Chaleco Lopez -“ The first part of the special went very well, but on the second section, the engine lost a fair bit of power and I started wondering whether it was a fuel problem or due to the altitude. I don’t know, but I should find out when I get to the bivouac”.
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From KTM – Red Bull KTM’s Cyril Despres delivered what was necessary in Stage Six of the 2-13 Dakar Rally to finish third in what was one of the longest stages in this year’s edition and to trim the deficit between him and the current overall leader to a mere two minutes 22 seconds.
Despres: “I ate quite a lot of dust having started fifth this morning, but then I caught up with the stage leaders at the end of the first section. It was very quick, a WRC type route and finally there were some tracks and rocks. It was really nice to ride and on the second section, we all stuck together in single file. All in all, it was generally a good special and it’s great to be in Chile!” Despres and the other KTm factory riders are competing on the KTM 450 Rally bike.
With eight more stages to go in the 8000 km marathon, everything is still to play for and the KTM title defender is now well positioned ahead of two more challenging stages before the one reprieve rest day on Sunday.
Some observers said that Thursday was the stage that signaled the real start of the major battle for supremacy as riders raced from Arica on the Chilean border to Calama. It was a massive test of physical and mental endurance and the riders had a grueling dawn start to the 767 km, 464 km of which was in two times specials. They also faced a time zone adjustment after having passed the border from Peru into Chile that robbed them on additional sleep. The stage took them into the notorious Atacama Desert, the driest place on the planet including an encounter with the dreaded fesh-fesh, the typical powder fine sand. Sand and dunes made up two thirds of the stage, making it all that more strength sapping for the riders.
Fastest KTM official factory rider in Thursday’s stage was Despres’ KTM factory support rider Ruben Faria of Portugal who finished just two minutes 34 behind the leader, Chilean desert specialist ‘Chaleco’ Lopez, also riding a KTM. Fourth fastest was KTM’s Kurt Caselli, the American factory rider standing in for the injured Marc Coma to secure the top four positions for KTM riders.
Faria said his tactic was to make the most of the hard terrain in the beginning of the stage. “I set of in thirteenth place and tried to go flat out, but I wasn’t able to go as fast as I wanted with all the dust on the special. I found a good pace in the second half of the special and moved up.”
By the time the caravan of competitors had reached the bivouac in Calama they had completed 3000 km of the total of 8000 km making up this year’s edition and were at an altitude of 2500 m in the Andes.
Looking at the overall standings, after Stage Six there are five KTM riders in the top 10 and 10 in the top 20. This includes all of the riders in both KTM factory teams (Despres, Caselli, Faria and Pedrero in the main team and South African duo Darryl Curtis and Riaan Van Niekerk and Jakub Przygonski of Poland from the Factory B Team.
Speedbrain Husqvarna – Botturi still up with the leaders in Dakar sixth stage
Dakar gets tough now with three tricky stages ahead of 13th January’s rest day at San Miguel de Tucuman. Today saw 454 km (284 miles) of special test split into two sections. Alessandro Botturi really pushed his Husqvarna TE449RR by Speedbrain hard finishing just behind the leaders in fifth place. Alessandro, however slips down to tenth position in the overall standings, due to a fifteen minute penalty imposed after he had his engine changed for precaution ahead of tomorrow’s marathon stage.
Paulo Goncalves pushed hard too but was unlucky. Paulo won the first part of the special a minute ahead of Lopez, but an electrical problem at the start of the second stage caused him to slow down considerably, and he finished some way behind. Jordi Viladoms, who set a tremendous pace in the initial special part amongst the top ten, likewise had difficulties with the TE449RR’s electrics.
Joan Barreda finished the special test in twenty-ninth position after being involved in an ugly crash in the second part of the stage which leaves him nursing a heavily bruised right wrist. Matt Fish is managing to finish the race and solve same technical problems on his bike in order to start again tomorrow.
Alessandro Botturi: ”Well, I’m very pleased. I got past the first three straight away this morning, and I was in control of the stage for most of the special. It really was a long one, very dusty and tiring. But I’m very happy. Yesterday we decided to change the engine ahead of tomorrow’s marathon test.”
Paulo Goncalves: “It was a shame about the electrical problems or I would have easily won the special. I won the first part a minute ahead of Lopez. A couple of kilometres into the second stage I started to experience electrical problems. I lost a lot of time changing the fuses, otherwise I wouldn’t have come in so far back, and I’d have probably won the stage.”
Joan Barreda: “I didn’t push for the whole of the stage, and I just wanted to find the right pace to set for the next few days. I stopped to see if Paulo needed any help, and then set off again. But in all the dust I made a mistake and fell badly. My hand and wrist are hurting a lot. I don’t know if I’ll be able to start tomorrow.”
Gas Gas Laia Sanz – Best not you might be going to the 2013 Dakar Laia Sanz. The Gas Gas rider and KH-7 is maintaining a continuous progression and today has gone up positions in the overall standings of the bike race, which now occupies the 33rd position. In the sixth stage, between Arica and Calama, with a special of 331 kilometers divided into two sections, Laia was 32nd with a time of 4h 06’58 “, in the first half hour. Despite the good feelings that are pluricampeona transmitting the Spanish, his career in this ordeal is not without its tricky moments, which has so far saved outstandingly. Today, however, the first link segment that has been dropped to the left bruised entire stage. “I still do not understand how I could fall. I was starting after a stop we made along the way and I have stumbled on a stone … The fact is that I have gone through the floor. I’ve beaten the hand and elbow of the right arm. I had a little swollen, but I could do without too many special problems. ” was not the only pilot scare Corbera de Llobregat, which at the beginning of the first timed section in a sandy area, has fallen back to the bike: ” I was doing very well in the first part, but then I’m hooked on a dune. I’ve been completely buried and I have to thank Joan Barreda has stopped to help. I have lost about 3 or 4 minutes in that action . ” The rest of the stage, Laia has rolled with great consistency, always among the top 40, has even been going in an excellent 27th place. ” Today was a tough stage and quite uncomfortable, dusty, fesh-fesh areas complicated, but again I can be very happy because I’m very well-sorted and I honestly did not expect to be so forward. That’s important to not go back and swallowing dust. If I continue like this, the end will finish pretty well, I think . ” Tomorrow, the riders reach the marathon stage that divides the seventh and the eighth day of the rally. ” There will be two difficult days because we do not care and will reach nearly 5,000 meters, which will affect the engines. Also, yes now I start to notice fatigue. Today had slept only four hours a day and has been very hard. In fact, it is the day I finish tired , “he says.
Honda Johnny Campbell from Stage 5 – At the beginning of the day we rode thru allot of technical rocky sections so I rode more conservative, then we had a challenging but fun hill climb on rocky mountains trails that required complete focus. Riding downhill, we faced tricky river crossings with lots of ditches. Overall it was more Baja style than the dunes today after km 50, we got some fast hard terrain, I could ride more on the gas. The bike worked really well today I finished in 25th and everyone on the team moved forward in overall position. Tomorrow will be a big day with over 700k total milage and over 400k special. My plan is to keep the bike moving and avoid any trouble. The team is all working very hard and while we are not quite half way we are in the thick of the rally at this point so it is important for me to get rest and allow plenty of preparation time for my daily road book work. I really appreciate all the support from my family & friends it keeps me going. The USA contingent here in Dakar has been great and we continue to make headway.
Honda Helder Rodriguez – Today’s stage had two completely different sectors. Initially tried to attack, but in the final part of the stage floor was very difficult and I opted for a more defensive tone. Tomorrow we will have the start of a long marathon, is a step that all riders find it difficult because it is totally disputed in altitude, but I feel well prepared. I want to thank you for the great support. Big hug.