Rallye

Rodrigues Wins Stage Nine, Goncalves Closes In On Coma, Price Under 5 Minutes From Third

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After a disastrous day on Monday on the way to Iquique losing more than 3 hours, Helder Rodrigues reacted like a champion in Calama with a splendid and irrefutable victory.

Out of the running for the general standings, Helder Rodrigues has nothing to lose. The Honda HRC rider had ample scope to go on all-out attack over the 450-km special finishing in Calama to open up a major gap on his rivals. In full control, the two times stage winner on the Dakar 2015 finished almost four minutes ahead of the runner-up, his team-mate Paulo Gon̤alves.

‰ÛÏThe stage was great. In the beginning there was a lot of sand. I pushed a lot at the beginning and had to concentrate a lot to navigate well." Rodrigues commented

"At refuelling I saw I had got a good time. The result today is a possible win for me. I pushed a little bit then I saw Paulo catch up with me. I waited a little bit so I didn't kick up too much dust for him, so he passed me but then he got lost. I found the way point first and I finished here with a good time.

"Yesterday was very hard for us and today was just fun and the aim was to just get to the finish. The stage was very hard but compared to yesterday it was nothing‰Û
Goncalves has Marc Coma in his sights as the 2015 Dakar nears the end
A second placed stage finish for the rider who also sits second in the general standings, Goncalves was no problem, with the Honda satisfied with reeling in from Marc Coma by 3 mintues and 43 seconds on the stage and now seems to be the only rider able to trouble the KTM rider after nine stages.

The strategy is to try and keep the bike safe, Goncalves said after the stage. "For me, it's like before. I'm here to give my best, to fight day-by-day.

"Today, it was a really difficult stage again. I started pushing from the beginning. In the middle of the stage I missed a way point and so I turned back to find it. I lost some time there, but after I started pushing again. In the end I finished well and I recovered some time from yesterday.

"So now I'm second overall, but this is not really important because we have four days more in front of us to race. Many things can happen. I will try and I will keep fighting, me and team HRC, to get the best overall position possible. Like I say, many things can happen, but for me it's not additional pressure.

"I will ride day-by-day like I have done from the beginning, so we'll always keep fighting. The strategy is to try and keep the bike safe, only that".
Marc Coma maintained the race lead on Stage nine - Credit: RallyZone Bauer/Barni
Coma crossed the line in 3rd place to maintain his lead though it has now been cut down to just 5 minutes and 28 seconds.

‰ÛÏToday it was not easy in the morning." Coma reflected. "It was foggy and I made a small navigation mistake. Then I had to push during the whole stage to come back to my rhythm.

"It was a good day after a tough day like yesterday, so today was a better day. At the moment, everything is still far off, so we're looking at the next day only and we will see.

"There's a long way still in front of us, so we'll take it step by step."
Toby Price lost some time from the two race leaders overnight, but maintains 4th overall just under 5 minutes behind third place. RallyZone Bauer/Barni
Toby Price had another good day though finishing some 23 minutes back from the lead riders for the day, the Australian's 6th place stage finish was enough to maintain his 4th place position overall, closing the gap to 3rd placed Pablo Quintanilla by six seconds with the Chilean rider finishing directly behind him for the day.

"Today was tough. We started out really well, we made up some time and I was sitting well." Price explaind. "But then we couldn't find a way point and we all got lost a bit.

"It was a bit unfortunate, I just spent too much time trying to find it and I lost a lot of time there. It's just the way it is. We were having a good ride and all through the end bit it was pretty good. We're here at the finish and that's the main thing.

"I'm ready to go for it again for another day and I'm looking forward to it. I didn't expect to be in the top 10 for my first Dakar so being sat where I am is good. It will be nice to try and maintain it and not lose too much ground.

"We'll keep trying our best and whatever position we end up in is where we end up. It's all a learning experience for me at the moment. I'm enjoying it and having fun‰Û

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