If not for a mechanical problem, American Chris Blais would likely have won stage two of the Dakar Rally today, the American losing 20 minutes to fix the problem yet only coming up 11 minutes behind today’s winner – Helder Rodrigues, the new overall leader of the event.
For Rodrigues it was the first stage win of his life, the 27-year-old ridinghis Yamaha to victory in one hour, two minutes and 44 seconds. That was just over a minute better than his Portuguese countryman Ruben Faria, the Yamaha rider crashing in the test but recovering to finish second.
“This is special,” Rodrigues said. “I did not have a single problem. In my own mind, I knew I had to attack early to get a stage win, but really thought yesterday was my chance, but this is great. Now we go to Africa, and there, I just have to see what I can do.”
Spaniard Isidre Esteve Pujol and Frenchman David Casteu maintained third and fourth overall on their KTMs, the pair finishing third and fourth in today’s stage, respectively. Fabien Planet moved into a surprise sixth place on his KTM ahead of Thierry Bethys and Jonah Street, on the leading Honda and Pai entries.
Defending race champion Marc Coma moved up five places to eighth after finishing fifth today, but he’s now 10 minutes off the lead on his Repsol KTM.
And it was a bad day for another former winner, Cyril Despres, who was only 24th fastest following a crash on his Gauloises KTM. He dropped to 11th overall.
Blais will feel as though he could have won today’s stage by a big margin after losing out by 11 minutes despite losing 20 minutes while he fixed a mechanical problem with his bike.
Tonight the bikes, riders and crews will be ferried across to Morocco.