It wouldn’t be the Dakar without drama – and today saw bad weather shorten the course, another lead change and some massive penalties handed out to some of the leading riders.
With Australian Toby Price out of the 2017 Dakar, the hopes of another KTM win largely rest on his teammates Matthias Walkner and Sam Sunderland.
Walkner took the win in Stage 4 yesterday and today it was Sunderland’s turn.
As the competitors continued through the high altitude Altiplato from Tupiza to Oruro they were hit with poor weather conditions, forcing organisers to shorten the course and cancel the second part of the stage.
Sunderland completed the shortened stage in an official time of 2h21m51s, 7m7s ahead of Honda’s Paulo Goncalves.
He was the only leading rider to overcome the navigational difficulties in the first part of the stage, handing him the win.
The stage win also moves him to the overall lead in the rally, 12 minutes ahead of Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla and 16m7s in front of third place holder, Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren.
Previous leader Joan Barreda not only finished down the order today in 22nd, he has been given a 1 hour penalty for a refuelling infringement that has dropped him to 8th overall. That will be a difficult gap to close and it’s probably fair to say he’s out of the running for a win – but this is the Dakar!
Barreda was not the only rider penalised – teammates Michael Metge and Paulo Goncalves were also found to have refuelled in a prohibited zone during the Jujuy -Tupiza stage. Similar penalties were handed to fellow Honda riders Ricky Brabec, Franco Caimi and Pedro Bianchi Prata.
Of the two remaining Australian riders, Todd Smith continues to do well and completed today’s stage in 15th place.
Matthew Hart had a tougher day losing another 2 1/2 hours to the leaders and finishing the day in 109th.
Manuel Lucchese found himself ranked higher in the order today with an impressive 44th place.
The competitors will leave Oruro tonight (Australian time) on a 786km trip to the Bolivian capital La Paz. Along the way they will battle sand dunes and the fastest should make the end of the stage in daylight.
Once in La Paz, the competitors will have the luxury of a rest day.
The multi-award winning movie Dream Racer tracks Christophe’s progress through the event and is the purest footage you’ll ever see of the Dakar.
You can check out the movie at dreamracer.tv.