Honda rider Joan Barreda has stretched his overall lead in the Dakar Rally after picking up his second stage win of the 2015 edition in Wednesday’s Stage 4.
Barreda (pictured, right, with Dakar race director Etienne Lavigne) took the 315 km run from Chilecito, Argentina to Copiapo, Chile with a time of 3 hours, 27 minutes, 28 seconds, just under two minutes quicker than defending Dakar champion and KTM rider Marc Coma.
Coma has moved up to second in the overall standings following tough outings from Paulo Goncalves (12th in stage, +14:56) and Tuesday’s winner, Matthias Walkner (22nd in stage, +22:55).
Nonetheless, Barreda has put additional distance on Coma and now holds the overall lead over him by a margin of 12 minutes, 49 seconds. The two title rivals from one year ago are fighting each other again for glory.
“I’m delighted,” Barreda said. “The first part of the stage was a very fast but complicated track. Marc was ahead and it was very difficult to catch up with him. I stayed focused and motivated. I caught up with him towards kilometer 100 and eased into a solid pace. We tackled dunes and navigation was difficult. Marc and I finished together.
“I’ve got a good strategy. We’re in control. The next few days will be extremely tough. Actually, there’s a big chunk of Dakar left and we know there are tricky situations ahead.
“We know that if we keep an eye on Marc, we’ll follow a strong pace, because he’s the reference.”
Coma admitted that Wednesday’s run was “grueling” but felt that he still turned in a good performance. And he remains confident that he can reel in Barreda.
“…I started second. I knew I had to avoid mistakes at all costs, considering my place in the overall,” he said. “I tried to go as fast as possible and soon I was opening the road. At the end, I spent all day long at the front.
“The first part was quite tough – Matthias got lost towards the start of the stage. The last part featured lots of changes of direction and course. In fact, this type of situation is my cup of tea when riding in the desert.
“I’ll keep this solid pace up and I’ll inject some speed to force mistakes and problems in others, hoping not to suffer any myself.”
Entering his home soil today, KTM rider Pablo Quintanilla took the final step of the podium in Wednesday’s stage at 2 minutes, 49 seconds back of Barreda. Coma’s factory KTM teammates, Jordi Viladoms (fourth in stage, +10:44) and Ruben Faria (fifth in stage, +10:55), completed the Top 5.
As Coma mentioned, Walkner came back to Earth after winning Tuesday in just his third career Dakar stage.
The Austrian’s time at the first checkpoint was five minutes slower than those of Coma and Barreda. Combined with his later navigational errors, he lost 23 minutes on Wednesday and slipped from third to eighth in the overall.
Likely a happier rider after Wednesday was Honda’s Laia Sanz, who finished eighth in the stage at almost 14 minutes behind factory Honda teammate Barreda. She’s been putting in steady work so far in her fourth Dakar, with finishes of 16th, 16th, and 17th before today’s jump into the Top-10. In the overall, she’s now 12th.
NBCSN’s coverage of the Dakar Rally continues with Stage 4 highlights tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. ET.
2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Motorcycles
(After Stage 4 – Chilecito to Copiapo)
1. 2-Joan Barreda (Honda), 13hrs, 10mins, 33secs
2. 1-Marc Coma (KTM), + 12mins, 49secs
3. 7-Paulo Goncalves (Honda), + 20mins, 29secs
4. 11-Ruben Faria (KTM), + 23 mins, 5secs
5. 4-Jordi Viladoms (KTM), + 24mins, 51secs
6. 31-Pablo Quintanilla (KTM), + 30mins, 42secs
7. 26-Toby Price (KTM), + 32mins, 5secs
8. 27-Matthias Walkner (KTM), + 33mins, 28secs
9. 14-Alain Duclos (Sherco), + 36mins, 31secs
10. 5-Helder Rodrigues (Honda), + 39mins, 5secs