So far, this is shaping up to be a really tough Dakar!
Red Bull KTM factory rider Toby Price, KTM’s 2016 winner, crashed out of the Dakar Rally 2017 on Thursday on the final stretch of a long and difficult fourth stage. The Australian fell hard just after successfully hunting down current race leader Joan Barreda of Spain. KTM teammate Matthias Walkner of Austria went on to take the stage victory and finished just over two minutes ahead overall leader Barreda, Chilean Pablo Quintanilla is second and Walkner now in third place.
Like many others, Sam Sunderland lost valuable time in the early part of the timed special before they made the crossing from Argentina into southern Bolivia. He went on to finish the stage in 12th place, 16.18 minutes off the lead.
Toby Price, who won the second stage but then lost time at the beginning of Wednesday’s Stage 3 after a navigational error, had been working hard to catch Barreda. He had just got in front of him when he crashed in a riverbed at the 371 km mark. The medical team reported he had fractured the thighbone in his left leg when he was only a few kilometers from Tupiza in southern Bolivia, where the stage finished. The factory team later confirmed Price was being transported to the capital La Paz for further treatment.
Matthias Walkner: “Actually at the beginning of the stage I didn’t feel so good and I got a bit lost, like everybody, I think, because it was tricky navigation. After I had a good speed but I didn’t think it would be enough to win.” Speaking of his teammate’s accident, Walkner commented: “I got to him about five minutes after the crash and Adrien Van Beveren and Paulo Goncalves had already stopped. I saw he was awake and they told me he was more or less okay, so I kept on going. Where he crashed it was in a riverbed, where the ground changed very quickly. First it was sandy and you could go flat out at 140 km/h, but then you came to some big stones and it’s very hard to find the right speed. If you hit a stone with the motorbike then its difficult.” Looking ahead to Friday’s fifth stage, the Austrian rider said in some ways it would be good to start first but it would also be a difficult job to open the piste.
Sunderland was disappointed to have lost time at the beginning of the stage: “It is really frustrating because I’m trying to spend a lot of time on the notes, but it’s very unclear. I can only speak for myself but I heard other riders are also having problems. Even some of the car teams who have a guy just for the navigation are having difficulties. I guess the organizers want to make it like this. It’s frustrating because I felt good and strong the rest of the day but its pretty rough to lose 10-15 minutes at the start of the day and for sure its going to get worse.” Speaking of his injured teammate, Sunderland said: “I also want to shout out to my buddy Toby Price and hope he can get better soon. It is a big blow for KTM but we are a good team and a strong one and we’ll keep fighting until the last day.”
The day was also a frustrating one for KTM factory rider Laia Sanz who finished at 36th in the stage. “I was doing well at the beginning and I was navigating well. I was on the traces and in the right place for the waypoint, but I stopped to confirm with another rider, and he told me that I was wrong. So I went back to check, and I was right the first time, so I lost half an hour.”
Friday’s Stage 5 will continue north on the Bolivian Altiplano. Riders can expect a vast range of terrain and organizers say the stage will be one of the most demanding. There will be two challenging dune sectors in the final kilometers of the 447 km timed special and they will ride for a total of 692 km to get to the stop at Oruro. After this long day, they only have one more stage before the one rest day in La Paz.
Results Stage 4 Dakar 2017
San Salvador de Jujuy – Tupiza: 416 km timed, 521 km total
1. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 4:57:22 h
2. Joan Barreda BORT (POR), Honda, +2:02 min
3. Michael Metge (FRA), Honda, +3:18
4. Xavier De Soultrait (FRA), Yamaha, +5:58
5. Stefan Svitko, (SVK), KTM, + 8:33
7. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP), KTM, +10:24
12. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, +16:18
38. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, +1:00:33 h
DNF Toby Price (AUS), KTM
Standings Dakar 2017 after 4 of 12 stages
1. Barreda, 12:35:43 h (1 min penalty)
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, +18:19 min
3. Walkner, +20:26 (5 min penalty)
4. Svitko, +24:11
5. Sunderland, +24:31
6. Farres Guell, +30:21
24. Sanz, +1:44:46 h