|Rally dos Sertões: Honda HRC riders finished first part of the marathon stage.|
Paulo Goncalves keeps his options of winning the "Rally dos Sertoes" in Brazil open, in spite of finishing third and conceding several minutes to the race leader. Helder Rodrigues is also in the running for a podium place in this fifth date of the World Championship.
It was an enormously physical, demanding and complicated day as the Sertoes 2014, from the point of view of both the navigation and handling; on a day when a rock-filled five kilometer section of the course bore more resemblance to a trial more than a rally raid. This area was followed by some very fast stretches, as well as deep-rutted track, as the course wound through the eucalyptus plantations, requiring an extremely precise reading of the road-book in order to not get lost.
Paulo Goncalves had it all the more complicated having to start out from the front after his stage victory. The pace of the race subsequently slowed as the route took in more narrow, sinuous paths, after which came the crossing of the Jequitinhonha river, followed by a heavily damaged and pot-holed section as the race speeded through some of the rural villages on route to Diamantina.
"Today was a long and difficult day," Goncalves said in the Camp. "I opened the track and rode well. It was a very difficult special with a lot of rocks, sharp curves, very mountainous, a lot of gravel and just like a trial. Some 20 kilometers from the finish, I made a mistake with the notes and took the wrong track, which cost me about three minutes. But I’m second in the overall, seven minutes behind Marc, and we still have two days left to attempt to make up the time and try and finish ahead."
It was there that the parc fermé had been set up, and where the bikes are not allowed to be tampered with until the end of tomorrow’s stage, although as an extraordinary measure, the riders themselves (not the mechanics) are permitted to change the rear wheels. This measure was taken for safety reasons after the brutal punishment of the stage had left all the tyres practically without grip.
Goncalves was ahead of the pack for most of the race until a navigational setback saw him concede around three minutes to a persuing Marc Coma. Honda Brazil rider Jean Azevedo was able to overtake too. Helder Rodrigues, who struggled to find his rhythm in the first part, was clearly more at ease in the second part of the special on the Honda CRF450 Rally and arrived in Diamantina in fourth place.
"Today was really tough, the longest of all, with a lot of trial, navigation, and everything," Helder Rodrigues said. "It was really hard for all of us. I tried to push as hard as I could from the beginning, but I couldn’t get the rhythm, although later I picked up speed. I wanted to catch up with Jean, but he managed to take some time off me. But, in the end, I’m fine. I’ve finished another day and everything is perfect for tomorrow. Just a tyre change and off we go."
Team Manager Wolfgang Fischer recapitulated the day: "Both riders did a good job and the bikes are in good shape and are now in parc fermé. Paulo opened the track and tried to keep the gap down, but it was very difficult in the mountains, so he was happy to finish third overall today. He made a little mistake at the end of the stage and lost a few minutes there, but there are still two days to go and anything is possible."
"Also, Helder had a nice race today, finishing fourth and still in the fight for the podium. Now, with the bike’s in order, we can finish the marathon tomorrow in the best way possible. As an exception today, they gave permission to change the rear wheel because the hard ground had been taking its toll on the tyres, which were left w ithout grip. So for safety reasons the wheel change is allowed."
Friday the riders face the second part of the marathon stage with the start and finish at the very same camp. This circuit will include a 178.87 kilometer special, with a stage total of 204 kilometers.
2014/08/29 | 00:47 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/FISCHER