It wasn’t a good day to be Cyril Despres in today’s fourth stage of the Dakar Rally, but it was a good day to be Joan Pedrero.
Pedrero won the first stage of his Dakar career today, the Spaniard riding his Sherco across the finish line 29 seconds ahead of Chaleco Lopez, the Chilean who gained the most in the overall standings today with an effort that was only topped by Pedrero.
As for Despres… well, the defending Dakar champion slipped down the overall standings to sixth overall after giving up some 40 minutes to his rivals. Despres’ factory Yamaha failed him with some seven and a half miles left in the stage and the five-time winner of the Dakar now trails overall leader Joan Barreda by 41 minutes. Despres, however, wasn’t the unluckiest rider on the day. That goes to stage two winner Sam Sunderland, the factory Honda rider pulling out of the race after his blowing up his motor.
Still, Despres is refusing to give up.
“Yesterday went great, it was one of the most beautiful specials I've ever done,” Despres said. “Our strategy called for taking Michael Metge's wheel this morning because it was in better condition. Everything went well until km 170, but then we started to make small navigation mistakes, but we managed to stay on top of things with Marc [Coma]. We were both there with 150 km to go, but nine km before the end, my Iritrack support broke down and damaged the wires. The motorcycle ground to a halt and I worked hard until I found the problem: a short-circuit. Do I look disheartened? Well, I'm not. We've just finished stage 4 out of 13. The day I give up is the day I should pack up and go home. True, it's a big setback, but I love this race, and I know it's not over until it's over. I could have given up today, but I'm still here. The motorcycle doesn't miss a beat, and I'm in tip-top shape."
Red Bull KTM’s Marc Coma ended up third in today’s stage that ran from San Juan to Chilecito in Argentina and that puts him second in the overall standings – three minutes and 10 seconds behind Barreda and the factory Honda. Barreda was sixth in today’s stage after winning two of the first three stages. Speedbrain’s Jeremias Israel had his best day of this year’s rally, the Chilean finishing fourth ahead of Yamaha’s Olivier Pain.
Lopez’s strong effort today moved him to third overall and he trails Barreda by five minutes and 12 seconds, but is 20 minutes clear of Alain Duclos and his Sherco. Pain is fifth overall and is now Yamaha’s best hope for a strong finish in the rally as Despres drops to sixth.
“Everything seemed to be going smoothly but, towards the end of the stage I think I misunderstood an entry in the road book,” Barreda said. “I took a wrong turn with 70-80 km to go. I'll have to double-check it later because yesterday I read the road book several times and it said we had to go in this direction. We'll see; I lost lots of time because I had to backtrack and then I took a wrong turn. But it's because that's what the road book said. I read it properly. It's a lot of time, 20 to 25 minutes. I don't know what to say. Then, I got into a rocky area. It was tough. I was nervous. But I have to look on the bright side. I saved the day. I have to keep going and improving. Tomorrow will be another day, and both me and the motorcycle will be in good shape. Everything will go well.”