Still gunning for his first Dakar Rally win, Honda’s Joan Barreda grabbed the stage two win to top the early overall standings in this year’s race.
In what was to become his 20th stage victory in Dakar, Barreda led home Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren in second by almost three minutes, with KTM’s Matthias Walkner.
Stage one winner and defending champion Sam Sunderland (KTM) fell foul of being first rider out to finish seventh.
After a short appetiser on Saturday, the competitors faced the full might of the dunes of Ica near Pisco on Sunday. The second stage in Peru was 90% of the track.
The 267 km challenge required some serious navigational skills, especially among the car drivers, who for once had to open the road.
The motorcycle classification also saw a change of leader, with an amazing Joan Barreda turning on the afterburners in the second half of the stage to defeat his rivals.
“A hard, tough stage with quite a confusing part at the beginning where we had to keep our concentration. I jumped a dune hard and I really felt that in my hand over the next few kilometres,” told Barreda.
“The final part was very fast and I was able to pick up quite a bit of space and in the end it turned out well. Tomorrow we have to open the track and everything changes again, but we always knew that it would be that way and we just have to keep on as best we can.”
Joan Barreda is still chasing an overall Dakar win, but today he proved again that he is one of the fastest bikers the rally has ever seen.
The Spaniard claimed his 20th stage in Pisco. The only ones with more stage wins are all multiple-time Dakar winners: Despres and Peterhansel (33), Arcarons (27), Coma (25) and Auriol (24).
Van Beveren puts Yamaha second
Adrien Van Beveren, meanwhile, managed to hold his deficit to about three minutes.
“We all knew navigation would be tricky so my goal was to find the right balance between going fast and not making any mistakes. I'm happy it all went well and I could secure second again today,” told Van Beveren.
“Starting behind the cars today we were faced with difficult track conditions and many, many stones. Despite that, it was easy for me to get a good race pace today and this is really encouraging for the days to come.”
Walkner goes third
Improving on his sixth-place result from day one, Matthias Walkner rode well in the heat of the desert.
The Austrian moved through the field as the stage progressed to finish in third place, less than two minutes behind second-placed Adrien van Beveren.
Walkner was pleased with his result and hopes to carry his pace into tomorrow’s longer stage…
“Conditions were tough out there. Following the cars made navigation a little easier but the stage was quite bumpy with all the tracks left by the vehicles in front.
“Personally, I’m feeling well, but I know we have a long way to go and things are only going to get harder. I know from experience that the race isn’t won on these first few days, in fact there are about 15 guys who are riding well and up near the front.”
Honda’s 4th & 5th
Michael Metge bounced back from yesterday’s delayed time to post a noteworthy result. The Frenchman looked at ease on the bike and scored fourth spot on the day and now holds ninth in the overall standings.
“In front of us the cars had marked out many ruts and it was difficult to climb the big dunes,” said Metge.
“I think I took it quite easy and I tried to make sure I was on the right track. This is a great result after yesterday’s one, but we must be aware that the Dakar is long and anything can still happen.”
Kevin Benavides also turned out a fine, almost effortless performance that stands him in good stead for tomorrow.
The Argentine rider now lies in seventh overall position and will be able to attack from a strong starting position in a stage with very similar characteristics to those of today’s.
“We rode behind the cars and we ran into the dust of the vehicles that complicated the riding quite a bit for us. You had to be very careful with some of the manoeuvres of the cars.”
Rising rookie Barragan
So far Gas Gas’ Jonathan Barragán, 11th place on the second stage raced today, is the best rookie of the rally.
“I am very happy with today's result,” told Barragan. “I rode almost all the stage alone and, towards the end, an official rider passed me. I was able to follow him for a long time and that has helped me gain pace and confidence.
“Today has been a very complicated day in terms of navigation and it was difficult, but we have to go little by little, because we still have many stages ahead. So we will continue working to continue putting on a good show in the Dakar.”