Red Bull KTM factory rider Toby Price of Australia on Tuesday changed up a gear into full Dakar Rally mode to take victory in the second stage of this offroad epic and move into the overall lead. KTM’s 2016 winner finished 3.22 minutes ahead of factory teammate Matthias Walkner of Austria, who got a five minute penalty later on to loose second position to Paolo Goncalves, Xavier De Soultrant was third.
It was also a solid day for the third member of the Red Bull KTM factory trio. British rider Sam Sunderland wrapped up his stage in fourth to trail the leader by just 4.19 minutes. KTM factory rider Laia Sanz continued to lead the women’s classification and finished the stage in 24th place, 16.29 minutes off the winning pace. She is currently 25th overall. What all the riders agreed at the end of the day was that the stage had not been easy.
Toby Price started the day in 17th place after a cautious start on Monday that was a fast but short timed special of only 39 km. He had taken the lead by the first checkpoint on his KTM 450 RALLY and then stayed in control through to the finish. Matthias Walkner settled into second place behind his teammate early in the stage and rode out the race in that position, but got penalized afterwards with five minutes and is now 7.39 minutes behind Price in overall eleventh with clearly gaining in confidence.
Price: “Today was a whole different day. There was a lot of speed; a lot of fast roads and it was really dusty. We also had to deal with a lot of animals. It wasn’t a tricky day in navigation but you can’t put a cow in the road book and it becomes difficult when they are popping out at you. But it’s good to get to the finish with this heat.”
Walkner: “Today it was almost straight with about 20 corners but it was pretty dangerous at the beginning because of the vegetation and there were many animals and a lot of waterholes. But in the end I didn’t think it was such a bad day.”
Sunderland said he had expected a stage that was a bit more straightforward so he was a bit surprised. “There were a lot of dangerous areas and a lot of mud holes from the rain and there were also animals on the track. That plays with your confidence and I had a few close calls. But it’s okay. I’m happy I’m here and the bike is good and I am top five again. I want to keep on like this the first week and try to stay consistent. I think that’s the key.”
Sanz said she too was happy to have finished safely on a day that she didn’t really enjoy. “I was not taking risks and I went too slow, but I didn’t feel really confident. I like it when it is fast but there were a lot of obstacles and mud and it was dangerous because you also couldn’t see too well.”
The stage took riders from the Resistencia to San Miguel de Tucuman over 803 km, of which 275 km was the timed special for the day. They are currently traveling west in Argentina and the stage took them almost to the north-south spine of the Andes. On Wednesday they turn north and follow the line of the mountains to San Salvador de Jujuy for another 780 km, including a 364 km timed special that organizers have promised will include difficult navigation.
Much of the first week of the rally is at altitudes above 3500 meters, adding another layer of complexity to this brutal competition. Riders also have to content with extreme variations of temperatures and Tuesday saw temperatures in the high 30s Celsius and 45% humidity as they passed through the difficult Chaco region.
Results Stage 2 Dakar 2017
Resistencia – San Miguel de Tucumán: 275 km timed, 803 km total
1. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 2:37:32 h
2. Paulo Goncalves (POR), Honda, +3:51 min
3. Xavier De Soultrant (FRA), Yamaha, +4:06
4. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, +4:19
5. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, +4:48
6. Stefan Svitko ((SVK), KTM, +4:54
9. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP), KTM, +7:26
13. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, +8:22 (5 min penalty)
24. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, +16:29
Standings Dakar 2017 after 2 of 12 stages
1. Price, 3:07:17 h
2. Goncalves, +2:54
3. Sunderland, +3:23
4. De Soultrant, +3:41 (1 min penalty)
5. Quintanilla, +4:26
7. Svitko, +4:45
10. Farres Guell, +4:49
11. Walkner, +7:39 (5 min penalty)
25. Sanz, +17:25