143 riders are scheduled to start todays 500km day. It is nearly all special stage with just a small liason section. It will be very interesting to see how the day plays out. There is no word yet on the success of Despres overnight engine swap at the remote bivouac. I have to imagine changing an engine in a rally bike is a delicate task, particulalry when working with limited tools and supplies. If you did not read that story yesterday, here is the link:Despres Motor Problems.
-First Part of Course Cancelled, -A few changes have been made to today’s stage due to the torrential rain falling on the area: the first part of the special has been cancelled, including the entire Truck stage, which was supposed to take place on this part of the course. On the other hand, the second part of the special for cars, motorcycles and quads will go on as planned. The motorcycles and quads will set off at 12:00 pm local time, followed by the cars at 2:05 pm.
-American Kurt Caselli entered the road section which will lead him to the start of today’s special at 7 am local time. Due to bad weather, the start of the special for motorcycles, quads and cars has been pushed back to Punta de Balastro, which will come after a 300 km link section. The motorcycle race kicks off at noon local time.
-Motorcycles are into Special -Only the motorcycles, quads and cars will be racing this afternoon. American Kurt Caselli was the first rider to start the special at noon local time, followed by “Chaleco” López and Olivier Pain, the Frenchman at the top of the general classification. The bikes have leap-frogged all the way up to what would have been check point 6. So the remaining part of today’s special will be relatively short. I am sure this will be welcome news to Cyril Despres who is riding with a borrowed motor. He will be happy to see tomorrow’s rest day when his team can give the bike a full overhaul.
– Caselli off course – The American leading the charge in the motorcycle category has strayed off course 30 km into today’s special. Caselli “forgot” to turn right at an intersection and is now lost in the pampa.
– Pain Fast – Now that the first three riders have gone through km 56, Olivier Pain is in command with a time of 38’42”, a mere 2″ ahead of Francisco López and 1’20” ahead of third-placed Kurt Caselli. The American may have missed several waypoints during his excursion outside the course
-Verhoeven to front – Flying Dutchman Frans Verhoeven has just sailed to the lead at km 56, posting a time 24 seconds faster than former leader Olivier Pain’s. Ruben Faria came in fourth, one second behind “Chaleco”, whereas Juan Pedrero García posted the seventh best time, 2’10” down on the leader.
Heavy Hitters in Charge – Joan Barreda has taken the reins of today’s special with a time of 37’39”. Cyril Despres lies second, 28″ down.
CP8 – Barreda, Despres, Verhoeven, Svitko, Pain. Casselli about 3 min back of lead pace. If he does not take any penalties for missing waypoints, he won’t lose too much time today. I am sure he is learning every minute of the race. It is much different to lead then follow.
CP9 – Aussie Grabham jumps up – Joan Barreda (Husqvarna) still holds a fastest time of 55’02”, with Cyril Despres 26″ down. KTM’s Australian Ben Grabham (+1’01”) grabbed third place at km 86, followed by Svitko (+1’02”), Frans Verhoeven (+1’06”), Olivier Pain (+1’14”), Alesandro Botturi (+1’17”), eighth-placed Ivan Jakes (+2’08”) and ninth-placed Francisco López (+2’18”), who’s only got a one-second gap on Javier Pozzolito.
Other notes from the stage – Top Honda rider is Pizzolito running about 10th. Johnny Campbell is 34th, Laia Sanz 45th. Portuguese rider Patrao is in 20th on his Suzuki
Leaders take wrong turn – 118 km into today’s special, all the leaders on the course are straying off the right path. They’re all heading towards the mountains instead of following the river, as they should. It looks like Hélder Rodrigues and Paulo Gonçalves are the only ones who are still on track, but some of the leaders seem to be backtracking.
More wrong turns – Hélder Rodrigues didn’t take the same wrong turn as all the leaders, but he’s quickly made amends by turning right a bit later and losing loads of time
Finish – Top 7 riders have arrived at stage finish. Barreda looks to have the provisional win. Caselli is in but has lost nearly 30 minutes on the day.
Joan Barreda looks like he’s going to make amends for his stroke of bad luck a few days ago by winning today’s special. After leading the stage from the beginning, Barreda crossed the finish line with 7’57” on Ivan Jakes, 14’13” on David Casteu and 26’44” on Francisco López. Nevertheless, seeing how the special’s gone so far, this classification is anything but final.
There will be some huge changes in the overall classifications today as many of the front runners lose 20 minutes or more on the stage from navigation problems. For example Olivier Pain lost 37 minutes to leaders.
Johnny Campbell provisional 2nd place for stage! Huge reversal of fortune for Despres today also. By not getting lost he will jump right back to a podium standing in the overall.