Stages 12 and 13 and almost 700km of special are all that remain in the 2011 Dakar â€“ the 33rd edition of the worldâ€™s toughest race â€“ and Yamaha are on the edge of another top-ofâ€“the-leader-board finish thanks to the skills and exertions of Helder Rodrigues and his Yamaha Racing France Ipone team. During the eleven stages held so far the Portuguese has been almost ever-present in the top ten on his WR450F and has notched five top four finishes including victory on Stage 6. Through more than 8000km of mountainous terrain, rocks, dust and of course the immense dunes of the Atacama, Yamaha has been among the protagonists of the class with Rodrigues frequently setting the pace alongside leaders Marc Coma and Cyril Despres but coming unstuck with navigation issues that have cost him further spoils. The 31 year old now has to reduce a margin of 46 minutes to climb over Francisco Lopez Contardo and enter the first three of the general standings of the bike category. At the same time he has a cushion of 1hr 7 minutes over the fifth-placed rider. â€œThis yearâ€™s edition of Dakar is already in the home straight,â€ he said. â€œTomorrow I know that I will start the penultimate stage with one of my very last opportunities to try and break into the podium positions. I realise that I have my current standing consolidated but if anything the history of the Dakar shows us that it is never over until the end of the final kilometre!â€ Rodrigues claimed Stage 6 but he wasnâ€™t the only winner on the WR450F as Jonah Street aced the relatively short leg 9 to emerge victorious in what has been an inconsistent competition for the American so far. â€œWe didn't have any bike problems, everything went really smooth so I'm happy,â€ he said after making the headlines. â€œIt's awesome. You know what? We've been capable of this, it just hasn't fallen onto our plate.â€ Elsewhere Jordi Viladoms is 11th overall and hopeful of a top ten finish as he lies 9 minutes from 9th. The Spaniard would be easily holding this rank if it were not for a fuel shortage on Stage 8 that cost his valuable time.
By Alex Asigno •