Stage 7 of the 2016 Dakar Rally proved to be one of the most tumultuous yet, with more riders withdrawing from competition and the day ended early due to severe weather. Red Bull KTM’s Antoine Meo finished with the fastest time before officials called the stage complete, followed by Honda pilot Kevin Benavides in second and Team HRC’s Paulo Goncalves in third.
The previous day’s winner, Red Bull KTM’s Toby Price, opened the road as the stage commenced and battled with Goncalves on the timesheet early on. Goncalves, however, dropped from the fight when he came across KTM’s Matthias Walkner, who had suffered an off in the initial miles. Goncalves activated his beacon to call for help for Walkner and stayed with the KTM rider for more than 10 minutes as help arrived. Walkner was later reported to have sustained a broken femur. Officials later deducted the time Goncalves spent assisting Walkner, helping the Portuguese rider retain the overall lead in the race.
Price continued to set a blistering pace, but Meo was coming up quick on the timesheet, claiming the stage lead by CP1. Price lost some ground at Honda’s Benavides and Michael Metge upped the ante, settling into second and third mid-way through the day. The motorcycle competitors made the border crossing back into Argentina, but soon after the race was suspended due to thunderstorms in the area of the final portion of the timed section.
Meo was unsurpassed when the clocks stopped however, earning his first Dakar stage win.
“The first part was real tough, we couldn’t see the terrain properly because of the sun glare,” said Meo to Dakar reporters on site. “I really enjoyed the ride after the neutralized sector, I caught two riders and, because it was moist, there wasn’t any dust… Awesome. I rode fast, I made no mistakes, and I navigated properly towards the end. I felt much better than yesterday, so I attacked a bit. I’m happy. I’m discovering the Dakar, it’s still hard to judge. I wanted to be in the top 10 and, so far, it’s even better. I try to be consistent and not to get too tired. I’ll do my best to keep it up. I feel okay physically, but I know we’ve still got to tackle the toughest week. I’ll stay relaxed and we’ll see.”
With the adjustments in time, Goncalves made top-three for the day followed by Metge in fourth. Price finished in fifth followed by Rockstar Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla in sixth.
Team HRC’s Joan Barreda opted to not start the day’s stage and withdraw, suffering a left hand injury the day before when mechanical issues dashed his hopes of contending for the Dakar title this year.
Barreda’s teammate, Ricky Brabec, continued to improve his showing in his first Dakar, finishing Stage 7 in 10th place and moving up to 12th overall.
Riders get a day of rest on Sunday before resuming competition on Monday.
2016 Dakar Rally Stage 7 Results
1. Antoine Meo (KTM) FRA – 2:27:27
2. Kevin Benavides (Honda) ARG – 2:29:20
3. Paulo Goncalves (Honda) PRT – 2:29:23
4. Michael Metge (Honda) FRA – 2:31:18
5. Toby Price (KTM) AUS – 2:32:00
6. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) CHL – 2:32:19
7. Txomin Arana (Husqvarna) ESP – 2:32:30
8. Gerard Farres Guell (KTM) ESP – 2:33:28
9. Stefan Svitko (KTM) SVK – 2:33:30
10. Ricky Brabec (Honda) USA – 2:33:44
2016 Dakar Rally Overall Standings after Stage 7
1. Paulo Goncalves (Honda) PRT – 22:52:30
2. Toby Price (KTM) AUS – 22:55:42
3. Stefan Svitko (KTM) SVK – 23:01:54
4. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) CHL – 23:10:36
5. Kevin Benavides (Honda) ARG – 23:13:31
6. Antoine Meo (KTM) FRA – 23:13:36
7. Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) PRT – 23:17:14
8. Gerard Farres Guell (KTM) ESP – 23:22:27
9. Alain Duclos (Sherco TVS) FRA – 23:23:02
10. Juan Pedrero Garcia (Sherco TVS) ESP – 23:24:15