Red Bull KTM factory riders continued to hold up well in the storm-battered Dakar Rally 2017 with overall leader Sam Sunderland adding several minutes onto his advantage after Tuesday’sStage 8. Spain’s Joan Barreda was the stage winner with KTM teammates Matthias Walkner and Sunderland a close 2-3 behind him.

Riders on Tuesday crossed the border from Bolivia to Argentina on their way from Uyuni to Salta as the rally turns east towards Saturday’s finish in Buenos Aires.

Once again race direction were forced to make changes to the stage before the start as a consequence of torrential rain in the region and rising water levels in rivers that riders had to pass through. But there was worse to come for the Dakar caravan. There was a massive landslide on the liaison road some 40 km north of Jujuy, and 160 km from Salta, which caused considerable damage to a village along the way, according to Argentinian civil security.

While the leading group of riders competed the stage, many riders, support teams and vehicles were stranded and eventually Dakar vehicles, competitors, assistance and logistics were diverted over a much longer route and some were not due to reach Salta in time for the start of Stage 9. The stage was therefore cancelled. The plan is now to regroup the Dakar caravan in time to start the nineth stage on Thursday from Chilecito to San Juan.

All KTM factory riders completed the timed special on what was, according to Matthias Walkner, a very difficult day’s ride.

Walkner: “The stage up to the first checkpoint was a bit about tactics because that was to decide the starting order for Stage 9, so to be fourth at that point was okay. Then I tried to make up some time over the last 250 km and it was good enough for second place. It was very cold and it rained and there was a lot of fog in the early morning. We could only see about 10-15 meters. There was also a lot of flooding and in some places deep mud.” Walkner is now overall fourth and has a possible podium finish in his sights.

Sam Sunderland continues to take the careful approach on the KTM 450 RALLY to his ride to try to further build on his overall lead of almost 21 minutes over second placed Chilean rider Pablo Quintanilla. The cancelation of Stage 9 will further enhance Sunderland’s chances of at good end result because his closest opponents will have one day less to narrow the gap to the leader. Thursday and Friday however still present very challenging days as the rally approaches the finish on Saturday at Buenos Aires. In the Dakar Rally anything can still right up to the finish line.

Sunderland: “I don’t want to think about victory at all. We’ve got a long way to go and the state of the overall standings can change in one day. You can lose so much time. I think that’s the Dakar – everybody is going to have problems at some point and I think it’s how you manage them, how you can stay safe and try to not lose such big, big amounts of time. I think you win it on the bad days, not on the good days.”

KTM factory teammate Laia Sanz also made it safely through to Salta and was 19th in what was a very difficult stage.

Results Stage 8 Dakar 2017 (second half marathon stage)
Uyuni – Salta: originally 492 km timed, 892 km total
1. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 4:28:21 h
2. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, +3:51 min
3. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, +3:54
4. Michael Metge (FRA), Honda, +4:25
5. Joan Pedrero (ESP), Sherco, +6:00
Other KTM
10. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP), KTM, +9:42
20. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, +18:55

Standings Dakar 2017 after 8 of 12 stages
1. Sunderland, 22:01:08 h
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, +20:58 min
3. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, +28:49
4. Walkner, +34:14 (5 min penalty)
5. Farres Guell (ESP), KTM, +34:24
Other KTM
24. Sanz, + 2:40:31