Red Bull KTM: Red Bull KTM factory rider Toby Price, KTM’s 2016 winner, crashed out of the Dakar Rally 2017 on Thursday on the final stretch of a long and difficult fourth stage. The Australian fell hard just after successfully hunting down current race leader Joan Barreda of Spain. KTM teammate Matthias Walkner of Austria went on to take the stage victory and finished just over two minutes ahead overall leader Barreda, Chilean Pablo Quintanilla is second and Walkner now in third place.
Matthias Walkner never gave up against Joan Barreda, who has been head and shoulders above the rest for two days. The Austrian managed to catch his Spanish rival over the last kilometres to grab his second stage victory on the Dakar after the one he won in 2015. After two withdrawals, perhaps the time is ripe for him to achieve a fine result in Buenos Aires.
Hours after running the following story Dakar officials have handed a one hour penalty to Monster Honda Energy Team's Joan Barreda who missed a way point on today's stage)
Monster Energy Honda: Joan Barreda pulled off another stunning ride as the 2017 Rally Dakar crosses into Bolivia. The Monster Energy Honda Team rider battled hard throughout the whole stage – not an easy task considering that he was opening the track. The 416 kilometre special subjected the competitors to the first dunes seen so far in the rally, requiring some serious focus and deft navigation skills. Many riders went astray and dropped time. Barreda took the opportunity to tighten the screw, going full throttle on the Honda CRF450 RALLY to put yet more ground between himself and adversaries. From CP2 onwards, the Spaniard led until race-end in Bolivia where the terrain was more precipitous with rocks galore and river-crossings to boot. Joan chose to play it safe in the latter part of the stage, which saw him concede time, and eventually the stage victory. Nevertheless, runner-up spot on the day proved to be equally positive as Barreda widens the gap at the top of the leaderboard boasting 18’19” over Chilean rider Pablo Quintanilla.
Monster Energy Honda Team rounded out a red-letter day with Michael Metge posting a virtual podium place. The Frenchman was outstanding in the fourth stage, setting a cracking pace and executing near-perfect navigation. This allowed ‘Mika’ to whittle down some of the time lost in the previous stage and improve in the general rankings. He had been one of the riders to lose out yesterday as race organizers failed to consider the time that some riders had needed to complete the liaison section after getting trapped in a storm on the ascent towards Jujuy.
Ricky Brabec ran into some problems at the start of the special. The American dropped precious time going in search of the correct route. Once back on track, he made it safe back to the Tupiza bivouac without further hitches. Likewise, Paulo Goncalves got delayed near the start and conceded time. Subsequently, with the end of the stage in sight, the Portuguese rider came across an injured Toby Price on the ground. Goncalves halted to alert the helicopter to the plight of the Australian who had suffered a broken right femur. Once last year’s champion had been attended to, Paulo was back en route for the Dakar’s first stopover in Bolivia.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna: Factory rider Pablo Quintanilla continued his quest for a top position in the Dakar Rally 2017 with another consistent ride in a difficult fourth stage to finish in sixth place. The Chilean rider has now moved into second place in the overall rankings behind the present leader, Joan Barreda of Spain.
Factory teammate Pela Renet followed up on his third-place finish in Wednesday’s stage three with another confidence boosting ride to finish eighth. He finished 12.30 minutes behind stage winner Matthias Walkner of Austria.
Thursday was also the day riders crossed the border from Argentina into Bolivia, on their way to La Paz, the most northern point in this edition. Friday they continue onto Oruro, a stage or 786 km, with another massive 527 km making up the timed special. The stage goes across the Bolivian Altiplano with a whole range of mixed terrain. It will be another long day at altitudes over 3500 meters, which will continue to sap riders’ energy. The rally’s one rest day is Sunday in La Paz.