As the Dakar draws towards its conclusion, the final push to secure podium places continues. The penultimate stage sees Paulo Gonçalves defend his overall second. Barreda finishes the stage second, as Laia seals tenth spot on the day and eighth in the general rankings.
Paulo Gonçalves has refused to throw in the towel, and remains locked in the battle at the head of the Dakar 2015 course. The Portuguese star grabbed third place in the rally’s twelfth day of racing, behind Joan Barreda, and goes into the final showdown tomorrow 17’49” off the leader, but 7’29” clear of the nearest third place pretender.
Rosario, the city where the race started from last year, played host to the last but one Dakar assault and featured the longest liaison section so far encountered, at 726 kilometres, with a modest 298 km timed special. It was a relatively complication-free affair, not too navigationally demanding, but not without its dangers either, with regular incursions from animals popping up at various points on the route.
Joan Barreda, once more, opened the way and was once again untouchable, crossing the finish-line outside Córdoba on the Honda CRF450 RALLY without having been reached. He recorded the second fastest time in the special.
Hélder Rodrigues, had it tougher, heading out from behind and having to eat a lot of dust before the day was done. Hélder chose the prudent option and sat it out with the group instead of going for the high-risk overtaking alternative.
All Team HRC finishers thus find themselves congregating the top-ten for the first time in the Dakar 2015. Laia Sanz scored a notable tenth, and barring eventualities, should hold on to eighth on tomorrow’s final leaderboard.
Argentine local-boy Javier Pizzolito again was the top Honda South America Rally Team finisher in 12th. Brazilian Jean Azevedo registered his best stage to date with a 14th position at the end of the special, and hops two places up the overall rankings.