The 33rd Dakar rally is firmly on the return leg as the riders and drivers of this historic and prestigious competition will soon dip into Peru for the first time since the rally shifted continents and head onwards through almost 4000km to reach the finish line in Lima.
Red Bull Yamaha TMN Team’s Helder Rodrigues has so far managed a solid and effective trek amidst Argentina and Chile to hold third position on his WR450F and consolidate his position with a 47 and a half minute deficit to Cyril Despres in second place and twenty minute gap over fellow Yamaha pilot David Casteu in fourth. The Portuguese (pictured) has marked 15th, 12th, 4th, 4th, 14th and 4th from the eight stages so far. Today he rides a two-part 550km special from Antofagasta to Iquique; the latter landscape having already formed one of the memorable features of the 2010 edition.
The sixth day of the Dakar was cancelled due to poor weather over the Andes and across the Chilean border. Rodrigues, who won third position and stood on the Dakar podium for the first time almost twelve months ago now faces the journey up through Chile into Peru and the ‘home straight’ to Lima.
“It’s a difficult Dakar. I’m feeling a bit tired, but everybody is in the same situation,” he said. “I’m still here and I’ve not suffered. I’m on top form and I can go on the attack when I want, and that’s what I’m going to do. I want to go head to head with the leading two. I’m third in the general standings, which is great.”
Unfortunately American Jonah Street was forced to withdrawal from the rally in the second stage with a technical problem but French duo David Casteu and Olivier Pain have ensured that Yamaha count on three riders in the top ten of the overall standings. Casteu has posted seven top ten finishes on what is his first outing on the Yamaha. Pain has managed a best result of ninth so far.
“It’s still going well for me,” commented Casteu. “I am well established in the race and hopefully to earn a good overall finish. More importantly I’m catching up to the podium positions behind Marc, Cyril and Hélder and I love it! Thank you to Yamaha, José (Leloir), my team, my partners and all my fans … I’m a happy man!”
Switching from two wheels to four and Yamaha have been ruthless in the Quad category, owning all of the completed eight stages run so far. The Patronelli brothers have fulfilled their billing as the stars of the class so far, earning the top spot on three occasions between them. Alejandro currently fronts the pack by over an hour from fellow Argentine Tomas Maffei – also YFM700R mounted – with sibling Marcos in third place. Maffei has only dropped out of the top three once, and up until stage nine the Quad Dakar has been firmly a Yamaha competition with the first four riders all using Raptor equipment. Marcos Patronelli admitted the brothers are trying not to think about victory and just focus on completing one day and one stage at a time. “The quad is performing well. The team and assistance are also doing a good job,” he said. A word of praise must go to the sole female runner in the Quad division, Camelia Liparoti, who holds tenth overall and is trying to complete her second adventure through the South American Dakar with her formidable YFM700R.
With stage nine now underway just five days of action, endurance, pain, navigation and exhilaration lay ahead for the dwindling competitor ranks of the world’s toughest race.