Red Bull KTM’s Marc Coma took a cautious approach in what was a very tough second half of the first Dakar Rally marathon stage. In very adverse conditions for all bikes and riders, Coma brought his KTM 450 RALLY back to the finish in ninth place in Monday’s stage and assumed the overall lead by nine minutes 11 seconds.
Coma sacrificed seven minutes 37 seconds in the stage that started with a high-speed dash across the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, then returned riders back into the mountains and the dunes of Chile’s Atacama Desert. Finally they had to negotiate the terrifyingly steep descent back to Iquique.
His main rival, Joan Barreda of Spain, who was the pre marathon stage leader suffered technical difficulties and dropped down the order. Barreda finally finished sixty-fifth in the stage and is now tenth overall at one hour 24.14 behind the KTM factory rider.
Stage winner was Chilean KTM rider Pablo Quintanilla, second was Joan Pedrero of Spain. Stefan Svitko of Slovakia (KTM) had a great marathon stage to finish third just 00.12 seconds behind the leader. It was also a very strong performance by KTM’s Dakar rookie, Toby Price of Australia who finished 00.41 seconds behind Quintanilla in fourth place and is also fourth in the overall standings behind Coma, Paolo Goncalves of Portugal and Quintanilla.
The start of the rally was delayed because of weather conditions and rain the day before had made conditions tricky for a high-speed dash across what is the world’s largest salt lake. Coma said later that conditions had been “over the limit”.
Marc Coma: “Conditions were very complicated, for me over the limit. To ride over the salt and the water was like a kind of cement on the bike and there was a lot of stress to try to take care of the engine of the bike and everything. To arrive here today is like a victory. I am happy we are leading now but we still have five days in front of us. We have a long way to go and every day there is something different. We just have to take it kilometer by kilometer.”
Coma said at the end of the stage that he had had problems with a radiator blockage caused by the paste-like mix of salt and water and he thanked his teammates Jordi Viladoms and Ruben Faria for their help in solving the problem at the refueling point. Faria went on to finish behind Coma in tenth place but Monday saw the retirement of Viladoms, who was last year second to Coma at the finish of Dakar 2014. Also retired after Stage eight was KTM-supported rider Riaan van Niekerk of South Africa.
Toby Price also commented that the salt water has clogged many of the bikes and had especially affected the electronics, resulting in a lot of problems for many of the top riders. “For me it was just a matter of preserving the bike and trying to get to the finish. It’s still in one piece and I am just hoping I can get to the finish line.”
KTM rookie Matthias Walkner had another very tough day but finally made it to the finish line in forty-fourth place an dis now ranked twenty-eighth overall. The young Austrian, riding only in his second rally has shown speed, courage and determination and has a stage victory to his credit. Third in Stage Seven heading for Uyuni, Walkner said on Sunday that he had already felt the adverse effects of the altitude in Bolivia. He remains committed to be at the finish line in Buenos Aires and like Price, has put in an admirable performance in his first Dakar.
Matthias Walkner: “Today was our hardest day. it rained until about 10-11 o’clock and we rode 150km in the salt lake with a lot of water. Most of the bikes were destroyed and my bike also stopped two or three times. In the end it was just bad luck and I hope for a better day tomorrow.”
Tuesday riders go from Iquique to Calama (Chile) over a total distance of 539 km, 451 km of which is timed special.
Stage Eight Dakar 2015
Uyuni to Iquique – 24 liaison; 781 km special (Total 805 km) – second half of marathon stage
Stage 8 results (provisional)
1, Pablo Qunitanilla, CHI, KTM 2 hours 56.19
2, Joan Pedrero, ESP, Yamaha at 00.11
3, Stefan Svitko, SVK, KTM at 00.12
4, Toby Price, AUS, KTM at 00.41
5, Lila Sanz, ESP, Honda at 2.36
6, De Soultrait, FRA, Yamaha at 6.36
7, Alain Duclos, FRA, Sherco at 6.42
8, Hans Vogels, NLD, KTM at 7.34
9, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM at 7.37
10, Ruben Faria, POR, KTM at 7.44
11. David Casteu, FRA, KTM at 8.01
16, Ondrej Klymciw, CZE, KTM at 12.33
19, Jakub Przygonski, POL, KTM at 16.13
Overall Standings after Stage 8
1, Coma, KTM at 28:51.12
2, Goncalves at 9.11
3, Qunitanilla KTM at 11.11
4, Price, KTM at 15.56
5, Svitko, KTM at 26.30
6, Faria, KTM at 34.34
7, Duclos at 58.08
8, Casteu, KTM at 1:10.48
9, Sainz at 1:18.51
10, Pedrero at 2:06.10
11, Hans Vogels, NDL, KTM 2:06.46
Route for Stage 9 on Tuesday, January 13, 2015 Iquique to Calama – 88 km liaison, 451 km special (539 km)