QUINTANILLA WINS, COMA LEADS
Although he was unlucky on his first two participations on the Dakar, fortune today smiled on Pablo Quintanilla. The Chilean won his first special stage and climbs onto the provisional podium in the general standings, a classification that is now dominated by Marc Coma.
Pablo Quintanilla’s career probably changed dimension today between Uyuni and Iquique. From a quick and consistent outsider since the start of the rally, the Chilean has taken on the status of stage winner and pretender for final victory on the Dakar.
This change owes nothing to chance given the KTM rider’s steady improvement over the last several days and the return of the rally to his home country was an opportunity that Quintanilla could not pass up. However, for the start of the final sprint over 38 km after an eventful first part of the special on the salt lake in Uyuni, shortened due to the weather conditions, Stefan Svitko and Juan Pedrero appeared to be better placed to experience glory. Separated by one second, the two men finally saw victory escape them in the final dunes, to the benefit of the third placed rider in the general standings.
“There was a bit of confusion at the beginning about the issue of rider safety, but the starter’s orders were eventually given. The bike suffered on the stage. It was very tough: the altitude, the entire day on the bike, but I’m happy to be back in Chile,” told Quintanilla.
However, they should console themselves with finishing in such high places on a stage, which was fatal for the ambitions of several favourites. With the exits from the race of Alessandro Botturi, Michael Metge, Daniel Gouet and Jordi Viladoms, four members of the top 20 said goodbye to the rally.
The top six has again been shaken up by the nightmare days experienced by Joan Barreda (towed over most of the stage by Israel Esquerre) and Helder Rodrigues. The two Honda riders lost more than three hours and kissed goodbye to their dreams of victory in Buenos Aires.
© Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool
This was a godsend for Marc Coma who, with his characteristic experience and intelligence, did not tempt fate and made sure he got to Iquique with a ninth placed finish.
“It was a very extreme day,” said Coma. “It was too difficult on the salt lake, there was the altitude, the cold, everything mixed in. The important thing is the last day and where we are.”
The day’s top 10 also plays host to the solid Toby Price, the incredible Laia Sanz (5th today), who enjoyed her best performance on the Dakar, getting closer and closer to the first stage victory by a lady rider, as well as Xavier De Soultrait who confirmed his medium term ambitions with his best performance so far in Iquique (6th).
“At the beginning some riders didn’t want to start because it was dangerous and cold, but in the end for me it was a good stage,” told Sanz. “I was third until the dunes but then Toby and Quintanilla passed me very fast. I’m very happy with this fifth position”.
The Paveys have made it through the mire that was stage eight of the Dakar Rally. With such a rate of attrition on stage eight Llewelyn and Simon have moved dramatically up the running order. Llewelyn now lies in 59th, Simon is 60th overall. To put things into perspective, by this point in the 2015 Dakar Llewelyn has been riding for 44:48:14hrs, Simon for 45:09:13hrs.
© Jose Mario Dias