Red Bull KTM factory rider Toby Price of Australia put in a very strong day’s ride in Stage 4 of the Dakar Rally on Wednesday to be the fastest KTM finisher in the first half of the marathon stage.
It was a good recovery from the previous day when he had some problems and finished back at 38th place. He was fifth fastest and was four minutes 01 off the pace of stage winner Paolo Goncalves of Portugal. Goncalves advanced to the top spot on the score sheets after the original stage winner, Spaniard Joan Barreda, picked up a five-minute speeding penalty. Price is now seventh in the overall rankings just behind his factory teammate Austrian Matthias Walkner, who was 14th in Wednesday’s stage.
Team manager Alex Doringer reported that Walkner was feeling confident. “He told me that today’s race was not so difficult navigation, but it was very fast. He wasn’t sure where he lost the time but he’s fit and happy and the bike is performing well, so he’s very motivated. Our strategy for tomorrow is easy. We’ll work hard and go fast, but not stupid or dangerous because we have to arrive safely at the bivouac. Of course we hope we can catch up some time but we’re still in the first part of the race and we keep going – like we always do.”
It was also a strong day for factory team rookie Antoine Meo of France who finished just behind Price in sixth place. The multi enduro world champion is quickly adapting to rally raid and came in 6.04 behind the leader to move into the top ten in the overall standings.
Meo: “It was a very long stage —my first marathon stage. It was a bit hard because I had to save my tyres, so I never went over 150 km/h. I lost six minutes to the winner, but I’m quite happy because my tyres are still in good condition. I rode within my limits today. It’ll be quite something if I manage to stay at the front every day. Navigating wasn’t too difficult and I was in the mix every time, so I’m happy with how it went today.”
As well as another 629km stage with a timed special of 429km in a loop around Jujuy, riders had to take special care of their bikes and tires because in the marathon stage they cannot work on their bikes after they enter the bivouac. On Wednesday they rode over alternating sandy and rocky surfaces and had their first taste of higher altitudes, an average of 3500 meters.
Meanwhile KTM factory rider Laia Sanz, who was riding between positions 11-14 right through the first 400 km, stopped to assist an injured rider and eventually came in 42.36 minutes off the winning time.
When the rally enters Bolivia on Thursday competitors will climb to 4,600 meters and the navigation will get more difficult as they make their way from Jujuy to Uyuni. The total distance will be 642km, including 327km to timed special.
Stage 4 Results Jujuy to Jujuy.
Total distance 629km; timed special of 429km
(First half of marathon stage)
1. Paolo Goncalves (POR), Honda, 4 hours 07 minutes 19 seconds
2. Ruben Faria (POR), Husqvarna, +04.24
3. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, + 04.26
4, Joan Barreda (POR), Honda, +3.11 (+ 5-minute speeding penalty after the stage)
5. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, +5.50
6. Antoine Meo (FRA), KTM + 06.04
7. Michael Metge (FRA), Honda +07.09
8. Gerard Farres (ESP), KTM, + 07.12
9. Brabec (USA), Honda, +07.18
10. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna + 07.41