Dakar: Goncalves wins Stage 7 for bikes; Barreda finishes with one handlebar after crash (VIDEO)

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Honda and KTM could each hang their hats on something following the resumption of motorcycle action in the 2015 Dakar Rally following Saturday’s rest day in Iquique, Chile.

Sunday was the riders’ turn to make the high-altitude climb toward Uyuni, Bolivia and begin their own two-day “marathon” stage, where competitors cannot receive help from their assistance teams (only help between the riders themselves is authorized).

The day ended in a split decision for the top manufacturers in the category. Paulo Goncalves put a Honda at the top with a tight, 14-second victory over KTM rider and defending Dakar champ Marc Coma.

But Coma cut his own deficit in the overall standings to Honda’s Joan Barreda in half to a margin of six minutes, 28 seconds.

That’s because Barreda crashed at the 200 kilometer mark of the special stage and was forced to ride the remaining 120 km with just one handlebar.

“You’ve got to stay super-focused in stages like this one. But even so… The road book contained a danger warning, without specifying whether it was level 1, 2 or 3,” said Barreda, who finished 10th on Sunday.

“I saw it from quite far away and I started braking 100 meters before it, but the mud caused the motorcycle to slide and I hit the obstacle. I was sent flying…I rode 120 kilometers with just one hand. My motorcycle also stopped at another time and I lost a further four minutes. After that, I pulled out all the stops. With one hand…”

Honda can take some solace in Goncalves’ win, his first of the 2015 Dakar. The Portuguese rider also made inroads on teammate Barreda and is now just under 11 minutes behind him at third in the overall.

“It was a very hard stage,” Goncalves reported. “I caught the riders in front of me and stayed with them because they were setting a strong pace. It started raining halfway through the stage, and it got very slippery and dangerous.

“With about fifty kilometers to go, I got a horrible headache, but I got here with the motorcycle safe and sound. Now it’s time to rest and, at any rate, get to work a bit as there’s mud all over the motorcycle.”

KTM riders made up the rest of the Top 5 behind Goncalves – Coma in second, Matthias Walkner in third, Pablo Quintanilla in fourth, and Toby Price in fifth.

NBCSN’s coverage of the Dakar Rally continues with Stage 7A/8A/8B highlights on Monday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. ET.

2015 Dakar Rally – Overall Standings, Motorcycles
(After Stage 7 – Iquique to Uyuni)

1. 2-Joan Barreda (Honda), 25hrs, 40mins, 48secs
2. 1-Marc Coma (KTM), + 6mins, 28secs
3. 7-Paulo Goncalves (Honda), + 10mins, 59secs
4. 31-Pablo Quintanilla (KTM), + 25mins, 16secs
5. 26-Toby Price (KTM), + 29mins, 20secs
6. 5-Helder Rodrigues (Honda), + 33mins, 56secs
7. 18-Stefan Svitko (KTM), + 40mins, 23secs
8. 11-Ruben Faria (KTM), + 40mins, 55secs
9. 14-Alain Duclos (Sherco), + 1hr, 5mins, 31secs
10. 9-David Casteu (KTM), + 1hr, 16mins, 52secs

Eli Tomac’s near-perfect season ended perfectly

ProMotocross.com
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From the start, Eli Tomac wanted to go into the season-ending race at Ironman Raceway with the 2020 red plate already in his possession. That final race has been know to devolve into muddy conditions and it is best not to leave things to chance.

For a rider with an almost perfect record of overall podium finishes, one would not have thought there would be much drama at the end of Round 11 at Budds Creek, but it took until the last lap of the final moto for Tomac to achieve his goal.

One reason was that Tomac’s near-perfect season was not so perfect. From the very beginning at Hangtown, Tomac struggled with poor starts to his events. Getting a bad jump out of the gate and finishing fourth in Moto 1 that weekend was not the auspicious beginning he wanted in search of his third consecutive 450 outdoor championship.

The hallmark of Tomac’s season has been overcoming bad starts. He rode through the field at Hangtown and nearly stood on the podium. Then he won Moto 2 and finished second overall. It was his first of nine consecutive overall podiums. Tomac came back the following week for a perfect sweep at Pala.

In Round 3, Tomac once again got off to a bad start. He finished fifth in Moto 1 at Thunder Valley – and then won Moto 2 in a duplication of his opening round.

In Round 5, Tomac had his worst performance until that time. He finished seventh in Moto 1. Nearly halfway through the season, a pattern was firmly established with his Moto 2 win.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

One should recall that the hallmark of Tomac’s season was strong finishes. Four the next four weeks Tomac failed to podium only one time in a moto. On that occasion, he would stumble in Moto 2 at Spring Creek in Round 8 before scoring his second perfect race at Washougal.

And that is where it got interesting. Tomac left Washougal with a 50-point advantage over Marvin Musquin. It was just the scenario Tomac had seesawed his way through the season to achieve. But it was too good to be true.

In most of his previous bad performances, there was an extenuating circumstance for Tomac’s bad start: a fall or an off course excursion. This time, he simply rode an uninspired race and finished seventh again to match his worst single moto performance. He could not fully rebound in Moto 2 and finished third.

For the first time in 2019, Tomac failed to stand on the overall podium in fourth. Worse still, he lost 10 points to Musquin and no longer had his one-race cushion.

But this is a season of recovery for Tomac. At Budds Creek last week it was reported that Tomac’s lackluster performance in Washington was due to his overdoing his chores on his Colorado ranch. Rested and restored, Tomac scored his third perfect race with Moto 1 & 2 wins. And this time, he looked sharper than he had in any previous race.

Tomac did all the could do by winning both motos, but in the closing laps at Budds Creek he needed a little help to clinch the title. As it turned out, Tomac needed the perfect performance to clinch his third consecutive championship.

In Moto 1, he narrowly edged Ken Roczen and Musquin, to give the three championship contenders a sweep of the top three spots; that was not enough to regain his cushion.

Roczen was close enough to force Tomac into The Ironman needing to score points to permanently affix the red plate on his Kawasaki in 2020, but just as Tomac’s season has been marked by second half improvements, Roczen’s has been marred by a lack of performance in the second motos.

Musquin passed Roczen late in Moto 2 last week and could have extended the drama one more week if he could have caught second-place Jason Anderson. Musquin could not erase an 11-second deficit to the runner-up and now Tomac’s almost perfect season has a distinctly perfect feel to it.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

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