From KTM – Factory rider Marc Coma of Spain displayed his consummate professional skills on Thursday, brushing aside the disappointment of a fuel line problem that cost him around 18 minutes in Stage Three of the Desafio Ruta 40 Rally in Argentina to take a solid victory in Stage Four
Coma and his KTM factory teammate Kurt Caselli, who also lost time on Wednesday when he stopped to assist him, finished 1-2 in the stage just 1.5 minutes apart. Chaleco Lopez, their Chilean teammate finished seventh in what was a very closely contested stage. The top five riders were all within five minutes of each other as they battled the track from Belin to Chilecito over a total distance of 586.73 km, 192.32 km of which was timed special.
The result puts Coma back in the reckoning for the overall victory. He is currently fifth but only trails overall leader Helder Rodrigues of Portugal by 3.17 minutes. Among his toughest rivals for the number one spot will be Caselli, currently third overall and just 1.39 behind the leader, and Lopez in fourth overall trailing by just 2.11 with two more stages to go.
Coma however is the first to admit that in rally sport nothing is certain until you cross the finish line. Friday’s stage, a massive 781.66 km from Chicelito to San Juan, including a timed special of 455.74, the second longest of the rally, will play a major part in the final outcome. On Saturday riders take a loop track from and to San Juan that includes the final timed special of 146.23 km.
KTM Factory Team Manager Alex Doringer said it had been a very good day for his riders. “They really pushed today,” he said.
Sadly Desafio Ruta 40 organizers also confirmed at the end of the day that rider No. 35, Nicholas Rojas of Argentina had crashed during the course of the stage and was declared dead at the site by the emergency medical rescue team. The KTM Factory Team extends sincere condolences to the rider’s family and friends for their sad loss.
Team HRC riders Helder Rodrigues and Javier Pizzolito hold the top two places in the overall standings after today’s fourth stage of the Desafio Ruta 40 rally in Argentina.
After an early start this morning, with temperatures hovering just above freezing, Rodrigues was fifth fastest after a 586km ride, with a 192km special stage, from Belén to Chilecito. His team mate, Pizzolito, who won yesterday’s third stage, finished ninth, 12m50s behind today’s stage winner Marc Coma.
Pizzolito opened the stage at 06.10 this morning, which was conducted in the Fiambalà area of Argentina and contained some typical Dakar scenery of spectacular sand dunes, and the Argentinian rider made some small navigational errors which affected his time.
But it is the consistency of Rodrigues, together with the performance of his Honda CRF450 Rally, that has put him at the top of the overall leader board, just 1m16s ahead of his Team HRC team-mate.
Helder Rodrigues #3 – 5th
What a difficult day! It was really easy to make a mistake in navigation and I got lost with a few other riders today, but we got back on the right track in the end. After these problems, I’m really happy with the result today. I am leading now and I think Javier and I can make a good race in tomorrow’s long stage. The bike is feeling great and the team is working really well together.
Javier Pizzolito #7 – 9th
It was difficult for me to open today’s stage because it required a lot of navigation, but I am happy with my performance. I injured my hand in the crash yesterday and at the end of today, whe n I was tired, it started to swell up and I was in some pain, but I managed to reach the end. I am also happy that Helder is leading overall and that I am quite close to him because tomorrow will be an important stage.
Speedbrain Goncalves fast but unlucky – The “desert” part to Chilecito massively tested the rider skills on the fourth day of the Ruta 40, as the route led through beautiful landscape. Shortly after the start of the special stage the infamous Fiambala section offered pure offroad torture. The up and down terrain had numerous difficulties in store, among them rocks, dunes and tricky navigation. The riders needed luck also, because once taking a wrong turn caused real problems getting back on track.
Unfortunately Speedbrain rider Paulo Goncalves had to deal with exactly such an incident in what could have been his stage. The Portuguese had started the special stage very well, passing the rivals in front of him and powering away. The attack was part of the strategy targetted at collecting further experience in heading the field.
But Goncalves took a mistakable roadbook note wrong. The 34-year-old then lost around 30 minutes after having ridden eight kilometres on the wrong path. The riders behind took advantage, as they witnessed Goncalves turn around. Goncalves is certainly not the first raid rally ace who has this happen to him…
Back on the correct route Paulo attacked again. He regained ten minutes on the leaders, ultimately ending in 12th place on the day. Goncalves also lost time in the overall ranking where he´s now lying seventh – although still in striking distance to race leader Helder Rodrigues.
Paulo Goncalves: “I was feeling in top shape today and wanted the lead. The bike works perfectly and I am hungry. Unfortunately I took a wrong direction. There are still two stages to go so there´s time left to make amends.”
Tomorrow sees the penultimate stage of the rally challenging the field over 781 km, of which 455 km are forming the special stage. It´s a real test with regards to the Dakar 2014, before the race ends on Saturday with a loop around San Juan.
Stage 4 results
1, Marc Coma, Spain, KTM 2 hours 56.25
2, Kurt Caselli, USA, KTM at 1.5
3, David Casteu at 3.36
4, Claudio. Rodriguez, Honda at 4.38
5, Helder Rodrigues, Portugal, Honda at 5.25
6, Pablo Rodriguez, 7.16
7, Chaleco Lopez, Chile, KTM at 9.44
8, Felipe Prohens, Chile at 9.55
9, Javier Pizzolito, Argentina, Honda at 12.50
10, Juan Salvatierra, Bolivia, Speedbrain at 14.48
Overall after Stage 4 (of six)
1, Helder Rodrigues, 14:07.52
2, Pizzolito at 1.16
3, Caselli, KTM at 1.39
4, López, KTM at 2.11
5, Coma, KTM at 3.17
6, Casteu at 4.33
7, Goncalves at 12.28
8, Prohens at 44.25
9, C. Rodrigues at 45.55
10, Salvatierra at 49.48