Honda’s Joan Barreda won his second stage of the Dakar Rally today, the Spaniard further increasing his overall lead after winning his second stage in the three-stage-old rally.
Barreda now leads the overall standings by 13 minutes and four seconds after winning the seventh stage of his Dakar career. Barreda’s victory today also keeps Honda’s record perfect in this year’s race with his teammate Sam Sunderland winning yesterday’s second stage.
“This has been a really exceptional special, one like the Dakar has never seen before,” Barreda said. “Not only for the altitude but also for the hills and the steep slopes that we have had to endure. It was like a trial. In second gear, revved up, then stopping for breathe before taking off again. A real trial run where you just had to try and not make any mistakes and keep up the concentration. The navigation was really tough and at no time did I really stop to see if I was on the right path. We crossed a few rivers at the start. I caught up with Chaleco [Lopez] and then Sam, [Sunderland] who I saw had taken the wrong route. From then on I did the rest of the special on my own. In the final few kilometers on the way down I was able to open the throttle until the end. It really was a difficult one for everyone.”
Today’s route had been reduced to 81 miles as the first stretch of the special was deemed to not be satisfactory for racing after last week’s heavy rains in the area. The rest of the special covered a more normal route, including plenty of mountain zones in the Andes. In fact, Barreda set a record today for becoming the first Dakar rider to reach an altitude of 4300 meters (9460 feet).
Defending Dakar Champion Cyril Despres had his best day of the rally thus far, the factory Yamaha rider finishing second to Barreda – four minutes and 41 seconds behind the Spaniard. Ditto for Red Bull KTM’s Marc Coma who ended up third today, almost seven minutes behind Barreda.
Sherco’s Alain Duclos finished the stage in fourth, another four minutes adrift, with KTM’s David Casteau rounding out the top five.
Despres’ strong showing today vaulted him to second overall behind Barreda and ahead of his rival Coma. Those two are separated by just 52 seconds and are both over 13 minutes behind the factory Honda. Duclos is fourth overall with Chaleco Lopez fifth.