Privateer Stefan Svitko (KTM) earned his first Dakar win yesterday, in what turned out to be a punishing dash through the dunes of Argentina.
It’s forward progress for Svitko, whose best overall finish at Dakar was fifth in 2012. Right now, he’s on track to earn a second spot on the podium, which would make for a nice medal to accompany all those enduro trophies he’s won over the years.
Kevin Benavides (Honda) was second, continuing his impressive debut performance, and Toby Price (KTM) was third. Price still has a very solid lead, and barring disaster, will win. There is no question about his navigation ability now, and he is the man to beat in today’s stage, which involves more dune-bashing, sand, and fesh-fesh. The special stage today is 430 km long.
Stage 10, the second marathon stage for the motorcycle class, was filled with drama from the beginning. The race got off to a late start, thanks to thunderstorms, and was once again cut short, this time at CP5 (245 km into the special stage) due to an impassible swollen river.
KTM’s Laia Sanz took a beating in the dunes when she ended up with radiator problems. She ended up 39th on the day, over an a hour and a half back of the leader, as she couldn’t maintain speed and had to constantly top up her cooling system. She said the mechanical problems cost her dearly, as she was riding well and having no trouble with navigation at a time when other riders were struggling.
“Many riders were lost but I was doing well,” she said on Facebook. “I think I could have make top10 and take the 11th or 12th position in the overall ranking, but it wasn’t possible. I can only look forward and keep fighting.”
Speaking of cooling systems: Paulo Goncalves, Honda’s last hope at a podium, had been in question after holing his rad in Stage 9 and being pulled for the rest of the stage. Unless he managed to patch his bike together in the bivouac, he would have been out of contention. But with rumours of a parts delivery by a competitor on a quad (legal, under the rules), Honda’s riders went to work.
Honda’s official press release said “Paulo Gonçalves, alongside Team HRC sidekicks Michael Metge, Ricky Brabec and Paolo Ceci, set to work on the Honda CRF450 RALLY, whose radiator had been pierced by a log. Once substituted, they were able to see that the piston, previously believed to be damaged, was in fact sound and some adjustments to the bike’s compression were all that were necessary to get the machine road-worthy.”
By Wednesday morning, Goncalves’ bike was running well, while fellow Honda rider Michael Metge’s machine was mysteriously unable to start, with Metge saying “I came out of the bivouac in good spirits because Paulo’s bike was working, but when I tried to start mine I couldn’t. I tried everything in my power to get it going but I couldn’t find the problem or repair it. It is a pity to have to drop out of the race in this way.”
Later, a TV report said Metge gave Goncalves his piston to keep the factory pilot in the race. If so, it shows one of the biggest shortcomings of Honda’s Dakar program: Not only can they not put together a bike that keeps their frontrunners in the race, their slower riders often end their race when they have to tow the faster guys, or sacrifice parts for their bikes.
Along with Sanz, some of the other higher-placed riders also struggled with Stage 10. The Sherco TVS team took a huge hit when Juan Pedrero, who’d been around the top 10 for much of the race, had to withdraw. Teammate Alain Duclos finished 62nd on the day, presumably because he was assisting Pedrero. Their third rider, Florent Vayssade, was 47th. Duclos is now in 22nd position overall, a drop about 12 spots down the rankings. However, Duclos is still in the race, which is more than can be said for high-profile opponents like Joan Barreda or Ruben Faria.
Dakar Stage 10 results
- Svitko (KTM) 03:47:23
- Benavides (Honda) 03:50:17 (+00:02:54)
- Price (KTM) 03:53:10 (+00:05:47)
- Goncalves (Honda) 03:53:24 (+00:06:01)
- Meo (KTM) 03:55:06 (+00:07:43)
- Rodrigues (Yamaha) 03:59:24 (+00:12:01)
- Brabec (Honda) 04:01:10 (+00:13:47)
- Van Beveren (Yamaha) 04:05:24 (+00:18:01)
- Farres (KTM) 04:14:09 (+00:26:46)
- Price (KTM) 34:49:04
- Svitko (KTM) 35:12:16 (+00:23:12) (00:01:00 penalty)
- Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 35:31:53 (+00:42:49)
- Meo (KTM) (+00:44:04)
- Benavides (Honda) 35:34:14 (+00:45:10)
- Brabec (Honda) 36:01:12 (+01:12:08)
- Goncalves (Honda) 36:03:49 (+01:14:45) (00:39:56 penalty)
- Farres (KTM) 36:04:13 (+01:15:09)
- Van Beveren (Yamaha) 36:10:59 (+01:21:55)