Monday 16 January 2017

Dakar Rally update - week 2

Part two of my Dakar update, taken from my own Facebook page and my Nomad Racing page (and elsewhere).....

Rest Day – 8th January La Paz

Stage 7 – 9th January La Paz to Uyuni

Stage 7 at the Dakar: yesterday’s stage was considerably shortened due to the continuing problems caused by the severe weather, using parts of the abandoned stage 6 and parts of the original stage 7 it stuck largely to sandy tracks (for obvious reasons). It was not without difficulties and once again riders struggled with the Navigation. Honda went on the attack with Ricky Brabec getting his first ever Dakar stage win and Paulo Goncalves taking the second place. Sam Sunderland maintained his first place overall, coming in third place on the stage 4 minutes down on Brabec and two minutes up on the third Honda rider, Joan Barreda Bort in fourth place.

Stage results were:
1. Ricky Brabec (Honda) USA
2. Paul Goncalves (Honda) POR
3. Sam Sunderland (KTM) GBR
4. Joan Barreda Bort (Honda) ESP
5. Xavier De Soultrait (Yamaha) FRA

In the overall position Sam maintains his lead at 17 minutes 45 seconds over Chilean rider Pablo Quintanilla of Husqvarna:
1. Sam Sunderland (KTM) GBR
2. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) CHL
3. Adrian Van Beveran (Yamaha) FRA
4. Gerard Farres Guell (KTM) ESP
5. Matthias Walkner (KTM) AUT

This was the first part of the Marathon stage, where no assistance crews were allowed at the overnight bivouac and riders have to do their own maintenance and/or repairs, so the shorter stage did assist riders in this respect, especially coming straight after the extended rest day where hopefully bikes were subject to a higher level of TLC than is normally possible.
This is of little concern to those riders in the Malle Moto class, who have to do their own maintenance every day, in this competition Argentinian Jose Julian Kozac has been leading with some exceptional performances and several observers have noted “it can’t last” and indeed it didn’t and he had to be towed into the bivouac last night. Bad luck for Kozac , coming in 96th place on the stage and this has dropped him to 46th place overall. This has benefited, Estonia’s Toomas Triisa who now leads Malle Moto, with Lyndon Poskitt now in second place, Kozac has dropped to third.
So of the Brits, we have Sam still in the lead, Lyndon is lying in 44th place overall and 2nd in Malle Moto. After his strong ride on stage five Max Hunt where he had managed a great 35th place he dropped back a little yesterday finishing 60th on the stage which also placed him 60th overall. Dave Watson and Kurt Burroughs both rode a steady day finishing in 98th and 107th places respectively. This puts Dave at 93rd and Kurt at 98th in the overall standings

Today they return to Argentina with a mammoth stage, again with much of it at high altitude

Stage 8 – 10th January Unuyi to Salta

Update from Dave Watson's support team....
Race Report Day 8 Support Transfer Update:
So things were going so well and we were about 200km from tonight's Bivouac, when a landslide blocked the road, which they say will take 2 days to clear. There is now 100 s of service vehicles stranded, blocking a village and the road with no other way to go. We are waiting for the organisers to make a decision, it's now 3 pm but it looks as if we could be here for the night. Don't know where Dave or the other competitors are; or whether they have passed it.
The Dakar is getting very interesting indeed


Day 8 of the Dakar started with course changes due to the weather, with a shortened special stage. Again we heard tales of difficult navigation and difficult course conditions, although the organisers tried to stick to sandy tracks, these too were often waterlogged.
Joan Barreda Bort had a good stage, taking the stage win from Matthias Walkner. Overall leader Sam Sunderland rode a consistent stage to finish third and even managed to increase his overall lead to 20 minutes.
Stage result:
1. Barreda Bort
2. Walkner
3. Sunderland
4. Metge 
5. Garcia
The overall standings after stage 9
1. Sunderland 
2. Quintanilla 
3. Walkner
4. Van Beveran
5. Guell
It seems the other four Brits all had steady rides with them getting the following places:
48. Lyndon Poskitt
61. Max Hunt
94. Dave Watson
102. Kurt Burroughs
Overall they are now
1. Sam Sunderland 
44. Lyndon Poskitt
60. Max Hunt
92. Dave Watson
97. Kurt Burroughs
The day ended in tragedy with the severe floods causing landslides, both leading to fatalities in the local population. The road to the bivouac in Salta was blocked holding up the assistance crews during the day and although the facts were hard to come by it seemed the competitors were also due to come this way on liaison later. It looked like the road would be closed for at least two days. Everyone was eventually rerouted via narrow mountain roads, although this was apparently not an option for the larger trucks with the first competitors not arriving at the bivouac until after 8.00 in the evening, many not getting in until after midnight.
Eventually the news filtered through that today's stage (nine) has been cancelled due to the conditions and the organisers ASO have offered the resources of the rally to assist with relief efforts in the area.

Late update

Information continues to filter through from the Dakar. It seems several competitors including Kurt Burroughs didn't make it to the bivouac last night and holed up at a roadside hotel. They have about 1000km of riding today to get to the next bivouac at Chilecito

Stage 9 - 11th January Salta to Chilecito

Stage Cancelled

Dakar Rally director Etienne Lavigne has defended the decision to cancel Wednesday's "Super Belen" stage, saying every effort is being made for the event to continue as planned.

The planned 977km Salta-Chilecito test was cancelled on Tuesday evening after a rockslide prevented a number of competitors and support vehicles from reaching the Salta bivouac.

It marks the second cancelled stage of the South American event, with heavy rainfall in Bolivia forcing Saturday's Oruro-La Paz stage to be axed and three other tests to be shortened in distance.
A Dakar statement also said that the event was lending its resources to the nearby village of Volcan, which had been badly affected by the storms.
Lavigne said providing humanitarian assistance was more important than ensuring the rally ran exactly to schedule, but promised organisers will do everything possible to run the final stages as planned.
"It's really sad for us, but when you see the circumstances that happened to that village, I'm not sure that the sporting aspect is the most important," Lavigne told reporters on Tuesday.
"Nine years now we have come to Argentina. We were aware of these conditions, there was just this year the phenomenon of very violent weather.
"In front of this, we can't do much. We succeeded at running all the other stages in good conditions, now the most important is this catastrophe."
He added: "A good organisation is an organisation that adapts successfully, that is not paralysed. We will do all we can to make Dakar 2017 continue."
Tuesday's shortened stage saw Sebastien Loeb take the overall lead of the cars classification from Peugeot teammate Stephane Peterhansel, with the pair now 1m38s apart.
KTM rider Sam Sunderland leads the bikes race, while Kamaz driver Dmitry Sotnikov heads up the trucks standings.
Three more stages are planned between now and the end of the rally in Buenos Aires on January 14.

Stage 10 Chilecito to San Juan

After the second cancelled stage yesterday that allowed competitors and assistance crews to regroup and meet up again at the Chilecito bivouac, tales of marathon efforts abound. 

Of particular note is South African rider Joey Evans who has the additional problem of having been being paralysed from the chest down after a crash in 2007 and although now able to walk and ride again, still doesn’t have full control of his lower body. He epitomises the spirit of the Dakar and is amazingly still plugging away and spoke of spending 21 hours on the bike on Tuesday and having to cover nearly 1100 kilometres to eventually arrive at the Salta bivouac at 03.00 on Wednesday morning.... hardcore or what?

Today stage 10 has got underway and again promised difficult navigation also combined with what was described as “trials sections”! And sure enough at the time of writing almost all of the major players have lost time getting lost and taking the wrong route. Leader Sam Sunderland lost fifteen minutes of his twenty minute lead over Pablo Quintanilla early in the stage but then the Chilean also lost significant time through taking the wrong track, being reported as 4km off route at one point. Then he was reported as stopped with “technical issues”!

High drama indeed! At present Frenchman Michael Metge leads Joan Barreda Bort by three minutes on the ground at Way Point 5, overall leader Sunderland is currently lying 11th on the stage 16 minutes down on Metge but about 45 minutes ahead of Quintanilla.

All the other Brits made the start today and although Lyndon Poskitt appears to have suffered some delay in the early part of the stage, he seems to be back on track being, along with Max Hunt, Dave Watson and Kurt Burroughs currently between Way Points one and two.

Stage 10 continued....

The fun and games continued today, with the only consistent seeming to be Joan Barreda Bort who kept his cool and led from stanrt to finish. Now in fifth overall he might actually get a podium place by the end of the race. Last years second place rider Stefan Svitko came in second on the stage and the impressive Argentina Franco Caimi came in third. Current Rally leader Sam Sunderland kept his cool and eventually finished 12th on the stage, maintaining his overall lead at 30 minutes over KTM team mate Matthias Walkner. Pablo Quintanilla who had been lying second overall, had a terrible day, first getting lost, then stopping with mechanical issues and finally crashing and having to withdraw from the rally as a result. Surprise of the day was Yamaha rider Helder Rodrigues who has had a fairly lacklustre rally to date but rode strongly to come in fifth today.
Final stage positions were:
1. Joan Barreda Bort (Honda) ESP
2. Stefan Svitko (KTM) SVK
3. Franco Caimi (Honda) ARG
4. Pierre Alexander Renet (Husqvarna) FRA
5. Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha) PRT
So the overall standings with only one day of full racing left (the final day is largely symbolic with very few position changes likely) currently looks like this:
1. Sam Sunderland (KTM) GBR @ 26:57:
2. Matthias Walker (KTM) AUT
3. Gerrard Farres Guell (KTM) ESP
4. Adrien Van Beveran (Yamaha) FRA
5. Joan Barreda Bort (Honda) ESP
So the Brits?
Sam is looking good and playing it well by the looks of things, lets hope he hangs in there until the finish.
Lyndon Poskitt had some problems early today but seems to have recovered ok to finish 48th on stage and 47th overall.
"Mad Max" Hunt had a steady ride, finishing 60th to achieve 55th place overall.
Dave Watson rolled in at a respectable 83rd place, elevating him to 85th place overall.
Kurt Burroughs is giving us cause for concern as he is still on the special stage at 8.30 pm Argentinian time (23.30 GMT), as I write this 96 riders have finished the stage, as Kurt started in 102nd place this morning let's hope he won't be too long. Having not seen his support team for three days due to the problems in recent days, they reported on Facebook that they got him up this morning, dressed him as he wasn't capable, put him on his bike and sent him on his way this morning. Here's hoping he's OK.... Go Kurt! 

Stage 11 San Juan to Rio Cuarto

Still waiting for news of Kurt Burroughs, on last night’s live timing he was showing as having missed the end of the first section on the Special Stage (ASS1) and the restart at the end of the neutralised section (DSS2) but he was then shown as having passed way point 8, the first way point on the second part of the special stage?
At present he is shown on the start list for today, leaving in 100th place at 08:03.30 which is 11:03.30 GMT so will have an anxious wait to see if he is still in the race!
Meanwhile the first five riders have already left the start for today’s stage from St Juan to Rio Cuarto

Stage 12 to Rio Cuarto to Buenos Aires

Last day today, a relatively short special stage followed by a long liaison to Buenos Aries. Traditionally it's a straightforward ride home with little chance of positions changing, that's not to say you can't lose today if something go wrong, so let's hope they all stay safe.
Yesterday's stage was a fairly unusual one with a very long neutralised section in the middle. The first section was through the dunes at St Juan and most riders seemed to navigate it ok, KTM team mates Sam Sunderland and Matthias Walkner seemingly rode together a lot of the time, clearly conscious to maintain their first and second positions.
The long neutralised section seemed to take forever with no news of the competitors for around four hours as they completed this part as they are no way points on these sections.
The second part of the special was more defined tracks (WRC style as they are often known) which makes for easier navigation.
Joan Barreda Bort was on a charge again but didn't take the win in the end, that going to Honda Team mate Paulo Goncalves.
Stage result:
1. Goncalves
2. Barreda Bort
3. Van Beveran
4. Farres Guell
5. Sunderland
So going into the last day the overall looks like this:
1. Sam Sunderland
2. Matthias Walkner
3. Van Beveran
4. Farres Guell
5. Barreda Bort
So what news of the Brits?
Lyndon Poskitt seemed to go missing on the early part of the stage yesterday but recovered later to finish 47th on the stage and 39th overall. Max Hunt and Dave Watson finished the stage in 56th and 93rd places, which in the overall placings makes them 52nd and 84th respectively.
Kurt Burroughs was down on the start list for stage 11 but unfortunately a mechanical issue the previous night meant he had to withdraw from the rally

Final Update

I had been trying to work on my final update on the Dakar but this post by Jenny Morgan does it so well I thought I'd share it with you.
Final positions:
1. Sam Sunderland (KTM) GBR
2. Matthias Walkner (KTM) AUT
3. Gerrard Farres Guell (KTM) ESP
4. Darien Van Beveran (Yamaha) FRA
5. Joan Barreda Bort (Honda) ESP
And for the Brits (other than Sam of course)...
39. Lyndon Poskitt (KTM)
52. Max Hunt (Husqvarna)
84. Dave Watson (KTM)

Jenny Morgan Dakar :
Dakar 2017 - final summary: I thought I would leave it 24 hours, just to see if there was a defining photo I might use to illustrate my wrap-up of this year's event, and I think I've found it...
Podium photos (of which there are thousands already) are de rigueur of course, but also a little too obvious perhaps - especially this year where I've been trying to concentrate on those riders a little further down the field.
So for me, this photo perfectly sums up the two very different sides to the modern-day Dakar Rally - and also celebrates a huge British triumph of course!
On the right we have factory KTM pilot, and overall winner this year #14 Sam Sunderland - the first British rider to ever win the Dakar in it's 38 year history - resplendent in a freshly laundered (in fact I'm sure it was fresh out of the packet) team shirt...
And on the left we have the UK's #100 Lyndon Poskitt (Pooskitt ;o) - a British privateer Malle Moto competitor, who finished 2nd in his class, and as importantly 39th overall - doing everything himself. Hell, he even had to turn up at the winner's party in his riding gear as the Malle Moto truck (with his change of clothes) was nowhere to be found!
Both riders fought long and hard this year... Sam, with the pressure of not only finishing his first Dakar (have crashed out after a promising start on each of his previous two editions); but also as the KTM factory default number 1 rider after his team-mate and last year's overall winner #1 Toby Price suffered a huge accident during the first week - Sam showed a level of maturity in his campaign this year, that really only comes from experience. I really believe this win will be the first of many now...
Conversely, Lyndon had a very different agenda this year. Not only to simply finish in what is regarded as the toughest of all Dakar classes (unassisted Malle Moto), but also to try and video record as much of his experience as possible - for both his own Races to Places web-TV series, but also the 'Dakar Heroes' daily video-blog the Organisers had commissioned from various competitors.
The unique insight his daily reports offered (and particularly his emotional piece-to-camera before the penultimate stage yesterday - see link below) really shows the grit and determination required to compete in this gruelling event... an event made even more gruelling this year due to the continual climatic changes and extreme weather that lashed the region.
It is fantastic to see these two British riders, sharing their respective spoils at the end of the race!
With regard to the final stage (SS12) yesterday morning - for many it would just be a case of getting to the finish, and hopefully retaining their overall position - not least as there would still be a 722km liaison to Buenos Aries, before they could truly say they'd finished.
However, while the first and second steps of the Moto podium were all but assured (Sam taking the top step, and team-mate #16 Matthias Walkner taking 2nd o/a), the fight was very much down to the wire for third place - and in a nail-biting finish, both #6 Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) and #8 Gerard Farres Guell (KTM) posted EXACTLY the same stage time - the fastest of the day no less - being awarded the stage final win was little compensation for the fact that #6 Van Beveren was unable to make up the 48 seconds deficit he'd been saddled with due to a 1 minute speeding penalty the day before. So it was a KTM one-two-three this year after all.
Similarly, it was all to play for between 15th and 16th place today - #19 Laia Sanz had not had the Dakar she'd hoped for this year - compounded by two key days being completely cancelled, where she could have otherwise worked her way back up the rankings.
Nonetheless, she achieved her goal of a top-fifteen position on the penultimate stage, a mere 2 SECONDS ahead of 16th placed rider #34 Diego Martin Duplessis. Starting one-place/30 seconds behind him (on this reverse order final stage) all Laia had to do was catch him and keep him in her sights to retain her overall position, but unfortunately it was not to be... she finished in 16th - just 50 seconds behind Duplessis in the overall standings.
In Malle Moto, I'm delighted that #100 Lyndon Poskitt held onto his 2nd place - if you followed his video blog this week you'll know he started to suffer from exhaustion in the final few days, and being over two hours behind the leader of the Malle Moto class (#117 Toomas Triisa - who finished a very impressive 30th overall), Lyndon was content to ride for 2nd, finishing 13 minutes (and just a single place) ahead of 3rd place Malle Moto rider #47 Julian Kozac.
I'm pleased to report that fellow Malle Moto competitor #54 Manuel Lucchese finished another Dakar (51st o/a), and delighted to see Dakar Veteran #61 Franco Picco finished his 20th Dakar in 85th place, celebrating his 62nd birthday by entering in Malle Moto - what a legend!
Other notable mentions ought to go to two other British riders #107 Max Hunt and #120 David Watson - both who finished in their debut year!
Two other Moto 'heroes' - particularly amongst the online supporters community this year - were Russian rider #59 Anastasiya Nifontova (her first participation, and 2nd o/a in the Ladies class) 75th overall, and not least South African racer #132 Joey Evans - who captured our attention with a marathon effort on stage 11 having been run over by a car earlier in the day, and salvaging parts from abandoned bikes to continue. Ultimately he made it in at around 1.30am, the bike quickly repaired overnight by his crew, and he finished his first Dakar in style!
In the cars, #300 Stephane Peterhansel has now notched up 13 wins during his Dakar career, Peugeot team-mates #309 Sebastien Loeb followed by #307 Cyril Despres rounding off the podium for another year.
So while this year's Dakar Rally has had it's fair share of controversy (as usual), I think we can all safely say that the combination of Race Director Marc Coma's focus on navigation being once-again a key part of your success, coupled with extreme changes in climate of the two-week period; that despite the enforced stage cancellations, this has been one of the most compelling editions in recent years.
Congratulations to all the finishers, commiserations to all those who were beaten this time. JM

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