Dakar Rally: Australia’s Todd Smith jags Top 10 in motorcycle class as Brabec, Peterhansel take Stage 7


ANOTHER day, another different stage winner on the Dakar Rally.

American Honda rider Ricky Brabec snared his first career win on Stage 7 in Bolivia, while both Sam Sunderland and Stephane Peterhansel extended their overall leads in the motorcycle and car categories.

Australian rider Todd Smith had a stunning ride to clock the sixth fastest time of the day, registering his first top 10 stage finish on the event.

The route from La Paz to Uyuni for the first leg of the event’s Marathon Stage was modified by organisers due to the recent rains, the competitive section cut to 161 kilometres.

Riders and driving crews will have no help from their crews at the overnight stop at Uyuni, with no replacement parts available, while any repair work or maintenance will need to be done themselves.

MOTORCYCLE CLASS

The shortened stage made for a high-speed sprint across sandy tracks, Brabec emerging fastest to snare a maiden stage win.

The American bested Honda teammate Paulo Goncalves by almost two minutes, but all four of the factory squad’s riders are well down overall after the one hour penalties levied to them after Stage 4.

“I don’t have any words to say because I’ve never won a stage before. I’ve won a stage at the Dakar – that’s awesome,” Brabec said when told he’d won at stage end.

 “I wanted to do better than last week. Last week was rough for me and rough for the team with our penalty.

“As a whole team we made a mistake, but I think we still have a good chance with just five days left of racing.”

Sam Sunderland was third on the day, extending his overall lead over Pablo Quintanilla by around six minutes.

“It was a lot harder a stage than we were expecting – there was a lot of navigation,” Sunderland said.

“It was really tricky, really difficult with a lot of vegetation – you couldn’t see where the tracks were. It was really physical riding and then towards the end there we had a lot of mud, which always makes things interesting. All in all, it was ok.”

Joan Barreda had a quiet day on his way to fourth, not wishing to repeat the heartbreak of previous Marathon Stages, ahead of the fourth factory Honda of Michael Metge.

Xavier De Soultrait was scheduled to be between them in fifth but copped a five minute penalty after the stage, likely for speeding, possibly as a result of a mid-stage crash that smashed his Yamaha’s instrumentation.

Smith’s outstanding performance on the stage, sixth place just nine minutes shy of Brabec, netted him one of precious few top 10 stage finishes recorded by Australian riders in the event’s history.

Matt Hart also made it to the end of the stage 52nd fastest, still nursing a shoulder injury from a crash earlier in the event.

Ricky Brabec rides in the 2017 Dakar Rally.

TOP 5 — Stage 7 from La Paz to Uyuni
1. (9) Ricky Brabec (Honda) 2h02m05s
2. (17) Paulo Goncalves (Honda) +1m44s
3. (14) Sam Sunderland (KTM) +4m43s
4. (11) Joan Barreda (Honda) +6m51s
5. (15) Michael Metge (Honda) +8m21s
6. (79) Todd Smith (KTM) +9m39s
52. (149) Matthew Hart (Husqvarna) +43m24s

OVERALL STANDINGS after Stage 7
1. (14) Sam Sunderland (KTM) 17h28m53s
2. (3) Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) +17m45s
3. (6) Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) +22m16s
4. (8) Gerard Farres (KTM) +28m36s
5. (16) Matthias Walkner (KTM) +34m17s
6. (23) Xavier De Soultrait (Yamaha) +44m33s
7. (31) Pele Renet (Husqvarna) +1h02m37s
8. (17) Paulo Goncalves (Honda) +1h05m22s
9. (11) Joan Barreda (Honda) +1h14m47s
10. (34) Diego Martin Duplessis (KTM) +1h16m36s
14. (79) Todd Smith (KTM) +1h46m55s
62. (149) Matthew Hart (Husqvarna) +5h49m57s
DNF (1) Toby Price (KTM) crash, Stage 4
DNF (43) Rodney Faggotter (Yamaha) mechanical, Stage 4

Italics denote Australian riders

CAR CATEGORY

The Peugeots continued euro extend their advantage at the front of the field, Peterhansel and Sebastien Loeb putting over three minutes into their nearest rival on the day.

“It was a short but very serious stage,” Peterhansel said.

“The lead is better than nothing. The overall classification is still very close, but it’s a really interesting race for everybody, I think. We’re still in the fight and that’s the most important thing.”

All of the main contenders had trouble-free starts to the Marathon Stage, although the third Peugeot of Cyril Despres lost time steadily throughout the test.

That allowed Nani Roma to move up into third overall, but now over 11 minutes adrift of the lead with his normally-aspirated Toyota struggling to match the pace of the turbocharged Peugeots at high altitude.

“When (Peterhansel) passed me after 60 kilometres, I tried to follow him,” he said.

“Two times I came close to rolling the car, so I said, ‘ok, it’s not our terrain’. This is the Dakar, I need to realise you need to sink in and not just use the throttle.

“We still believe. When we go down, the Toyota performs better at sea level… well, not at sea level, but at less than 2000 metres the car is really good. The race is not finished.”

 Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean Paul Cottret.

TOP 5 — Stage 7 from La Paz to Uyuni
1. (300) Peterhansel/Cottret (Peugeot) 1h54m08s
2. (309) Loeb/Elena (Peugeot) +48s
3. (302) De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz (Toyota) +3m33s
4. (303) Hirvonen/Perin (Mini) +5m03s
5. (305) Roma/Haro Bravo (Toyota) +5m32s

OVERALL STANDINGS after Stage 7
1. (300) Peterhansel/Cottret (Peugeot) 15h57m06s
2. (309) Loeb/Elena (Peugeot) +1m57s
3. (305) Roma/Haro Bravo (Toyota) +11m07s
4. (307) Despres/Castera (Peugeot) +14m01s
5. (303) Hirvonen/Perin (Mini) +47m24s
6. (302) De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz (Toyota) +1h11m44s
7. (308) Terranova/Schulz (Mini) +1h16m06s
8. (316) Przygonsi/Colsoul (Mini) +1h18m02s
9. (314) Garafulic/Palmiero (Mini) +2h08m20s
10. (318) Dumas/Guehennec (Peugeot) +2h48m34s

Source: www.news.com.au