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