BIKES – Paulo Gonçalves – leader of the Rally Dakar 2016
The seventh stage of the Dakar Rally 2016 saw no significant changes at the head of the overall leader-board with Paulo Gonçalves topping the table for the fourth day running. Barreda failed to start this morning.
It was a rough return to Argentina, after the two-day sojourn in Bolivia. The day’s 327 kilometre special stage was divided into two parts; the first in Bolivia, followed by a neutralization section, the border crossing, then the second special on Argentinean soil with a planned finish in Salta. However, heavy rain storms, swollen rivers and flooding were waiting to greet the riders on their arrival back into Argentina, forcing race organizers ASO to call off the second special completely. Consequently, the classifications from the day’s first special, held in the Potosí region, will be used.
Paulo Gonçalves got a bit of a shock this morning, shortly after the race start, when he came across accident victim Matthias Walkner. Paulo, showing the real Dakar spirit, dismounted to help the Australian until further aid arrived, a wait of some eleven minutes that race officials later deducted. The Portuguese rider finished the stage in third place and maintains the advantage over adversaries at the head of the overall rankings ahead of the race’s rest-day.
Gonçalves’ Team HRC stablemates Ricky Brabec and Michael Metge were also on cracking form behind the bars of the Honda CRF450 RALLY, finishing among the day’s top-ten. The french made his best performance in this Dakar, finishing the stage in 4th position. Paolo Ceci, heading out this morning from deep down the starting order was able to claw his way through the field to cross the line in the top 30.
Joan Barreda made the decision to quit this morning before the race started, after yesterday getting towed back to the bivouac by team-mate Paolo Ceci. The Spaniard had injured his left hand in an accident on yesterday evening’s return to camp.
Kevin Benavides and Adrien Metge remain the last two Honda South America Rally Team riders still left in the Dakar after Javier Pizzolito dropped out today. He took a hard knock to the head in an accident yesterday. In spite of making it through today’s special, the biker found himself in no state to continue. Benavides shone once more on the day grabbing no less than runner-up spot. Adrien Metge too was among the leading 15 riders.
2016 January 10. Rest day. Salta
Rest, no respite
The Dakar has a history in Salta, which hosted the bivouac for the rest days in 2013 and 2014. But once again, this break will not really enable many competitors to laze about in the heart of this town marked by a rich architectural heritage from the colonial era. Their agenda will still be busy: carrying out a full service of the vehicles, taking advantage of extra sleep and refocusing on the even tougher objectives of the second week. Even during the break, the race is still on…