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Route: Tupiza – Salta
Words: Georgia Wells
Stage 9 of the 2018 Dakar Rally was cancelled due to extreme weather conditions. Sporting Director and 5-time Dakar winner, Marc Coma, explained…
“There has been heavy rain in the area for a few days, and this looks set to continue. There is now the added risk of thunderstorms and potential flooding. Of course we don’t like to cancel a stage or shorten the rally but we have to think of competitor safety above everything else. This year we have a great and spectacular race. We can afford to lose one day to benefit the safety of our riders and drivers.”
All the competitors were transferred by road across the border to Argentina and into the Salta bivouac. The cancellation also allowed some assistance crews who had struggled in the conditions to catch up and regroup.
For the riders, whoa are embroiled in an extremely close battle for victory – the Top % covered by 8 minutes – the stage cancellation comes as half relief and half disappointment. But nevertheless, all are seemingly grateful for the chance to refresh and recharge following the grueling Marathon, and ahead of the final six days of intensive racing.
Tuesday’s Stage 10 from Salta to Belen will be an arduous 797 km trek through dunes initially, and riverbeds to finish. The route will take the competitors close to that of the assistance vehicles and for the first time, the crews will be allowed to step in and help on the stage if needs be. If the weather stays unsettled the last part of the stage may be neutralized or, if not, the riders could find themselves in at the deep end…
Route: Uyuni – Tupiza
Terrain: Mud, mountains, dunes.
Words: Georgia Wells
The second half of the Marathon contained the longest special on the whole rally at 498km. After a night in the remote bivouac, having carried out all basic maintenance alone and without the assistance of their teams, the riders headed into the high altitude dunes, through rain storms, and onto muddy tracks on the way to Tupiza, Bolivia’s final stop.
While the day was going to be a challenge for all the remaining competitors, it was especially so for Honda’s Joan Barreda. The hard-charging Spaniard picked up a knee injury on Stage 7, which was so severe that he said he could “see stars” every time he tried to bear weight on his leg. Luckily, doctors present at the Uyuni bivouac were able to check for fractures and displacements, and it turned out that his knee was still in one piece but with a large volume of fluid encasing it. Even after the injury was drained and rested, it will still extremely painful, and Joan wasn’t sure if he could start Sunday’s stage.
But sure enough, ‘BangBang’ was on the startline for Stage 8, and he began the day with extremely impressive pace. Although he lost time throughout the day he still came home in 8th, a mere 12 minutes behind the fastest rider!
Joan Barreda (ESP, Honda. 8th stage/5th overall):
“I suffered a lot in the first part of the day, but I’m OK. If I could have a few days to recover then I could do a lot more. But racing is like this and I must continue!”
Sadly Stage 8 saw the exit of one of the rally’s top riders; Xavier de Soultrait crashed at kilometre 147 and immediately knew something was badly wrong with his elbow and knee. But fuelled by adrenaline the Frenchman ‘popped’ his elbow back into place and set off for another 15km before the pain became excruciating and he was forced to stop.
Xavier de Soultrait (FRA, Yamaha. DNF):
“The bike fell on its side and I was sliding with it, I hit some kind of metal pipe. I thought I was OK, but I’m definitely not.”
A statement from his team later revealed the extent of the damage – a displaced double fracture of the elbow, and a rupture of the anterior and posterior ligaments of the knee. He was said to be “suffering a lot”. The news came as a huge blow, not only for Xavier, who had been running 6th overall, but also for his factory Yamaha squad, who also lost Franco Caimi to mechanical failure on the first half of the Marathon.
30th place Txomin Arana also suffered an enormous crash on Stage 8. The Spaniard was diagnosed with cervical spine trauma, a broken elbow, and broken hand. Thankfully, Ivan Cervantes was quick to react when he found Arana stricken on the stage and stayed with him until medical crews arrived.
Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla also saw his chance of a podium slip away as he lost time with a broken wheel….
Pablo Quintanilla (CHI, Husqvarna. 40th stage/12th overall):
“Just when you least expect it, everything changes! A problem with my rear wheel meant my chain got stuck. Big thanks to my team-mate, Andrew Short, who arrived to help me. I lost more than an hour, but the important thing is that I’m fine, so I won’t give up on a good result!”
Back at the front, an intense and thrilling fight for the stage win was playing out between KTM’s Antoine Meo and Honda’s Ricky Brabec, despite the long special the pair were separated by just 10 seconds as they began to close in on the finish line. In the end it was former Enduro champion Meo who had the upper hand in the slippery and muddy conditions, pulling out 1 minute and 8 seconds on Brabec. The rivals arrived into the bivouac together and there was great sportsmanship between them as they congratulated each other on the hard-fought battle.
Meo’s stage victory signified a strong day for KTM in general as they continue their quest for their 17th consecutive crown. Toby Price finished 3rd on the day, Matthias Walkner 6th, and Laia Sanz 10th. The orange squad now have three riders in the Top 6 overall.
But despite the best efforts of Honda and KTM, Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren managed to hold onto a slim margin of just 22 seconds at the head of the standings!
Adrien Van Beveren (FRA, Yamaha. 7th stage/1st overall):
“Today was the Dakar in all its glory! The stage was long and very slippery, it required a lot of concentration! But I’m really happy to finish the Marathon like this, and my bike was a real delight to ride.”
The Top 5, which is made up of five different nationalities, remain very close in the overall standings, with just 8 minutes between them. It’s impossible to pick a winner amongst the field, and with Toby Price (4th) the only man to have won the rally before, we are quite likely to see a new winner on the top step in Cordoba in six days’ time.
It was announced on Sunday that Stage 9 from Tupiza to Salta, the first stop in Argentina, has been cancelled due to weather conditions. This will come as a relief to the injured Barreda, and possibly to Van Beveren who is clinging onto his rally lead. But the loss of 242 competitive kilometres will be disappointing to those trying to reel in their rivals. For Kevin Benavides (2nd overall) and his younger brother Luciano (16th overall) the easy run into Salta will be very much appreciated as they will receive a hero’s welcome from their hometown fans.
The post Dakar 2018 Stage 8 report: “The long and winding road” appeared first on MotoGP Brits.
As I will be writing my MotoGP travel guides in the same order as the calendar, I will start it in the same place that MotoGP kicks off every year: in Qatar. Why does it start in the middle of the desert so very far away from the vast bulk of MotoGP fans? The answer is simple: money. Qatar pays a lot of money to be the first race of the MotoGP season (and the last race of the WorldSBK season). So if you want to see the MotoGP season opener, you have to travel out to a sandy peninsula in the Persian Gulf.
MotoMatters.com Travel Guide Rating:
Where is it?
The Losail International Circuit is located some 30 kilometers north of the center of Doha, the capital of Qatar. It is situated just off the Al Khor Coastal Road. It is clearly visible from the plane when you fly into Doha, and visible as you drive to the track because of the floodlight system, which appears after the bulbous blue-and-white Lusail Multipurpose Hall, a sports facility.
With the first MotoGP test in Sepang less than two weeks away, the factories are preparing by launching their bikes and introducing their liveries. So far, only two factories - Ducati and Yamaha - have announced dates, but more should follow soon.
First up is Ducati, who are launching their 2018 MotoGP campaign in the factory headquarters in Bologna, as they have done for the past five years. The launch starts at 10:30am CET on Monday, 15th January. It will be streamed live via internet, and you can find a link to the presentation on Ducati's Youtube channel. The link will also allow you to set a reminder.