After competing on Husqvarna and Aprilia machinery, Joan Barreda Bort joined Team HRC Honda for the 2014 season.
He immediately showed strength, taking five stage wins at the 2014 Dakar Rally. But a fueling issue during stage five slowed his overall time drastically, and he would have to settle for seventh overall. He followed this performance with a second overall in the 2014 FIM Cross Countries Rally Championship, finishing just behind Marc Coma.Barreda, who is the Team HRC leader, enters his fifth Dakar this year with Honda. The Spaniard was immediately up to speed in stage one. He finished fourth, a mere 1:41 minutes off the top time set by Red Bull KTM’s Sam Sunderland.Things only got better on Monday for stage two of the rally, which took riders 388 miles from Villa Carlos Paz to San Juan, Argentina. Stage two of 13 included a grueling 322-mile special, and Barreda was untouchable. When the day wrapped up, Barreda would finish 6:13 minutes ahead of fellow Honda pilot Paolo Conclaves and 9:16 ahead of KTM’s Rube Faria.He also took the overall lead following his Monday win.“I am really happy. Today was amazing. It was really hard, really tough in the last part of special with a lot of tracks and a lot of bumps and it was so physical. But today was one of these days where it is important to get to the finish and we’ve got here so we are really happy,” Barreda says. “I was alone in some parts, but the most important was to remain calm over the first kilometers and finally we did a really good job. I think it’s a good opportunity for victory but the race is really close, so if we can perform like today and gain some minutes and seconds, then it’s very important.”Barreda battled with four-time Dakar Rally winner Marc Coma (Red Bull KTM) and Sunderland for most of the special, but troubles would arrive for the two; Coma suffered tire issues, and would have to settle for eight, 12:32 minutes off the pace. Sunderland’s situation was much worse; he got lost for over two hours, finishing the stage in 72nd.“We know that today was a very tough day. We started in the morning with a good feeling, not pushing too hard because we knew it was a long day. But on the other side, I felt that 60 km from the end my rear tyre was finished and I started to ride no faster than 60 kmph, no faster than that. Ok, we lost some time today, but at the end I’m lucky because normally I could have stayed stuck in the desert all the day,” Marc Coma says.Goncalves also finished second in stage one, and solidifies his position there in the overall standings. In the general standings, he know trails Barreda by 4:37 minutes“Today was a really, really long and hard stage. It was more than 500 km but with really difficult tracks, a lot of rocks and a last 45 km that was amazing. There was some super grass and a section with sand. With this temperature it was really, really hard, but I’m happy to be here,” Conclaves says.“In the middle of the stage I lost a little bit of time trying to find a way point. I lost the others and for the last 200 km I was on my own, but I’m happy for me, for HRC and especially for Joan, because he rode a really, really, really, really smart race today. He just started pushing after 350 km, so congratulations to Joan. I thought we were very brave today because it was a really difficult day. This was a really typical Dakar stage; it wasn’t a normal Dakar stage, but one with a high amount of difficulty.”The prized performance arrived from third-place finisher Faria, who rides only two months after surgery for a broken collarbone. He finished four seconds ahead of KTM’s Jordi Viladoms, who was followed by Dakar rookies Toby Price and Matthias Walkner – the latter two also on KTM 450 Rally machinery.“I was not thinking so good today. The first 150 kilometres, I did really well. But then when I caught the man in front of me, there was so much dust and I was riding, like, 200 to 300 metres behind him. Then I came past him and got lost again. At the end there were around 40 km of just dunes. I think it helps a lot when you come from moto-cross. I can make a lot of time up. The day was fairly easy in terms of navigation and you couldn’t really make mistakes,” Walkner says.“I was thinking that I was in around 15th to 10th position and that 8th would be pretty good. At the end I thought somebody got in front of me again, but for the moment it’s really good. Of course I’m surprised to be near the front, but I know I can ride the motorbike fast, but for the navigation it’s different and for the moment it’s not so heavy. But I think when it gets more heavy for the navigation then I will lose more time to the leaders.”Rounding out the top 10 were Honda’s Helder Rodrigues, Coma, Honda’s Israel Esqueere and Yamaha’s Pedrero Garcia.Stage three on Tuesday will take the riders 408 miles San Juan to Chilecito, Argentina, including a much shorter 137-mile special.2015 Dakar Rally Stage 2 Results: