Dakar: Goncalves Takes Stage 5

Paul Carruthers | January 6, 2011

There are eventful days in the Dakar Rally and then there are eventful days in the Dakar Rally. Today was most definitely eventful as somebody not riding a KTM finally won a stage as the two protagonists – Marc Coma and Cyril Despres – both ran into problems during in stage five.

There were no such problems, however, for today’s stage winner Paolo Goncalves on the BMW Motorrad by Speedbrain G 450RR. Goncalves won the stage for BMW by over two minutes from Aprilia-mounted Francisco Lopez Contardo.

‘It was a very difficult stage, very long but also very beautiful,” Goncalves said. “I think I rode it well. After the refueling point, I stopped to help Olivier Pain who had fallen. The rules say we should stop. I waited for four to five minutes. The main thing is that he’s okay. So I’ll probably have some time taken off my end result. The bike worked well on the quick parts as well as the technical ones.”

Goncalves wasn’t the only one who stopped to help Pain, who was unconscious when the other racers discovered him. Overall leader Coma also stopped to assist the fallen rider after already encountering machine problems.

“It was a difficult day,” Coma said. “I fell, then I had problems with my radiator. I managed to repair it and carry on more or less as normal. After the refueling, I stopped for Olivier Pain who had just had a fall. He was unconscious, so I activated the alarm and stayed with him until my water carrier Joan Pedrero arrived. It was a genuine Dakar stage where all sorts of things happen. I lost time on [Cyril] Despres, but I should recover some time after stopping to help Pain.”

Despres ended up fifth in the stage, but was also hit with a 10-minute penalty today. He now trails Coma by 10 minutes and 14 seconds in the overall standings.

“I was told at half past four in the morning that I’d been given a penalty,” Despres said. “I just forgot my thermal gloves, so I went back to get them and I didn’t see that there were signposts I had to follow at the exit. Unfortunately, for me, that’s the race rules, but I’ve already forgotten about it with what I experienced today. This is why I ride rally-raids: 425 km [263 miles] of navigation and pleasure. We had to go looking for GPS coordinates that were genuinely like needles in haystacks. Forgetting about the time or penalties, the most important thing for me is to feel good and enjoy myself. I saw that Marc Coma was carrying out repairs around the 70 km [43 miles] point. I’ve never rejoiced about other people’s problems. What’s important for me, is the race I ride.”

Third place in today’s stage went to BMW-mounted Frans Verhoeven, the Belgian rider’s best effort to date in the Dakar Rally. Coma and Despres finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

American Jonah Street ended the day eighth in the stage and eighth overall. Quinn Cody, meanwhile, had a difficult day on his Honda, finishing 22nd in the stage and dropping to 15th overall.

With Coma leading by 10:14 over Despres in the overall standings, Lopez Contardo on the Aprilia is holding down third place. He is 18:32 behind Coma after his runner-up ride in today’s stage.

Paul Carruthers | Editor

Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America's Daily Motorcycle News Source.