The 2010 Dakar Rally has reached the half way point and Yamaha can count on some consistent and decent performances from the likes of Helder Rodrigues and David Fretigne on WR450Fs who currently hold lofty positions in the motorcycle class. The toughest Rally in the world is once more occurring on a different continent – South America for the second year in succession – but the 9000km, 14-stage route on a loop through Argentina and Chile, beginning and ending in the Argentina capital, offers a diverse and challenge topography worthy of the title ‘Dakar’.
The 32nd edition of Dakar is the first with a new regulation of cylinder size in the motorcycle division with the limit pegged at 450cc (bigger machines must be air restricted); allowing the potency of the WR450F to come into its own on a ‘level playing field’.
With almost 6000km negotiated, Rodrigues is currently second in the overall standings after 2009 winner Marc Coma was handed a six hour penalty on Friday. The Portuguese, who has only dropped out of the top ten in two stages, has notched best positions of 2nd and 3rd on Stages 2 and 6 respectively up until the mid-rally break of one day.
Rodrigues attempted his first Dakar in 2006 and won the 450 class in 2007. He now faces a margin of more than one hour to leader Cyril Despres who has been leading since Stage 3. The 30 year old Yamaha representative heads David Fretigne in 6th place overall. The French Yamaha stalwart is unlucky not to be higher in the classification after earning his eighth triumph on the second day. Fretigne tackled 626km through technical terrain and made the most of some familiar turf to surge ahead.
David Fretigne Speaks…
"It was difficult to see at the beginning because of the weather but visibility became better later in the stage and thanks to the tracks being similar to those in which I have trained on in France I was able to increase my rhythm."
Sadly the next day Fretigne clocked in with 42nd place after an electrical problem cost him valuable time.
"I remain motivated even if my position is not so favourable," he commented at the time after being bumped outside the top twenty of the overall ranking "but this is the Dakar; you can laugh one day and be crying the next."
Since then Fretigne has been fighting his way back up the table, with 3rd position on Stage5 and 2nd spot through Stage 7 keeping him with a chance of a podium honour.
After Stage 7 Spaniard Jose Manuel Pellicer is 8th on another WR while 29th year old Frenchman Oliver Pain is 10th and the fourth Yamaha inside the leading group.
In the Quad category Yamaha-powered machinery is racing clear with the first five positions of the group of fourteen participants by Stage 7. Marcos Patronelli has a mammoth lead of almost two and a half hours over older brother Alejandro; the Argentines have taken four stages between them. In third is Spaniard Juan Manuel Gonzalez ahead of Rafal Sonik from Poland in fourth.
After working their way north and the highest point of the route in Chile, the competitors of the ’10 Dakar will now begin the path down the coast and through the Atacama Desert and dunes until swerving back across the border into Argentina on Wednesday. The Rally finishes with Stage 14 and the entry into Buenos Aires on Saturday 16th.