Spectacular third day at the Rally Dakar 2016: the stage through the mountainous Jujuy area ended with a Honda-filled podium and a once-again triumphant Joan Barreda back at the top of the general standings.
The third stage of the Rally Dakar proved to be a dream day-out for the three Honda CRF450 RALLYs who occupied the entire Jujuy rostrum. Barreda scorched to the head of the course as team-mate Gonçalves closes in on the leaders.
Climate conditions continue to ravage race organizer’s plans in these first days of the Dakar. The heavy storms and downpours have failed to leave the zone of Tucumán with the first stage cancelled outright, the second reduced and today’s third stage also shortened to a total of 200 kilometres. Riders started out today from Check Point 1 (km 112,91) as race organizers opted in favour of a harmonious and uncomplicated day’s racing.
Joan Barreda gave a master class in how to deal with a complex stage and ascends once more to the top of the Dakar 2016 leaderboard. The Spaniard was lightning quick behind the bars and sharp as a blade as a navigator as he notched up the fastest time over the 200 kilometres of special stage. Barreda’s total Dakar victory tally now stands at 14.
Comrade-in-arms Paulo Gonçalves, who started ahead, also had a stormer of a day posting a third place finish just a minute off Barreda and behind Argentinean debutant Benavides. The Portuguese rider leaps to fourth overall place.
All the five Honda CRF450 RALLY bikes of Team HRC made it back to the bivouac problem-free. Barreda and Goncalves’ team-mates Michael Metge (France), Ricky Brabec (USA) and Paolo Ceci (Italy) finished the stage without conceding much time and all came in among the first thirty finishers.
Honda South America Rally Team continued to build on yesterday’s success with Argentinean Kevin Benavides proving to be a revelation with a second place finish tucked in behind the stage winner. Benavides lies in third in the general rankings. Adrien Metge finished 24th with Pizzolito losing a bit of time, but the rider will be looking to attack tomorrow. Brazilian Jean Azevedo, who fell heavily yesterday, was able to come back with a 45th place recuperating various positions.
Tomorrow, Jujuy will have a very decisive stage in store. The San Salvador de Jujuy loop will not be bringing the competitors back to the bivouac where the technical crew are housed. Instead, there will be the first part of the strict marathon stage where riders are forced to quarantine the bikes after the special stage. Only the riders themselves will be allowed to carry out any mechanical revisions or repairs. The following morning they will be handed back the machines in the same state that they were delivered to the parc ferme. Extra caution with the mechanics will be required.
2016 January 6. Stage 4: San Salvador de Jujuy San Salvador de Jujuy
Special sections: 429 km
Total: 629 km
Marathon 1: no mechanics
On many levels, the competitors face their first real test here. The special section takes place at an average of 3,500 m altitude, with incessant changes in pace resulting from alternating sandy and rocky terrain. This gruelling route will be on the agenda when everyone already has 2,500 km in the saddle or bucket seat, which is already exhausting for the lower placed drivers. First and foremost, this is the start of a very particular marathon stage, with a closed area for the vehicles… and for the competitors.
Joan Barreda – Stage: 1st Provisional: 1st : « Today was a great day after yesterday, when I had to open the track, but today we started from behind which gave us a good position to attack from. We were very focused throughout the stage, which had very little navigation but plenty of radars that you had to be careful of. I kept a great pace throughout the 200 km and I’ve got the leadership back. »
Paulo Goncalves – Stage: 3rd Provisional: 4th: « I think that I had a good stage, especially for such a slippery mountain track. I tried to maintain a good rhythm even with a safety margin and I was able to make it onto the podium. What is up ahead will be more difficult and that’s why I can’t make any mistakes, although with the weather as changeable as it is, we don’t know what to expect. The main thing is to be careful and not make any mistakes. »
Michael Metge – Stage: 15th Provisional: 19th: « Today was a mountain stage, like yesterday, with a lot of tight curves. I haven’t adjusted to this type of terrain yet and I didn’t feel comfortable enough. I had the impression of keeping a good pace, but I wasn’t fast enough on the curves. Anyway, I had a good time and tomorrow will be better. »
Ricky Brabec – Stage: 17th Provisional: 22nd: « Today was just like yesterday. It was really fast and hard to make up a lot of time, but easy to lose a lot of time again. Today was awesome; the roads were good, the spectators were good and the navigation wasn’t that tricky. I rode well and I’m happy with my finish. We’re all here and ready to go again tomorrow. »
Paolo Ceci – Stage: 27th Provisional: 28th: « It was really nice stage without complications and zero navigating. A bit mountainous and slippery surfaces. The most stressful thing was to find so many speed checks! There were between 20 and 30 of them. Right now everything is going just fine and I want to congratulate my team-mates Paulo and Joan and also Kevin, who had a great stage. The race has only just begun. »
Kevin Benavides – Stage: 2nd Provisional: 3rd: « Today was a nice stage for me. I really enjoyed it and it was a great one to ride: mountain tracks, hard ground and very few rocks. It really surprised me to finish in second place. I’m living for the day in the stages and tomorrow’s strategy will be to look after the bike as we have now arrived at the marathon stage. I have to keep a firm foot on the ground and stay focused on the job. »
Wolfgang Fischer – Team HRC Team Manager: « Today was a great result for the team overall, especially with the stage victory of Joan taking the overall lead again after the victory in the prologue. Paulo was able to finish in an excellent third overall position. Also, our other riders had great results with good times, so we are really happy to be in this position as we go into the next challenging part: the marathon stage tomorrow and the following day, which we will prepare now tonight intensively. »
Stage 3. Termas de R