Dakar rally is not known to be the world's most gruelling race for some sure reasons, and the stage 8 proves them to the T. Having gone from racing in 50 degree temperatures just a few days ago, the Dakar riders had to endure freezing temperatures on stage eight of the race. Ran at an altitude approaching 4000m on the Bolivian salt flats the planned 781km route was shortened due to poor weather conditions but that was not enough to prevent reports of over 40 riders either retiring or being treated for hyperthermia.
The conditions were also exceptionally tough on machine as well as the rider with the hours of riding through salt water caking the bikes in mud the consistency of cement which caused serious problems for a host of big name riders.
Stage 8 proved to be a big day for the 2015 Dakar Rally as the riders had to compete on machines that they alone could only work on the day before, as Monday was the riding portion of yesterday’s start to the first marathon stage. This added challenge by the race organizers likely decided the outcome of this year’s rally. The highest profile casualty was race leader and factory Honda rider Joan Barreda. The Spaniard lost time on Sunday when he was forced to ride the final 120km with a broken handlebar following a crash, and Monday’s stage didn’t get any better. Having lost over 3 hours, Barreda surrendered the lead he has held since stage two and is now effectively out of the race for victory finishing the day in 72nd place. Barreda’s team-mate and stage six winner Helder Rodrigues also ran into technical problems along with last years runner-up Jordi Viladoms who has been forced to retire from the race on his factory KTM.
The upshot of Barreda’s misfortune is that KTM rider Marc Coma now leads the overall standings by 9m 11s with five stages still to run. The four time Dakar winner didn’t have his most competitive day, finishing ninth on the stage, but it was enough for him to take control of the race. He now leads by 9m 11s from HRC rider Paulo Goncalves. Barreda's issues can surely be attributed to the wet weather and the Uyuni salt lake that the competitors had to cross, which made for a slurry of salt water and mud. Ultimately the stage would be cut short at the 378 km marker, because of weather, with little complaint from the competitors. “In the end it’s been collateral damage, and a disgrace what they’ve made us do today; to race in a sea. It was out of place. All the work on all the projects that we’ve done has gone down the pan,” said a disappointed Barreda. “To make a decision like that just wasn’t right. Today you couldn’t see a thing; visibility was zero. We were floating around on top of the water. They ordered us to start and this is what happened; my Dakar is over.’
Top female competitor Laia Sanz also had a great day racing, as she became the highest finishing female on a Dakar Rally stage, finishing Stage 8 fifth and only two-minutes back from stage-winner Pablo Quintanilla. “For me, it’s been a really great day, but this morning I would have preferred not to set off. The conditions were not for racing and my hands practically froze. The altitude, the cold and the lack of visibility,” said Laia Sanz. “The bikes took such a beating from the water and the salt. It was really dangerous, but we decided that we had to go for it, and we ended up starting the special.” “I got up among the front-runners from the start. I managed to warm up a bit in the refuelling and I was able to set a good pace,” Sanz added. “It was a pity that Price and Quintanilla were so fast and were able to get past me, but it wasn’t worth risking everything just to improve on the position. It’s a great result, and I’m really happy to have achieved it especially on such a hard day as this one. This morning it was hellish,” she summarized.
Getting help from his teammates Ruben Faria and Jordi Viladoms on his blocked radiator, Marc Coma rode to a comfortable 9th place finish on Stage 8. Considering the conditions and the results of his Honda rivals, the Spaniard was mostly just happy to finish the stage the way he did, knowing full-well that Lady Luck could go the other way on him. “Conditions were very complicated, for me over the limit,” admitted KTM’s Marc Coma.
Marc Coma added “To ride over the salt and the water was like a kind of cement on the bike and there was a lot of stress to try to take care of the engine of the bike and everything. To arrive here today is like a victory,” he added conversely. “I am happy we are leading now but we still have five days in front of us. We have a long way to go and every day there is something different. We just have to take it kilometer by kilometer.”
2015 Dakar Rally Stage 8 Results
1. Pablo Quintanilla, CHL (KTM) 2:56:19
2. Juan Pedrero Garcia, ESP (Yamaha) 2:56:30
3. Stefan Svitko, SVK (KTM) 2:56:31
4. Toby Price, AUS (KTM) 2:57:00
5. Laia Sanz, ESP (Honda) 2:58:55
6. Xavier de Soultrait, FRA (Yamaha) 3:02:55
7. Alain Duclos, FRA (Sherco) 3:03:01
8. Hans Vogels, NLD (KTM) 3:03:53
9. Marc Coma, ESP (KTM) 3:03:56
10. Ruben Faria, PRT (KTM) 3:04:03
2015 Dakar Rally Overall Rankings after Stage 8
1. Marc Coma, ESP (KTM) 28:51:12
2. Paulo Goncalves, PRT (Honda) 29:00:23
3. Pablo Quintanilla, CHL (KTM) 29:02:23
4. Toby Price, AUS (KTM) 29:07:08
5. Stefan Svitko, SVK (KTM) 29:17:42
6. Ruben Faria, PRT (KTM) 29:25:46
7. Alain Duclos, FRA (Sherco) 29:49:20
8. David Casteu, FRA (KTM) 30:02:00
9. Laia Sanz, ESP (Honda) 30:10:03
10. Ivan Jakes, SVK (KTM) 30:38:59
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