Originally Posted by Brodovitch
Rest day Summary (bikes)
139 motorcycles, 26 quads, 106 cars and 64 trucks made it through the first eight stages to the rest day in Tucumán, representing 74.61% of the vehicles which started in Lima. As expected, the Peruvian sequence was as splendid as it was tough, with its fair share of twists and turns. David Casteu, Marcos Patronelli, Stéphane Peterhansel and Gerard de Rooy lead their respective categories but, looking at the variety of challenges awaiting them over the next few days, the only thing that's certain is that nothing is certain!
Motorcycles: KTM purrs, Yamaha and Husqvarna roar, Honda whimpers!
Halfway through the motorcycle race, one thing's for sure: the 35th edition of the Dakar will be one for the books. First of all because the shadow of the KTMs still looms long, even though their captain and defending champion Cyril Despres has had a tough first week, most importantly due to a gearbox problem during the marathon stage which forced him to change his engine, with the ensuing 15-minute penalty. This means the Frenchman is only fifth in the general classification, 24′26″ down, and third among the riders of the Austrian manufacturer, which has nevertheless placed six of its motorcycles in the Top 10, with Ruben Faria and Chaleco López on the provisional podium.
But it's a Yamaha that rules the roost! The brand with the tuning forks may have won only one stage to KTM's four, but it's led the race from stage 4, first with Olivier Pain (now 4th) and then with David Casteu, who seemed almost surprised to take the overall lead in Tucumán. A leap forward for the blue band, probably thanks to its organisation in small independent structures, which fosters competition. On the other hand, the other nice surprise of the 2013 Dakar comes from the biggest team of them all: Husqvarna. Although they've still got reliability issues, the sheer speed of the machine and its leader Joan Barreda has been impressive. The Spaniard was the best performer of the first week together with Chaleco, with three specials apiece. Yet in the overall, the Swedish brand's first motorcycle lies twelfth, courtesy of highly consistent Alessandro Botturi. Long faces in the Honda camp, as their great official comeback to the Dakar flops. Although the Japanese brand has three motorcycles in the top 12, the first of them lies only seventh, thanks to the great revelation of the rally: Jeremías Esquerre, a first-time participant who's been extremely consistent so far.
The Chilean is therefore in command of the Rookie challenge, with 16′06″ on South Africa's Riaan Van Niekerk. As for motorcycles without assistance, Dutchman Hans-Jos Liefhebber holds the reins with his 35th place overall, ahead of Esteban Smith and Hugo Payen. Finally, among the ladies, Laia Sanz lies a strong 29th overall and doesn't have much to fear from Chilean Josefina Gardulski, who's in 132nd place, more than 15 h behind the Catalan.