Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Dakar riders returned to the challenge of reaching the finish line after Monday’s turbulent day in Bolivia with Marc Coma finishing third in Stage Nine to hold onto the overall lead by a margin of five minutes 28.
Riders spent their final day in the sand of Chile’s Atacama Desert as they went from Iquique to Calama over a total distance of 539 km, 451 km of which was under the clock. They first had to tackle some 50 km of sand and dunes before encountering rougher narrow tracks with plenty of potholes and areas of fesh-fesh (fine dust).
Stage winner was Helder Rodrigues of Portugal who finished in five hours 06.14 with countryman Paolo Goncalves three minutes 51 behind in second place. Coma, A Red Bull athlete crossed the line seven minutes 34 behind the leader.
Coma said it had been another very difficult day: “It was foggy at the start of the special and I made one small navigation mistake and I lost some time there, but then I tried to push with a high rhythm to come back to my position. The last part was also tricky navigation and it was difficult to find one of the waypoints. I am lucky because maybe I am faster than some of the others and I can push until the end. It’s okay. It was a good day for us.”
Other leading KTM riders in the stage were Slovakia’s Stefan Svitko who was sixth, followed by both KTM rookies, Austria’s Matthias Walkner at seventh at 22.02 and Australia’s Toby Price at 23.09. KTM factory rider Ruben Faria was twelfth home, trailing by 34.22.
Price too had occasional difficulties with the navigation: “This morning was going well and we were making up ground. I made a small navigational error in the sand but I got on top of it. We were about one minute off the lead at the first CP but then we went into the fesh-fesh area and it was really tough. Then at about the 360 km mark there was a waypoint and we all got lost and the other guys made up ground. It was frustrating to lose time there but I am happy we’re here. As long as we can get to the finish line, that’s the main goal. But if we can stay in the top five that’s even better.”
Walkner had another strong day out in the desert given that he started way down the order because of difficulties encountered in Stage Eight and had to fight his way through a lot of dust. He also hit a bump and crashed, tearing off his drink pack in the process. He had to ride the last 150 km without water and did well to reach the finish in another impressive time. Both Walkner and Price have delivered very solid performances in their first Dakar outings.
KTM riders are also well placed in the overall standings with Coma in the lead, Chile’s Pablo Quintanilla in third at 26.52, followed by Price in fourth at 31 minutes 31, Svitko is in fifth and Faria in sixth overall. Red Bull KTM factory riders and KTM-supported riders are competing on the KTM 450 RALLY.
Stage 10 on Wednesday is the start of the second marathon stage, which takes riders over a distance of 891 km, including a timed special of 371 km. Preservation of bikes and tires will again be important as they are not permitted any support or assistance from their teams overnight.
Stage Nine Dakar 2015
Iquique to Calama – 88 km liaison, 451 km special (539 km)
(Provisional Stage Results)
1, Helder Rodrigues, POR, Honda, 5 hours 05.14
2, Paolo Goncalves, POR Honda at 3.51
3, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM at 7.34
4, Joan Barreda, ESP, Honda at 19.47
5, Javier Pizzolito, ARG, Hoinda at 20.07
6, Stefan Svitko, SVK, KTM at 21.40
7, Matthias Walkner, AUT, KTM at 22.02
8, Toby Price, AUS, KTM at 23.09
9, Pablo Qunitanilla, CHI, KTM 23.15
10, Olivier Pain, FRA, Yamaha at 28.09
11. David Casteu, FRA, KTM at 28.09
12, Ruben Faria, POR, KTM at 34.22
13, Ivan Jakes, SVK, KTM 38.18
18, Jakub Przygonski, POL, KTM at 1:02.11
20, Hans Vogels, NLD, KTM at 7.34 at 1:13.44
Provisional Overall Standings after Stage 9
1, Coma, KTM at 34:05.00
2, Goncalves at 5.28
3, Qunitanilla KTM at 26.52
4, Price, KTM at 31.31
5, Svitko, KTM at 40.36
6, Faria, KTM at 1:31.26
7, Casteu, KTM at 1:31.26
8, Sanz at 1:54.37
9, Jakes, KTM at 2:18.31
15, Jakub Przygonski at 3:46.38
21, Walkner at 5:41.23
Route Stage 10: Calama Marathon Stage – 520 km liaison, 371 km special (891 km)