2017 Dakar, Stage 4

Ex-racer Marc Coma promised a difficult route at this year’s Dakar rally , and today was proof, with Toby Price (KTM) falling, breaking his femur, and having to withdraw after putting together an amazing day’s racing.

The carnage didn’t end there; last year’s champ was the most prominent victim today, but several other top 20 riders ran into trouble. The medevac copters had a busy day, and there was plenty of bad luck to go around.

    • Armand Monleon crashed 70 km into the special, and had to be airlifted into hospital.
    • Laia Sanz (KTM) was given bad advice (a competitor lied and said she’d missed some waypoints) and lost a half hour pointlessly backtracking and dropping far down the standings as a result.
    • Alessandro Botturi (Yamaha) ended up in a crumpled heap 30 km from the finish, and withdrew.
    • Rodney Faggotter (Yamaha) went from a top-10 slot to the withdrawal list, possibly due to a shoulder injury.
    • For the second year in a row, Honda’s Paulo Goncalves had to stop his ride to care for an injured competitor (Price). He may get some of that time back, but he’s lost his chance to make time on the day.
    • To further compound Honda’s misery, Joan Barreda, and possibly Michael Metge and Paulo Goncalves, earned an hour’s penalty for refuelling in a prohibited zone, which blows them wayyyyyy down the standings, and maybe even out of contention, if they lose the appeal.
    • Lyndon Poskitt, the globetrotting people’s hero of Malle Motto class, managed to have an epic off in front of the TV camera (although he got back on and finished the stage well).
    • Matthias Walkner looked like the day’s winner, then picked up a five-minute penalty that dropped him to

But not everyone was riding under a bad sign; Matthias Walkner (KTM) was the winner of the day, with Joan Barreda (Honda) a couple minutes back, and Xavier de Soultrait (Yamaha) about three minutes behind him. Barreda was in danger of losing the overall lead to hard-charging Price before the crash, and de Soultrait is now much more important to Yamaha, now that Faggotter and Botturi are gone.

For now, Joan Barreda is in a commanding position in the rally, with Price knocked out. At least, he was looking good before the penalty was handed down. Photo: Honda

Another rider whose luck held up was Ivan Jakes (KTM); he was struck by lightning yesterday, but escaped serious injury, started this morning’s stage, and managed to finish in 17th, instead of being horribly burned.

Jakes might have escaped a fate of instantaneous combustion, but Thierry Bethy’s Zongshen was not so lucky. Bethy’s bike, the last of the five-man Chinese factory team, ended up in flames after a crash today, putting an end to Zongshen’s hopes.

The Dakar riders are at high elevation now, and the navigation is said to be getting trickier, with less emphasis on raw speed. Expect to see more rookies drop out in coming stages, as the altitude makes the race harder. Stage 5 has a 447-km special section, with riders having to complete 683 km in total through the Bolivian Andes.

Yamaha’s Xavier de Soultrait had another podium, and is looking like he might be this year’s breakout star. Photo: Yamaha

With Price gone, it’s anyone’s guess who will take over as the dominant rider, but Barreda is looking pretty good for a win tomorrow; with Walkner leaving first and breaking the track open for him, Barreda should have less trouble with navigation, although that hasn’t seemed to slow him down this year anyway.

The trouble is, now that he’s been handed a massive penalty, Barreda will have to abandon the calm style that’s kept him trouble-free to this point. He does have the skill to drastically narrow the gap between himself and a podium finish if a little luck goes his way, but since we’re talking about the Honda factory team, that luck will most likely not be forthcoming.

Stage 4 results

1). Walkner, KTM
2). de Soultrait, Yamaha, +00:05:58
3). Metge, Honda, +00:08:18 (00:05:00 penalty)
4). Svitko, KTM, +00:08:33
5). Quintanilla, Husqvarna, +00:09:22
6). Farres Guell, KTM, +00:10:24
7). Renet, Husqvarna, +00:12:30
8). Caimi, Honda, +00:13:03
9). Van Beveren, Yamaha, +00:13:11
10). Goncalves, Honda, +00:14:56

Overall standings

1). Quintanilla, Husqvarna
2). Walkner, KTM, +00:02:07 (00:05:00 penalty)
3). Svitko, KTM, +00:05:52
4). Sunderland, KTM, +00:06:12
5). Goncalves, Honda, +00:07:26
6). Farres Guell, KTM, +00:12:02
7). Brabec, Honda, +00:13:31
8). Van Beveren, Yamaha, +00:14:50
9). Metge, Honda, +00:23:39 (00:11:30 penalty)
10). Barreda, Honda, +00:41:41 (01:01:00 penalty)


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