Dakar: Barreda angry over decision to start Stage 8 in raw conditions

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After an electrical problem effectively finished his bid to win the Dakar Rally in Monday’s Stage 8, Joan Barreda has criticized the race organizers’ decision to begin the stage in what he saw as abysmal conditions.

Rainfall yesterday at the Uyuni (Bolivia) salt flats caused the start to be delayed but eventually, the riders were told that they would be going ahead with their journey through them.

But the flats were still damp, and the resulting salt water mix proved hazardous for many riders’ vehicles.

Also complicating matters were cold temperatures, which caused at least one rider, Gerard Farres Guell, to suffer from hypothermia and be taken away by medical personnel.

Fortunately, Guell appears to be alright. But Barreda is not alright with what he feels was a bad call by the organizers.

“In the end, it’s been collateral damage, and a disgrace what they’ve made us do today – to race in a sea,” Barreda said in a Honda release after losing more than three hours on Monday.

“It was out of place. All the work on all the projects that we’ve done has gone down the pan. 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.”

Barreda’s teammates on the factory Honda squad, Team HRC, empathized with his frustrations.

Laia Sanz, who soldiered to a fifth place finish, said she would have preferred not to have gone ahead with the start and that “the conditions were not for racing.”

Paulo Goncalves, the new second-place man in the overall standings, claimed the riders didn’t want to race for safety reasons: “It was too dangerous. We shouldn’t have run today,” he said.

Jeremias Israel crashed after he had crossed the salt flats and ended up towing Barreda to the finish at a much reduced speed. To him, he feels the decision to start on Monday has marred the whole event.

“This race should never have been disputed,” he said. “It was a compromise, but with those conditions, the start was too dangerous…It’s a pity that a stage like this one has destroyed a race that had been so interesting.”

Finally, there was Helder Rodrigues, who also suffered from electrical issues. He attempted to sum it all up.

“It’s been a really difficult day for the team,” he said. “We had problems and we’ve lost it all: My place in the overall standings, Joan’s leadership [in the overall standings]…It’s been really hard.

“The salt has been disastrous for the bikes and has broken up everything. I want to carry on, win some stages and help the team to finish with the best result possible.”

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”