Stage 7 might represent a turning point in the 2013 Dakar. While Cyril Despres has looked calm and in control, even when not winning stages, today may have changed that. With transmission problems today, Despres lost precious time. But even more important, as part of the marathon stage, the team will not be able to service the motor until the end of tomorrow’s stage. Cyril will probably ride the entire stage 8 with a wounded bike. Expect all the challengers to strike on stage 8 before the rest day.
From KTM – Red Bull KTM factory rider Kurt Caselli (USA) took his first ever Dakar stage win on Friday, completing the 220 km timed special in one hour 51.31. Caselli is competing in his first Dakar Rally standing in for the factory team’s injured Marc Coma.
The fast timed special at high altitude allowed Caselli to exercise his speed and skills, recently sharpened with a second place for the KTM US team in the Baja 1000. Caselli averaged a speed of 117 kmh for the 218 km of the timed special and became the first newcomer to win a stage since factory teammate Ruben Faria did it in 2006 at the start of the Dakar Rally in Portugal.
Caselli: “Everything for me was fine. I’m learning the navigation better and I can understand it. This is my first Dakar so I’m just learning a lot. I didn’t have any idea what to expect when I first came here. It’s fun and I’m enjoying it.”
On a day when riders first made the heady ascent up to the highest mountain pass in the Andes during the long liaison of 586 km, five top KTM riders finished in the fastest ten at the finish in Salta (Argentina) but the KTM factory team’s lead rider Cyril Despres was not among them. The French rider had some technical difficulties with the bike that hampered his speed in what should have been a very fast special and the time he sacrificed has dropped him down to fifth place in the overall standings. He now trails leader Olivier Pain by just over 14 minutes. Stage Seven and tomorrow’s Stage Eight are ‘Marathon’ stage in which riders must rely on their own mechanical knowledge in the event of problems. They overnight in a bivouac without the rest of the support team.
While it was an unlucky day for Despres, the other KTM riders who were well up the order including Chile’s ‘Chaleco’ Lopez who finished 1 minute 23 behind Caselli. The two official KTM Factory Team support riders Ruben Faria of Portugal and Joan Pedrero of Spain finished fifth and sixth. KTM Factory B team rider ‘Kuba’ Przygonski of Poland was seventh while his teammates South Africa’s Riaan Van Niekerk and Darryl Curtis were twelfth and twenty second respectively. Despres was eventually classified at thirty-fourth and now has the task of fighting his way back into the lead.
With just one stage left before the one rest day on Sunday French rider Olivier Pain leads the overall standings, followed by Lopez, David Casteu, Faria and Despres. On their last push before the rest day, riders go from Salta to San Miguel de Tucuman in Argentina on what is the longest stage in the 2013 edition. They must travel 247 km in the liaison section before a massive 491 km of timed special.
The seventh stage of the 2013 edition was marred by the death of a French rider Thomas Bourgin who was the victim of a fatal accident during the liaison section prior to the day’s special. Organizers said he was involved in a collision with a police car but no other details were announced. Bourgin was racing his first Dakar. KTM expresses sympathy to the family and friends of this rider.
Speedbrain Husqvarna – The 218 km first part of the Dakar 2013’s only marathon stage, won’t be remembered by the riders as a particularly special one. The stage presented no particular difficulties other than the dust and a navigation-heavy first part, and saw the riders approach the race with a calm and prudent attitude. The special test, at between 3000 and 3400 metres sea level, proved to be a test in itself. Alessandro Botturi was the best of the Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain riders, taking tenth place, which could prove crucial ahead of tomorrow’s second marathon leg.
Joan Barreda and Paulo Goncalves, who set off from behind had to put up with an enormous amount of dust throughout the day. Both chose not to take risks. Joan finished a dust-filled day with very little overtaking, in twenty-first place, and Paulo came in twenty-sixth. Jordi Viladoms had a bad day at the office, when during the transfer he stopped at the Lama pass border crossing some 4500 metres above sea level, where for reasons of fatigue was forced to seek aid from a medical car, and was given oxygen. Jordi managed to restart and compete in the special. Matt Fish got back to the bivouac this morning after working on his bike in the neutralization zone yesterday, and headed out on the second special in the dark. Matt didn’t throw in the towel as he realises how important it’s going to be for his team-mates to have his support over the next few days.
Tonight the riders will camp out in Cachi, without the mechanics, and will thus have to do any work on their TE449RRs by Speedbrain themselves. They set off again tomorrow at 05.50 for another long stage, which is expected to be a complicated one.
The seventh stage of the Dakar has been marred by the death of the young French rider, Thomas Bourgin, 25, involved in a fatal accident during the long transfer. The Husqvarna Rallye Team by Speedbrain sends condolences to the family.
The second leg of the marathon from Salta to San Miguel de Tucuman is predicted to be the toughest stage of the entire Dakar 2013. A total of 739km (461 miles) including 492 special test, which will take the form of two separate parts. After the special there will be a 228 km transfer to the camp where the riders have their rest day on the 13th January.
Alessandro Botturi: “It was a fairly calm stage, even if it was very long. I didn’t take any risks and didn’t push too much, as we were at such a high altitude and it wouldn’t have been right to overdo things. Starting out tenth suits me fine for tomorrow’s stage as it’s an important one and I want to attack.”
Paulo Goncalves: “I tried to get past the slower riders who started ahead of me but it was really tricky. It was just too dusty and dangerous. I managed to overtake three riders, but then I decided it was better not to take any chances, and so I sat in behind the group.“
Joan Barreda: “It was impossible to overtake today in the special, because there really was so much dust. I took it easy as my hand was causing me problems and I didn’t want to mess everything up before tomorrow’s special. This evening I will take something for the swelling, because I want to be in good shape for tomorrow’s important stage.”
Yamaha – After a difficult sixth day yesterday, Yamaha riders Olivier Pain and Frans Verhoeven were back running with the front pack in today’s stage, Calama to Salta. Today’s action took place above 3,300 metres, adding extra physical challenge for the already exhausted riders. Yamaha Racing France rider Pain managed to bring it home in third place, just over a minute from the front rider, the result keeps him at the top of the overall standings with a lead of just over six seconds.
Dutch Yamaha Netherlands Verhoeven Team rider Verhoeven made another step forward towards his performance of the opening stages of the rally, completing day seven in fourth place, just a few seconds behind Pain in the stage times. The result moves him another three places up the overall standings to 18th, now 50 minutes from the front.
Team Casteu Yamaha Racing France rider David Casteu was back inside the top ten today, wrapping up the stage in eighth position, three minutes from the front to hold onto his third position in the standings. The riders now have one more day of action tomorrow before a hard-earned rest day on Sunday.
“It’s sure that with Cyril Despres’s problems that gives me a significant gap for the lead, and that’s a good thing for me,” said Olivier Pain. “That’s just part of racing, but I’m not forgetting that it could happen to me too, so I’m not getting cocky about it, especially since Cyril has the capacity to claw back the time he’s lost. So, I’m not getting ahead of myself, I’m just going to carry on like this without taking risks and enjoying myself. Today I just concentrated on my own race. With the injection system, I knew our bike wouldn’t suffer too much from the altitude, so it’s all been fine. I’m still in the lead, so overall it’s been a good day.”
“I attacked flat out from the start today, because the Yamaha, thanks to the adjustable injection system, doesn’t suffer power loss at high altitudes,” commented Frans Verhoeven. “I soon caught up with Esquerre and Despres who let me past without any problems, which was very fair-play, what with all the dust and wind. After that, I carried on attacking and riding fist up to the finish.”
Johnny Campbell – Today it was a marathon stage , that means that the riders and the bikes are in a separate bivouac with no service from mechanics. It is a must to conserve our equipment as it has to last 2 days. My role today was to ride conservative to save tires for a good team work. Tonight we sleep in a gym the middle of nowhere in Argentina.
Regarding the stage all in all it was a good day as we woke up at 4:00 am and we were early on the road to make our first Andes crossing. We reached almost 5,000 meters and it was freezing uo there, with temperatures close to zero and it was hard to breath. The landscape was great and there were llamas on the road. The race stage was very fast, similar to Baja road, it was very fun. Once I saw Kurt Caselli I knew that he was likely to win today and he did. Congratulations my fellow American!