10th stage: Chilecito - San Juan
Link section: 302 km – Special: 449 km -Total: 751 km
After two days of weather-induced turmoil, the competitors finally got together again in Chilecito for the start of the second stage heading for San Juan. Some assistance teams were still on the road in the morning including the KTM mobile homes that did not have time to get to Salta the previous evening and whose occupants stopped to sleep en route.
The Chilecito - San Juan Special is not the most fun to ride with a rally bike, as the riders complained at the finish. It was basically like trial through huge rocks. “It’s a dangerous Special”, said CS Santosh, the Indian rider with the team Hero, “really tricky to navigate but above all really hard physically in the rocks with our big bikes.” A number of riders went astray and lost time looking for the waypoints, while others suffered with the heat, like Svitko, who came second but fainted at the finish. The thermometer started to climb again, reaching over 40°C, making the riders’ “heavy lifting” in the trial-like passages even more hard work.
FIM Cross Country Rallies Champion Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) had a spectacular crash. Despite a head injury he set off again but was forced to withdraw, a cruel blow as he was in second on the leader board. Sam Sunderland (KTM) still tops the provisional leader board with a lead of 30’ over his team mate Matthias Walkner and 38’ over Gerard Farres (KTM).
Michaël Metge (Honda) won the Special but it turned out that he had missed waypoint 44 and he took a 1 hour penalty… but his little brother Adrien (Sherco) finished in an excellent 7th place. It was Joan Barreda (Honda) who finally took the laurels in the tenth Special ahead of Svitko (KTM), Caimi (Honda), Renet (Husqvarna) and Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha).
Honda is appealing against the 1 hour penalty imposed on its four factory riders for refuelling during the neutralisation and leaving the official trail indicated on the road book. They argue that the regulations are not very clear on these two points. “It is not clearly stipulated that refuelling is forbidden and it is normally enough to mark the different way points”, says General Manager Martino Bianchi. KTM have lodged a protest, claiming that one hour is not enough, but in the view of Jury President Eric Nevels, nothing will change as the regulations are clear and the penalty is justified. So watch this space! Honda Racing Vice President Shuhei Nakamoto arrived at the San Juan bivouac today.