Dakar 2016, Stage Five

Going into Dakar this year, expectations were that we’d see an interesting race, completely different from the past few years. Those expectations were right.

After Stage 5, the top five riders are all still within less than three minutes of each other in the overall rankings. In the stage the top 10 riders finished with less than nine minutes separating them, although Toby Price, who won the stage for KTM, put up a very impressive showing, finishing over two minutes ahead of second-place Stefan Svitko.

Despite his convincing win, Price says he babied the bike to get it through the marathon stage, leaving us wondering just what sort of results we can expect later in the race when he isn’t taking it easy on his machinery.

Toby Price, handling everything Dakar throws at him with ease. Photo: Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool
Toby Price, handling everything Dakar throws at him with ease. Photo: Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool

Hondas dominated Stage 4, but KTM dominated Stage 5, with the boys in orange going all-in on the second part of the marathon stage. This smart move enabled them to conserve their bikes until they could receive a mechanic’s help, and also allowed them to put a serious clampdown on Honda’s sudden dominance of the rankings. Paulo Goncalves still leads, however.

However, the attrition rate is starting to pick up. A few backmarkers and mid-pack riders have had to drop out for various reasons, ranging from altitude sickness to bike problems to injuries. Ivan Jakes crashed and badly hurt his knee, and although he finished sixth, he may not be able to continue much longer. He’s running a fever as well, so expect poor results if he manages to stay in.

Today’s stage has the race’s longest special (542 km), and also leads competitors around a salt lake, with rain in the forecast. Last year’s stage through the Bolivian salt flats proved the undoing of many competitors, and today’s stage probably has many anxious.

While the performance of rookies Bevanides and Meo is likely this year’s top story so far, Honda has also impressed as a whole, by staying in the thick of it. Usually by this stage, some of Honda’s top riders have had major mechanicals, but everything seems to be holding together this year. Taichi Honda, the project leader for HRC’s rally team, said that “From the experience we had at last year’s Marathon stage, we have developed the 2016CRF450RALLY with durability always in mind … Pleased with the performance so far, we set our eyes on the remaining eight stages and hope to keep the pace.”

Given that Honda’s bringing the Africa Twin to dealer showrooms this year, Big Red is certainly looking to impress at Dakar.

One rider that hasn’t rocketed up the rankings as quickly as last year is Laia Sanz. She finished in 21st on Stage 5, which leaves her in 19th overall. Last year, she took advantage of high attrition rates to move up, which hasn’t happened yet this year. However, she’s still tackling Dakar with everything she’s got, as the impressive save in this video clip proves:

One manufacturer that’s very poorly represented at Dakar is Suzuki. Their top rider is in 65th position at the start of Stage 6. They lost one of their riders yesterday when Indian rider CS Santosh had to drop out due to mechanical issues in Stage 4. The gossip is that Santosh’s navigation tower fell apart, and he continued riding with one hand, holding the navigation tower together with his other. But his problems compounded with more mechanical issues, leaving him unable to continue.

You can see a total list of all the withdrawals so far here (12, at time of writing). That’s a low number at this point in the game. Half of those riders dropped out during Stage 5, though, showing the marathon stages are still doing a good job of thinning the herd, despite the relative ease of this year’s course. Riding a few hundred kilometres of trails tends to make things fall apart, literally, and because competitors aren’t allowed to repair the bikes until stage’s end, the marathon stages are often the end of the road for unlucky competitors.

Dakar Stage 5 results

    1. Price (KTM) 04:03:44
    2. Svitko (KTM) 04:06:17 (+00:02:33)
    3. Walkner (KTM) 04:06:24 (+00:02:40)
    4. Barreda (Honda) 04:09:41 (+00:05:57)
    5. Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 04:10:35 (+00:06:51)
    6. Jakes (KTM) 04:11:03 (+00:07:19)
    7. Rodrigues (Yamaha) 04:11:04 (+00:07:20)
    8. Meo (KTM) 04:11:05 (+00:07:21) (00:05:00 penalty)
    9. Pedrero (Sherco TVS) 04:11:20 (+00:07:36)
    10. Duclos (Sherco TVS) 04:12:18 (+0:08:34)

Overall standings

    1. Goncalves (Honda) 14:30:07
    2. Svitko (KTM) 14:31:52 (+00:01:45) (00:01:00 penalty)
    3. Price (KTM) 14:31:54 (+00:01:47)
    4. Barreda (Honda) 14:32:34 (+00:02:27) (00:06:00 penalty)
    5. Walkner (KTM) 14:33:04 (+00:02:57)
    6. Benavides (Honda) 14:36:53 (+00:06:46)
    7. Faria (Husqvarna) 14:38:20 (+00:08:13) (00:01:00 penalty)
    8. Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 14:38:37 (+00:08:30) (00:01:00 penalty)
    9. Meo (KTM) 14:41:56 (+00:11:49)
    10. Duclos (Sherco TVS) 14:43:46 (+00:13:39)

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