Paulo Gonçalves makes it to the halfway stage as leader of the Rally Dakar 2016

2016-01-10 17:41
The seventh stage of the Dakar Rally 2016 saw no significant changes at the head of the overall leader-board with Paulo Gonçalves topping the table for the fourth day running. Barreda failed to start this morning.

It was a rough return to Argentina, after the two-day sojourn in Bolivia. The day’s 327 kilometre special stage was divided into two parts; the first in Bolivia, followed by a neutralization section, the border crossing, then the second special on Argentinean soil with a planned finish in Salta. However, heavy rain storms, swollen rivers and flooding were waiting to greet the riders on their arrival back into Argentina, forcing race organizers ASO to call off the second special completely. Consequently, the classifications from the day’s first special, held in the Potosí region, will be used.

Paulo Gonçalves got a bit of a shock this morning, shortly after the race start, when he came across accident victim Matthias Walkner. Paulo, showing the real Dakar spirit, dismounted to help the Australian until further aid arrived, a wait of some eleven minutes that race officials later deducted. The Portuguese rider finished the stage in third place and maintains the advantage over adversaries at the head of the overall rankings ahead of the race’s rest-day.

Gonçalves’ Team HRC stablemates Ricky Brabec and Michael Metge were also on cracking form behind the bars of the Honda CRF450 RALLY, finishing among the day’s top-ten. The french made his best performance in this Dakar, finishing the stage in 4th position. Paolo Ceci, heading out this morning from deep down the starting order was able to claw his way through the field to cross the line in the top 30.

Joan Barreda made the decision to quit this morning before the race started, after yesterday getting towed back to the bivouac by team-mate Paolo Ceci. The Spaniard had injured his left hand in an accident on yesterday evening’s return to camp.

Kevin Benavides and Adrien Metge remain the last two Honda South America Rally Team riders still left in the Dakar after Javier Pizzolito dropped out today. He took a hard knock to the head in an accident yesterday. In spite of making it through today’s special, the biker found himself in no state to continue. Benavides shone once more on the day grabbing no less than runner-up spot. Adrien Metge too was among the leading 15 riders.

2016 January 10. Rest day. Salta

Rest, no respite
The Dakar has a history in Salta, which hosted the bivouac for the rest days in 2013 and 2014. But once again, this break will not really enable many competitors to laze about in the heart of this town marked by a rich architectural heritage from the colonial era. Their agenda will still be busy: carrying out a full service of the vehicles, taking advantage of extra sleep and refocusing on the even tougher objectives of the second week. Even during the break, the race is still on…

Paulo Goncalves 2
Today I found Walkner who had fallen so I stopped; it was a normal situation for the Dakar: you give help when it’s needed. I stayed with him until they were able to come to his rescue and then I carried on very carefully. This week has been very fast and I have had some problems with the altitude. The first week has been really fast with difficulties at altitude. Now we are back in Argentina again with riding that we are more accustomed to. The position that I took was a good one and we have to continue to push until the end.

Michael Metge 19
I started out from behind and I was struggling in the dust cloud that the other riders ahead had raised, but at a good pace, where I felt very comfortable in the first, more technical part. In the second part the storm was enormous and the river was flowing really heavily. It stopped my engine but I was able to get it out and get it started again. There was a bit of navigation and I enjoyed myself. I think that I did a good stage.

Ricky Brabec 48
The first stage was good I came across some riders helping out Walkner who had crashed and broken his leg. When I see that stuff I take it easy because I don’t want that to happen to me. Other than that the stage was very good and fast. It was the same stage as two days ago so we remembered a lot of the stuff. The second stage getting cancelled was a disappointment. It was raining quite hard on us but it was still fun.

Paolo Ceci 32
Today, of course, went better than yesterday. It was really hard but I’m happy with the work that I have done. It was very difficult. Luckily I was able to make it back to the bivouac and was able to start up again today. I started from a long way back and there was a lot of dust. I pasted 60 riders and that was complicated but I’m pleased because I finished in 30th place. I’ve got to take it easy and ride and intelligent race to get up with Paulo.

Kevin Benavides 47
Today was a good stage; I felt very good on the bike – very comfortable. I’m happy to be back home again in Salta and receive such a great welcome on my birthday. I couldn’t ask for anything more. I just want to say a really big thanks to everyone who has been supporting me.

Wolfgang Fischer
Team HRC Team Manager
To start the first week with a positive result in this Dakar has made us really happy and we have now arrived at the first rest-day here in Salta with the overall lead of Paulo Goncalves which he has held for a few days. There are no serious injuries first of all, of course our big setback was yesterday with Joan Barreda dropping out of the race with bike problems. He couldn’t rejoin the race today. Now we are going to get our strength back and start preparing man and machine. Then we will start pressuring in the second week that promises to be harder than the first one. We will try and stay focused on that and be ready to attack and defend our lead. All team, the riders between each other and all staff have been working very well together to arrive in this position in Salta. Thanks to all.

Source: Honda Racing Corporation

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