Kurt Caselli took the first stage win of his career in Stage 7 of the 2013 Dakar Rally, a sprint through the Andes Mountains.
Stage 7, a quick marathon sprint high in the Andes Mountains, went to first time Dakar competitor, Kurt Caselli. The American KTM rider gained the advantage early in the special section and despite heavy pressure from other riders, came through the winner of the stage by more than a minute over the previous day’s winner, Chaleco Lopez, who finished second. Trailing in third, but notching the same stage time as Lopez, was French rider and current overall leader, Oliver Pain.
Caselli, who took second in the 2012 Baja 1000, has been continually improving his performance over the course of the 2013 Dakar. Even though he has extensive experience in off-road and endurance riding, the adventure in South America is unlike any other and, according to him, he still has lots to learn.
“Everything for me was fine,” said Caselli. “I’m learning the navigation better and I can understand it. This is my first Dakar so I’m just learning a lot. I didn’t have any idea what to expect when I first came here. It’s fun and I’m enjoying it.”
Riders set out at 4:30am local time and had a sizable 417-kilometer link section before reaching the start of the timed portion. Lopez opened the road, but Caselli pushed hard through the early kilometers and had taken the lead before reaching the first intermediate point. The running order was tight and once official times were registered, Caselli only had three seconds over second-placed rider Pain and only 27 over Yamaha’s Frans Verhoeven in third and Jakub Przygonski of KTM in fourth. By the second way-point, Caselli had extended his lead slightly but still had Pain, Verhoeven and Przygonski within one minute of his time.
Since the stage was classified as a marathon, riders had to address any maintenance issues they faced on the course alone, a fact that played into some contestants’ final results. Husqvarna rider Jordi Viladoms was forced to stop after completing just 38 km due to mechanical issues as was Honda rider Gerard Farres Guell. Defending Dakar champion, Cyril Despres, also struggled with his machinery, losing over 13 minutes due to the fact that a gearbox problem made him unable to use his fifth gear.
Pain and Verhoeven scraped it out for second behind Caselli through the remaining intermediate points while Lopez remained in fourth. Just prior to the end of the timed section though, the Chilean rider made his move and barely edged out Pain for the runner-up position. Ruben Faria and Joan Pedrero also moved up in postition late in the race, displacing Przygonski down to seventh.
Outside the running for top position, sad news emerged. It was announced during the contest that French rider Thomas Bourgin had passed away in a traffic accident on the link route to the special stage. Bourgin collided with an oncoming Chilean police car, and though medics responded immediately, they weren’t able to save the 25 year-old rider.
Chaleco Lopez finished in second-place behind Caselli and moved to second overall through seven stages.
At the end of Stage 7, Lopez moved up to second overall behind Pain and Casteu remains in third. KTM’s Ruben Faria slipped down to fourth and Despres, following his trouble on the course, is now fifth overall. A final link stage following the timed portion saw Despres continue to suffer mechanical issues. He was able to find a solution to cover the 30 km he had remaining to reach the bivouac, albeit at a greatly reduced pace. Przygonski moved into sixth overall after his performance in Stage 7, followed by Stefan Svitko in seventh and Caselli in eighth.
“It’s sure that with Cyril Despres’s problems that gives me a significant gap for the lead, and that’s a good thing for me,” said Pain. “That’s just part of racing, but I’m not forgetting that it could happen to me too, so I’m not getting cocky about it, especially since Cyril has the capacity to claw back the time he’s lost. So, I’m not getting ahead of myself, I’m just going to carry on like this without taking risks and enjoying myself. Today I just concentrated on my own race. With the injection system, I knew our bike wouldn’t suffer too much from the altitude, so it’s all been fine. I’m still in the lead, so overall it’s been a good day.”
2013 Dakar Rally Stage 7 Results:
Calama – Salta total distance 806km – 418 km liason, 218 km special, 167km liason
1. Kurt Caselli, USA (KTM) 1:51:31
2. Chaleco Lopez, CHL (KTM) 1:52:54
3. Oliver Pain, FRA (Yamaha) 1:52:54
4. Frans Verhoeven, NLD (Yamaha) 1:53:01
5. Ruben Faria, PRT (KTM) 1:54:01
6. Joan Pedrero, ESP (KTM) 1:54:13
7. Jakub Przygonski, POL (KTM) 1:54:22
8. David Casteu, FRA (Yamaha) 1:54:43
9. Stefan Svitko, SVK (KTM) 1:55:37
10. Alessandro Botturi, ITA (Husq) 1:56:10
2013 Dakar Rally Overall Standings after Stage 7
1. Oliver Pain (Yamaha) 17:28:17
2. Chaleco Lopez (KTM) 17:34:23
3. David Casteu (Yamaha) 17:34:54
4. Ruben Faria (KTM) 17:37:59
5. Cyril Despres (KTM) 17:42:24
6. Jakub Przygonski (KTM) 17:49:00
7. Stefan Svitko (KTM) 17:53:08
8. Kurt Caselli (KTM) 17:56:03
9. Alessandro Botturi (Husq) 17:58:35
10. Israel Esquerre (Honda) 17:58:52