+ )