Red Bull KTM’s Toby Price was unrelenting in the shortened ninth stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally, taking the stage win by more than seven minutes over his closest rival. Honda pilot Kevin Benavides finished second-fastest followed by KTM’s Stefan Svitko in third. Price retains his lead in the overall classification, with Svitko now in second-place followed by Rockstar Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla in third.
Stage 9 marked the first half of the second marathon stage of this year’s Dakar, and was a short but brutal loop through the Fiambala dunes. Navigation was key to the stage, as it was primarily off track, and competitors faced the added pressure of temperatures above 100-degrees Fahrenheit at times. The extreme heat eventually forced officials to cut the stage short.
Price opened the road after taking victory in Stage 8, and proved unfazed by the challenge, leading the field on the timesheet by CP1. Price’s primary rival at the start of the day, Team HRC’s Paulo Goncalves, gave chase in the early stages and kept himself in the runner-up spot during the opening miles, but following CP1 the Portuguese rider began to slip down the ranks. By CP2, Goncalves was reported as stopped and competitors later reported that the Honda rider had suffered a problem with his radiator, KTM’s Antoine Meo saying to Dakar reporters that “he (Goncalves) got a piece of tree in the radiator and lost the water.”
Not the scenario one wants to see during a marathon stage, where assistance from support crews is forbidden. Help from teammates is allowed though and Goncalves will work with Paolo Ceci to see if he can repair the radiator to be ready for Stage 10. Team HRC Team Manager, Wolfgang Fischer, offered these remarks in a team press release:
“Today we have experienced one of the most incredibly hard days in the Dakar, maybe the hardest in the history of the Dakar until now, with a situation of extreme temperatures that have affected the normal development of the stage. Paulo, fortunately, continues to be in the race in spite of a serious setback before the refueling. A log pierced the radiator and the coolant leaked out. With the heat that there was, he arrived extremely overheated at refueling and wouldn’t have been able to carry on if it hadn’t been for the race authorities’ decision to stop the stage at CP2, which means Paulo keeps his possibilities of continuing open. He was helped by his team-mate Paolo Ceci to make it back to the bivouac and there they will attempt to repair the bike so that he can start tomorrow and continue his adventure in this Dakar. Tomorrow there will be a new starting system although the organization hasn’t yet given us the information about what the order will be, but we believe that there will be various cars out ahead of the bikes. It will be especially tough for those who start out from behind.”
As long as Price stays healthy and his machine mechanically sound, he’s going to be a tough competitor to best.
Price continued to extend his advantage over the field through CP2, and remarkably upped the pace further as he approached the day’s finish line. His efforts in the final portion of the stage would ultimately be unnecessary though, after race officials cut the race short due to extreme temperatures and a high number of motorcycle riders experiencing troubles as result. The new finish line was marked at CP2.
“We’ve got through pretty good,” said Price to Dakar reporters on site. “We made a couple of little mistakes around the 100-km mark. We got a little bit lost but luckily we found the way point and got ourselves back on track and going again. Other than that, we’ve had a fairly decent day, a fairly solid day. It was just good that we didn’t get lost. It was definitely tricky navigation today. I still feel solid, I still feel really good. It’s definitely hot right now at the moment, but we’ll suit up again, get going, get some air flowing and it shouldn’t be too bad. It’s been a good day, I can’t complain. I get to the finishing line and then they cancel the rest of it… That’s a bit of a shame, but that’s the way it is.”
Quintanilla ranked fourth when the stage was cancelled, trailed by Team HRC’s Ricky Brabec in fifth. This gives the American rider his best stage result to-date in the Dakar and moves him inside the top-10 to eighth overall. KTM’s Antoine Meo finished sixth followed by Yamalube Yamaha Junior Rally Team’s Adrien van Bevern in seventh and Himoinsa Racing Team’s Gerard Farres Guell in eighth.
2016 Dakar Rally Stage 9 Results
1. Toby Price (KTM) AUS – 2:24:19
2. Kevin Benavides (Honda) ARG – 2:31:29
3. Stefan Svitko (KTM) SVK – 2:34:52
4. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) CHL – 2:35:07
5. Ricky Brabec (Honda) USA – 2:35:22
6. Antoine Meo (KTM) FRA – 2:36:12
7. Adrien van Beveren (Yamaha) FRA – 2:38:42
8. Gerard Farres Guell (KTM) ESP – 2:38:57
9. Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) PRT – 2:40:19
10. Armand Monleon (KTM) ESP – 2:40:57
2016 Dakar Rally Overall Standing after Stage 9
1. Toby Price (KTM) AUS – 29:53:15
2. Stefan Svitko (KTM) SVK – 30:18:02
3. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) CHL – 30:25:29
4. Kevin Benavides (Honda) ARG – 30:26:20
5. Antoine Meo (KTM) FRA – 30:33:52
6. Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) PRT – 30:40:06
7. Gerard Farres Guell (KTM) ESP – 30:45:25
8. Ricky Brabec (Honda) USA – 30:55:57
9. Adrien van Beveren (Yamaha) FRA – 31:01:25
10. Alessandro Botturi (Yamaha) ITA – 31:10:32