The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team got down to business on Monday for Stage Two of the 2014 Dakar Rally. Chaleco Lopez was the fastest of the four factory riders with an excellent second place in the stage, trailing the leader by just 39 seconds.
Lopez, of Chile came in behind stage winner, British rider Sam Sunderland and is now second in the overall standings some two minutes behind the overall leader Joan Barreda of Spain.
Lopez: “The second stage was very good. The first part was very fast and it was very nice to get into the dunes. Today second place is good and the bike was good, very good, in the sand.”
Marc Coma, who went out second on Monday, had some difficulties with a stone wedged in his bike but still managed to finish in ninth overall some 8.23 behind the leader. He is now seventh overall with a deficit of 7 minutes.
Coma: “Today was not a perfect day. We had some small problems when I got a stone wedged between the gearbox and the gear lever. I had to stop to take it out. The bike was working okay but it cost me some minutes – but it is still a long race.”
Overall it was a good day for the factory team, competing on the brand new KTM 450 RALLY machine. Ruben Faria of Portugal was fourth in the stage and is now sixth overall and Jordi Viladoms was eleventh in the stage and also maintaining a solid eleventh overall.
Faria: “Today was a good day for me. In the beginning there was a lot of dust. I started one minute behind Ben Grabham and I rode behind him for 300 km but in the end it was a good stage. I finished fourth and that is good for the overall and the KTM bike is amazing. It’s only the second day but I am happy to be here.”
KTM supported rider Ben Grabham of Australia continued to deliver a strong ride and finished the stage in sixth just seven minutes behind the leader. He is currently ninth overall.
Grabham: “Today was quite interesting and it was a decent 360 km stage. I followed in the dust for the first 100 k’s but once I was over in the dunes I had a lot of fun. This was one of those days where it would have been easy to make a mistake. I’m still learning from some of the faster boys in the dunes, I made a few mistakes but all in all, it was a good day for me.”
The other KTM-supported riders Kuba Przygonski of Poland and Riaan van Niekerk of South Africa finished thirteenth and nineteenth in the stage and are currently fourteenth and eighteenth overall. Przygonski is 17 minutes 42 behind in the overall standings and Van Niekerk is trailing by 26 minutes 04.
Kuba Przygonski: Today was a better stage than yesterday but for the first 170 km I was riding in the dust and it was really hard to pass. then I tried to push in the dunes and this second part of the stage was quite fast.”
The stage took the riders from San Luis to San Rafael on a ride of 724 km including a 365 km timed special. The first part was the fastest of this year’s rally and then riders entered the firm grey sand dunes of Nihuil for the last 100km, which tested their technical skills.
Team Manager Alex Doringer said he was happy to have his riders in safely and said Stage Two had been a good result for Ruben and Villadoms.
“Grabham had a fantastic ride and Riaan is improving every day,” he said. Speaking of the marathon stage, Doringer added: “It will be tricky. It will be very rough on riders and bikes and we’ll know more after the first stage of the marathon. The guys will have to use their brains, not go flat out and think about how they can take care of their bikes and manage the second stage of the marathon.”
Stage Three can easily be a decisive day for the riders. It is the first half of the first of two marathon stages and takes them from San Rafael to San Juan over a total of 665 km, including a scheduled 373 km of timed special, which organizers have reduced by 100 km. Riders are not allowed any outside mechanical help on the marathon stages and must ride with caution to preserve but tires and bikes.
Results Stage 2 (unofficial)
1, Sam Sunderland, GBR, Honda 3 hours 42.10
2, Chaleco Lopez, CHL, KTM at 00.39
3, Joan Barreda, ESP, Honda at 2.00
4, Ruben Faria, PRT, KTM at 4.07
5, Alain Duclos, FRA, Sherco at 5.51