2017 Dakar Rally
Special: 449km (split into two parts)
The navigation of what has been the longest stage of Dakar to date caused havoc among the leading riders during the 751km 10th stage of the event. While Honda’s Michael Metge (France) finished the day as the quickest rider, a one-hour penalty relegated the frenchman to 24th and handed his Honda teammate Joan Barreda (Spanish) his third stage win of the event.
Briton Sam Sunderland (KTM), who started the day with a 20-minute buffer at the top of the overall standings, lost over 18 minutes due to navigational errors and finished the stage down in 12th place. With luck on his side, riders who were poised to take advantage of his errors suffered problems of their own and the Red Bull KTM rider was able to extend his overall lead out to 30m01s.
“When you have the lead it’s hard to stay focused,” Sunderland said. “When things start to go wrong you start to have a big stress and to stay calm in those situations is really difficult. I think it was a difficult stage for everybody. Before the refuel I made some navigation mistakes and I was really thinking, ‘ah, this is it, I’ve messed up here’. I arrived at the refuelling point and there were only two guys there, so I knew that I hadn’t lost too much time.”
His KTM teammate Stefan Svitko (Slovakia), kept a level head to finish second in the difficult stage — his best of the 2017 event — however collapsed a few kilometres after the checkpoint and was taken by ambulance to San Juan hospital.
Factory KTM rider Mattias Walkner finished the day in 10th, though struggling rivals means the Austrian rider was elevated two places in the overall standings to second behind Sunderland. Spanish rider Gerard Farres Guell (KTM) is in third place in the overall standings after finishing the day in 13th.
Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla suffered the toughest day in terms of Dakar hopes, the Portuguese rider started the day sitting second overall but, between navigational errors and mechanical issues, has been forced to withdraw from the event altogether.
Dakar first timer Franco Caimi (Honda) was the dark horse over the 449km, the Argentine rider finished the stage in third place, 3m48s behind Barreda’s and ahead of former world enduro champ Alexandre Renet Pierre.
Aussie rider Todd Smith finished the day in 34th place, 1h18m off Barreda, and now finds himself in 24th place in the overall standings. Incomplete results sheets means we can’t report on where Aussie privateer Matthew Hart (Husqvarna) placed for the stage, though the unadjusted live timing has him in 40th place.
Barreda (Spain) 1st 5th
Sunderland (GBr) 12th 1st
Walkner (Aut) 10th 2nd
Svitko (Slo) 2nd 10th
Caimi (Arg) 3rd 9th
Farres Guell (Spa) 13th 3rd
Smith (Aus) 34th 24th
Hart (Aus) 40th (TBC) TBC