Stage 5 win for KTM’s Sam Sunderland to take overall lead
Sam Sunderland finished ahead of Paulo Goncalves of Portugal and French rider Adrien Van Beveren, who were just 22 seconds apart. The day was another game changer following the drama in Stage 4 when Toby Price, last year’s winner crashed and retired with a broken leg and Joan Barreda, the overall leader picked up a one-hour penalty. Sunderland now has a 12-minute advantage in the overall standings over Chilean rider Pablo Quintanilla, while Van Beveren is 16.07 minutes off the leading time.

Sunderland said it had been a heavy day and that the declining weather conditions had created visibility problems and additional hazards. “It was a tough day even though the second part was cancelled, we still had 300 km in the rain and cold. I started off today with a good feeling and I tried to really focus on the navigation. There were one or two really tricky places. It would be fast and then there would be a difficult part, then fast again, so you had to change the rhythm a lot. Now I have to try to stay calm and focused because it’s only day five. It was a heavy day but the bike was awesome and the team is great. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

On Thursday, after the stage, Sunderland remarked that he was finding the navigation very difficult, but he was one of the few riders that did not falter on Friday. His Austrian factory teammate Matthias Walkner opened the stage on his KTM 450 RALLY and looked as though he was about to take an early lead when he too made a mistake at the 170 km mark. Sunderland hit the front, just over an hour into the timed special but by then Walker had lost some 10 minutes. He was not the only one. It was a day where most of the top riders had trouble with the conditions and navigation, and one that introduced a new set of names to the top of both the stage and overall results.

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna factory rider Pablo Quintanilla wrapped up a shortened fifth stage of the 2017 Dakar Rally on Friday in seventh place, enough to retain overall second on a day that confused and confounded riders with difficult conditions and navigation. The shortened stage, called off because of very bad weather, went to British rider Sam Sunderland, who is now the overall leader.

Quintanilla had briefly inherited the overall lead overnight when Spanish overall leader Joan Barreda was hit with a one-hour penalty for a rule infringement. The Chilean rider said prevailing conditions has made it a very tough day. Former Dakar rally forays into Bolivia have been brief overnight affairs but this year the country is a major player, resulting in riders not only having to contend with unfamiliar territory but also riding at altitude on the Bolivian Altiplano.  The day’s bad weather added another layer of difficulty.

Quintanilla: “Today was very a tough stage. We started in the morning with a mountain piste, and with rain and fog. Then we had some tricky navigation and some rivers where I took a bad exit and lost some minutes trying to find the right way. It was not the best day for me but sometimes in the Dakar you don’t have good days. The important thing is to be consistent and try to fix the navigation mistake as soon as you can. Today I made a mistake and lost some minutes but what is important is I caught all the waypoints. We have to keep racing because we have many kilometres and a lot of stages to go.” Rain is forecast in this part of Bolivia way beyond the weekend, and Quintanilla said this would make the tracks very dangerous.

Less fortunate was Quintanilla’s factory teammate Pela Renet of France, who on Thursday was one of the few riders who seemed to be coping well with the difficult navigation in this year’s 9000 km epic.  Like so many others riders, he got lost trying to locate a waypoint and finished the day almost 46 minutes behind in 34th. The French rider said he was frustrated and disappointed but added that it was important to stay calm and concentrated for the next stage.

Renet: “Generally the day was good but I had so much trouble to find the waypoint at the 152 km. I was turning around and searching for a long time, about 45 minutes. It was one small mistake but it cost me a lot of time and enough to give me a bad position today. But I’m still in the race and there’s still a long way to go.” Despite the mistake, Renet remains at eighth in the general standings.

Riders now have to tackle another long ride Oruro north to La Paz, where in Sunday they have the one scheduled rest day, a chance to catch their breath and take a resume of the first week. They also have to plan tactics for the second week and to carry out vital maintenance on the bikes. Saturday’s stage six is another daunting 786 km with 527 km of timed special. In fact, it is the longest stage in the 2017 edition.

Van Beveren Takes Yamaha Inside The Top Three At Dakar Rally 2017.
Putting in a convincing stage five performance, Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team's Adrien Van Beveren managed to earn a spot inside the top three in the 2017 Dakar Rally's provisional overall standings. Living up to the challenges of a demanding stage in the Bolivian uplands, Xavier de Soultrait and Hélder Rodrigues both finished the stage without problems and are provisionally placed sixth and 13th overall respectively.

With race organizers reducing the length of the stage due to poor weather conditions, final results were decided following the first of two timed specials. Despite a few minor navigational mistakes early in the day, WR450F Rally mounted Adrien Van Beveren quickly got back up to speed and went on to complete a near perfect special for third overall. Confirming his status as one of the rally's most consistent competitors, the Frenchman is now third in the provisional overall standings, one stage before the 2017 Dakar Rally's halfway point.

Continuing to increase his pace, Adrien's Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team partner Hélder Rodrigues reached the end of today's stage without any problems claiming a 19th place result. Hoping to make the most of his vast experience as the race goes on, the Portuguese rider is provisionally placed 13th in the rally's overall standings, a little more than 15 minutes behind the provisional top 10.

Following his impressive runner-up result from yesterday's stage four, Xavier de Soultrait suffered a series of small navigational mistakes that forced the Yamaha France supported rider to settle for 16th on today's stage five. The WR450F mounted rider is currently sixth in the provisional overall standings and less than 20 minutes behind the provisional top three.

Continuing their domination in the Quad category, Yamaha riders currently occupy the first four spots in the class' provisional overall standings. New provisional leader in the class is Yamaha Raptor 700R mounted Simon Vitse.

Featuring a total of 527km of timed special in a total of 786km until its finish, tomorrow's stage six is promising to be one more big challenge towards the end of this year's Dakar Rally. Including yet more racing at high altitude dunes, stage six will end in Bolivia's capital La Paz. There competitors will take a well-deserved break during Sunday's Rest Day.

Troublesome stage for the Monster Energy Honda Team in Bolivia.

The trans-Andean country would appear to be jinxed for the Monster Energy Honda Team, who continued to have bad luck on a gloomy stage between Tupiza and Oruro. In spite of the setbacks, Paulo Gonçalves posted runner-up spot on the fifth day of racing.

First Joan Barreda and Michael Metge, then Ricky Brabec all went astray around kilometre 147 today, dropping precious time to rivals. The French rider managed to get back on the right track and limit the damage to some minutes. Barreda, meanwhile, frustratingly saw the front runners lengthen their lead over him.

The atrocious meteorological conditions that have been pounding the area over recent days finally forced race organizers to cut short the scheduled route. In the end, the timed special was fought out over a total of 219 kilometres.

At that point, the best of the Monster Energy Honda Team bunch was Portuguese rider Paulo Gonçalves who occupied the second step of the stage five podium.

In yesterday’s Rally Dakar 2017 fourth stage, race authorities hammered the team with a one hour sanction per rider for what the organization claims was “refuelling outside the authorized zone”. The indications which had been given during the rider and team’s briefing were not altogether clear and the team thought that they were at the organization’s refuelling as they entered Bolivia.

The penalization sees the riders sacrifice their top positions in the general standings. The squad’s leading rider is currently Paulo Gonçalves, tenth, followed by Joan Barreda. Michael Metge and Ricky Brabec are separated by three seconds in twentieth place.

Tomorrow, day six, is the final stage before the competition’s rest day on Sunday in La Paz. The stage runs from De Oruro to the Bolivian capital some 4,000 metres above sea-level and will feature the longest special of the Rally Dakar 2017 with 527 kilometres against the clock. The stage takes in the famous and much-venerated Lake Titicaca.


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Chris Glaspell

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