RODRIGUES’ WAY ON STAGE NINE
After a disastrous day on Monday on the way to Iquique losing more than 3 hours, Helder Rodrigues reacted like a champion in Calama with a splendid and irrefutable victory.
Second placed Paulo Gonçalves maintained the pressure on Marc Coma.
Out of the reckoning for the general standings, Helder Rodrigues has nothing to lose. The Honda HRC rider had ample scope to go on all-out attack over the 450-km special finishing in Calama to open up a major gap on his rivals.
“The stage was great,” told Rodrigues. “In the beginning there was a lot of sand. I pushed a lot at the beginning and had to concentrate a lot to navigate well. At refuelling I saw I had got a good time.
“Yesterday was very hard for us and today was just fun and the aim was to just get to the finish. The stage was very hard but compared to yesterday it was nothing”.
In full control, the two times stage winner on the Dakar 2015 finished almost four minutes ahead of the runner-up, his team-mate Paulo Gonçalves.
This was of no worry to the second placed rider in the general standings however, since he was satisfied with regaining 3’43” from Marc Coma and now seems to be the only rider able to trouble the KTM rider after nine stages.
Llel Pavey shows the strain of the past 2 days… © Rallymaniacs.nl
It should be said that with the day’s third placed finish, Coma was able to grin and bear it, distancing Pablo Quintanilla a little more before having to deal with the problem of Gonçalves.
Finishing 23’15” behind the stage winner, Quintanilla suffered a major blow, as did Toby Price who lost more than 23 minutes.
Keeping up with the pace on the first half of the special, Joan Barreda finally finished almost 19’47” behind Gonçalves, whilst Javier Pizzolito and Stefan Svitko, respectively 5th and 6th, where also more than 20 minutes off the pace.
As for Laia Sanz and Juan Pedrero, their performances today were nothing like yesterday, finishing 43’20” and 1 hour 8 minutes behind the stage winner.
After a hellish stage eight, an oil leak just 20km into the day dropped the duo right down the order. Patience paid dividends though and they worked their way forward. For both Team SP FiFTYONE riders stages eight and nine have been hard, a fact written all over their faces at the finish today. Llewelyn finished the stage in 48th and Simon 49th, which places them 59th and 61st respectively in the standings.