In a replay of Stage 3, HRC Honda rider Joan Barreda once again posted the quickest time in Dakar Rally Stage 4 only to be penalized due to speed infractions, and slide back in the standings for the second day in a row. This time the penalty was five minutes (due to multiple infractions), which relegated Barreda from first place in the stage to fourth, and from the overall lead to third in the general ranking.
It is still a good result for the HRC team as the stage-win and overall lead go to Barreda’s teammate Paulo Goncalves. Local Argentinian rider Kevin Benavides of the Honda South America Rally Team finished second on the day ahead of Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Ruben Faria. KTM’s Antoine Meo rounded out the top-five in Dakar Rally Stage 4.
As yesterday’s winner, Benavides opened the stage, marking a first for the young rider. “I was a tad nervous and didn’t want to make any mistakes,” Benavides said. “I kept my eyes on the road book. I think I did all right. I found the tracks and managed to set a high pace. Paulo joined me and we finished together. The stage was fast, varied, stimulating and quite technical. I used a straightforward tactic: keep my body and my bike in good shape because there wont’ be any assistance tonight.”
As the first half of a marathon stage, riders immediately delivered their bikes to impound where they will remain untouched (even by the riders themselves) until start times in the morning. KTM’s Antoine Meo had this in mind in today’s stage, electing to slow his pace to save his tires for tomorrow.
“It was a very long stage—my first marathon stage,” explained Meo, who carded a sixth-place finish on Stage 4. “It was a bit hard because I had to save my tires, so I never went over 150 km/h (93 mph). As a result, I lost six minutes to the winner, but I’m quite happy because my tires are still in good condition. I rode within my limits today. The Honda guys have water carriers, so they can push much harder because they’ll change their tires.”
Meo finished just ahead of his KTM teammate Toby Price in Dakar Rally Stage 4. It was a good recovery for Price after yesterday’s 36th place finish. The Aussie is now eighth in standings just behind factory Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla.
“Our strategy for tomorrow is easy,” said KTM Rally Team Manager Alex Doringer. “We’ll work hard and go fast. Not stupid or dangerous but we hope we can catch up some time. We’re still in the first part of the race and we keep going – like we always do.”
Today marked a big improvement for Husqvarna’s Ruben Faria, whose third-place finish got him into the top-five in overall standings. But it was mixed results for the Husqvarna team, as rookie Dakar rider Pela Renet suffered a crash near the end of the stage that has forced him to withdraw from the race. Like Faria, his factory Husqvarna teammate Pablo Quintanilla is still eagerly awaiting the tougher stages to come.
“We rode a lot in the Dakar manner if you consider the amount of kilometers,” Quintanilla explained. “Although only on trails and little navigation. My idea was to leave Argentina without making mistakes and I did succeed. I hope that as we enter Bolivia we find more off-road because that is my real strength and I can put on the pressure.”
American rider Ricky Brabec is finding his rally racing chops, and carded his first top-10 finish today. Brabec finished 7th in Stage 4 and now sits 17th in the ranking. “I’m getting more and more used to the race which is important as there is still a long way to go,” said Brabec. “The team is doing a really great job and the bikes are running really well, too.”
American riders Ian Blythe, Alexander Smith, Scott Bright and C.R. Gittere all had good results in Stage 4. Alexander Smith – son of off-road legend Malcolm Smith – reports that he is enjoying riding in the rain, commenting last night via inReach Message (about Stage 3), “I had a fun day today. The stage started dry, dusty and very fast. Then it started raining and didn’t stop until the end of the stage. It was awesome to ride such a great motorcycle in those conditions. I moved up again in the overall and I’m hoping to keep chipping away. Still a lot of racing ahead of us. I hope they don’t cancel the stage tomorrow. Another rain stage would be good for me.”
Much to Smith’s delight, Stage 4 was not canceled, and in fact, was the first in the 2016 Dakar Rally that was not shortened due to the weather. Riders ran the full 266-mile (429 km) special test at an average altitude of 11,500 feet in the mountainous Jujuy region. Despite the long stage, times still remain tight among the top contenders, with less than six minutes separating the top-10. Riders maintain that the Dakar Rally up to this point has required very little navigation.
“It was a long special with a very high average speed,” commented HRC’s Paulo Goncalves. “There wasn’t a lot of navigation but I was in doubt at one point and I lost a few seconds. We arrived without any problems and everything will be ready to set off tomorrow for the second part of the marathon stage. The teamwork has been excellent; to arrive here with everything in order in a stage like this one is perfect.”
Tomorrow the Dakar Rally leaves Argentina and heads into Bolivia, taking riders back into the Andes Mountains to even higher elevations – upwards of 15,000 feet (4600m), which is the highest in Dakar history. Stage 5 promises to deliver more off-road sections and difficult navigation – just what many of the top riders have been waiting for.
Dakar Rally Stage 4 Results: (Updated)
- Paulo Goncalves (Hon) 3:49:29
- Kevin Benavides (Hon) +4:46
- Ruben Faria (Hus) +5:26
- Joan Barreda (Hon) +5:34
- Antoine Meo (KTM) +6:44
- Toby Price (KTM) +6:48
- Ricky Brabec (Hon) +7:45
- Gerard Farres (KTM) +7:58
- Pablo Quintanilla (Hus) +8:05
- Michael Metge (Hon) +8:16
- Laia Sanz (KTM) +10:06
- Ian Blythe (KTM) +21:36
- Alexander Smith (Hus) +54:38
- Scott Bright (KTM) +55:52
- C.R. Gittere (Hus) +1:13:31
Overall Ranking after Dakar Rally Stage 4: (Updated)
- Paulo Goncalves (Hon) 10:17:17
- Kevin Benavides (Hon) +4:26
- Joan Barreda (Hon) +5:26
- Stefan Svitko (KTM) +8:08
- Ruben Faria (Hus) +8:15
- Mattias Walkner (KTM) +9:13
- Pablo Quintanilla (Hus) +10:35
- Toby Price (KTM) +10:43
- Antoine Meo (KTM) +13:24
- Alain Duclos (Shr) +14:01
- Ricky Brabec (Hon) +21:04
- Laia Sanz (KTM) +22:02
- Ian Blythe (KTM) +1:03:14
- Alexander Smith (KTM) +1:54:49
- Scott Bright (KTM) +2:05:12
- C.R. Gittere (Hus) +2:44:41