Honda’s Joan Barreda won his fourth stage of this year’s Dakar Rally today, the Spaniard conquering the long 426-mile stage 10 from Iquique to Antofagasta to close the gap slightly to overall leader Marc Coma. Coma ended up fifth in today’s stage, some 11 and a half minutes behind Barreda.
“It's not easy to win four stages,” Barreda said. “I'm happy because it followed the trend of the rally so far, with a nice feeling, lots of speed and good navigation. We'll see how it goes tomorrow. It'll be difficult again because there'll be lots of kilometers and the dunes of Copiapó. The day after that will also be tough. We'll see, we're getting closer. Nothing is lost yet. Marc [Coma] has a sizeable lead, but anything can happen."
Helder Rodrigues gave Honda a one-two finish in today’s stage, the Portuguese rider enjoying his best result of this year’s rally. Rodrigues ended up eight minutes behind his teammate Barreda and a minute and 40 seconds clear of Yamaha’s Cyril Despres.
Then came Despres’ teammate Olivier Pain and Coma, the two separated by just 15 seconds.
Coma now leads the overall standings over Barreda by 44 minutes and 10 secondds.
"Cyril [Despres] was going quite well and I tried to follow him,” Coma said. “We swapped places to maintain a high pace. It wasn't an easy day. It was a long day. Nothing's certain yet. We've still got to tackle the dunes of Copiapó. The day after that will be tough too. We've still got very difficult days ahead, anything can happen. We'll see. Sure, everything's gone well so far, but anything can happen. The slightest mistake can cost you loads of time."
With the top two fairly solidified in the overall standings, the battle for the final podium spot looks certain to be fought out to the finish. Jordi Viladoms currently holds the spot by 14 minutes over Pain. But Rodrigues is only a further five minutes behind with Despres starting to gain ground in sixth overall. The defending Dakar Rally champion is 26 minutes behind Viladoms.