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.”