11th stage: San Juan - Rio Cuarto
Link section: 466 km - Special: 288 km -Total: 754 km
The last big special of the 2017 Dakar, split into two parts, took place on Friday 13 between San Juan and Rio Cuarto. The terrain was again very selective as the riders had to cross dunes scattered over some fifty kilometres before attacking the fast trails in the Cordoba region that are a feature of the World Rally Championship.
On Thursday, Ricky Brabec’s Honda had a mechanical problem. The American rider tried to fix it but in the end, exhausted by the heat, he had to be evacuated and was not at the start on Friday. Just two days from the finish, several riders had a dose of bad luck including Ivan Cervantes, who was 15th on the leader board. Having crashed at km 75 at the start of the special he was unable to fix his KTM.
Joan Barreda (Honda) won Friday’s special but the French went on the offensive too: Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha), disappointed to have made a poor showing on Thursday, finished the Special in 3rd, less than 4’ adrift of Paulo Gonçalves (Honda). Unfortunately, the Yamaha rider took a minute’s penalty for speeding in a DZ, giving up the 3rd spot on the provisional leader board to Gerard Farres (KTM). On Saturday, the suspense will be running high as Farres is setting out behind Van Beveren and is less than one minute adrift of his rival overall. Pela Renet (Husqvarna) gave his all, coming 6th behind Sam Sunderland (KTM) who shored up his position as leader. Yamaha rider Xavier de Soultrait, who had nothing much left to lose, went for broke but had a mechanical problem in the second part of the special and was unable to finish.
Contrary to what was reported, Stefan Svitko did not go to hospital but remained for some time in the air-conditioned bus at the TC and arrived too late at the bivouac TC, taking a penalty of two hours!
In quad, Sergey Karyakin won the Special again ahead of Daniel Domaszewski and Rafal Sonik. Overall, the Russian is in top spot with a lead of 1h16’ over Ignacio Casale and 4h0 over Pablo Copetti. The race seems sewn up but they still have to finish the last little special on Saturday to make it to the podium in Buenos Aires.