9:00 p.m. It came like a real whopper for all the participants of the Dakar in the evening: The service tent of the bivouac burned down completely. Thank god no one was hurt. How high the damage is and what effects this has on the ongoing Dakar is...
It came like a real whopper for all the participants of the Dakar in the evening: The service tent of the bivouac burned down completely. Thank god no one was hurt. How high the damage is and what effects this has on the ongoing Dakar is still unknown.
Day of the cunning old desert devils
There were two words that were heard everywhere in the bivouac in Zouerat today: fucking wind. The strong wind on the course was quite difficult for the drivers. Whenever a driver left prints in the sand, they were gone within seconds. "From time to time one wasn't able to see a thing", said Chris Blais. The young American who has never driven in Africa before, has drawn the right conclusions for himself. "The course was really fast and my bike worked wonders. But now and then I wasn't sure which track to chose. Thus, I let the number 11 (Marek Dabrowski, KTM --edit. comment) pass and followed him afterwards. That's how I learn best. And I am satisfied with my ride today." Chris Blais came in 10th and lost 17 minutes on the winner of the day. A respectable result.
This first Mauritanian stage has definitely mixed up the rankings. It was the first long stage through endless fields of dunes. The wind didn't facilitate this task. Those, who know the Mauritanian desert like the back of their hand were able to deal with the challenge best. Today, no one was faster than Fabrizio Meoni. Whoever thought the 47-year-old was going on this Dakar to only take part in it, was wrong. Fabrizio showed off his skills. "For me, it was a test today to see whether my brain still functions. Whether I can go fast and at the same time be able to navigate. I am quite satisfied. I could have been even faster. But 80 km before the finish my mousse broke at the back tire and it started this rolling motion in the rim. That's why I had to reduce speed. But other then that it went well.
Alfie Cox (today 3rd place) and Cyril Despres (4th) were satisfied with their race and navigation skills, too. By contrast did Jean Brucy (12th) and Carlo de Gavardo (15th) have bad luck. Carlo almost lost half an hour on Meoni. He fell and overturned his bike during the stage. His ride went on a little slower. At the moment, Carlo is limping through the bivouac but wants to be in the race tomorrow again. Jean had his bad luck already on the liaison at the start. "Yes, this stage today was longer for me than for the others. My front break stopped working 15 km into the stage. I turned around and went back to the bivouac to wake my mechanics. Marc fixed it and I went back to the start. Unfortunately, I was three minutes late at the start." Jean is now waiting for whatever penalty the organizers will impose.
Cyril Despres took over the lead in the overall ranking, followed by Marc Coma (+0'35) and Fabrizio Meoni (+1'16).
During this 27th Dakar, we also want to spend some time looking at the men and women again, who go on the toughest rally of the desert and are the real heroes often wrongfully forgotten:
The secret heroes
He is an impressive guy, Kevin Heath. Born in South-Africa, he was later drawn to California, U.S.A.. Building electronic go-karts he managed to pay for his living. With his earnings he tries to get over his creative crisis. The 46-year-old giant blinks an eye and says: "I have my midlife crisis. In this difficult period of life some buy their selves a Porsche to impress young women. Others are looking for a challenge in order to proof something to their selves. I am one of them." Kevin Heath wanted three of his dreams to come true: participating in the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE), in the Baja 500 and 1000 and in the Dakar.
ISDE and Baja he has already done. Now he is at his biggest dream, the Dakar. Heath is going on this rally with a KTM, supported by the KTM Costumer Service. But the man with the starting number 118 is not only a pilot. As many others, Heath likes to screw onto his motorcycle at night in the camp so that his bike is ready for the next day. "I need this challenge. But it would be too difficult without any help. That's why I decided to work with the KTM Costumer Service", claims Heath.
His goal is to reach Dakar. Which place? Doesn't matter as much as simply arriving. And when he crosses the podium at Lac Rose, then, his third wish has come true as well.
Whether his midlife crisis is over then? The answers might be found on www.kevinsmidlifecrisis.com .
From the beginning on, there was one problem that took a lot of energy out of the private divers: the batteries.
There is another statement of the KTM team management about that:
"The batteries of several private riders have been discharging during the motorcycle downtime. An immediate check of KTM on the spot has resulted in the conclusion that all power supply components, as well as the security devices which have been newly specified by the organiser, have no negative influence on the batteries. Due to the fact that models of the last three years of manufacturing seem to be affected, the reason of these problems comes primarily from individual installation issues.
Irrespective of fact finding, the point is now to help the private riders. KTM assists all competing pilots to the highest possible extent with spare parts and batteries from the factory teams. The two "KTM Racing Trucks" are integrated in the assistance and may support private riders also during the stages.
Moreover, additional replacement batteries have been delivered by airplane two days ago. Onboard the plane was an electronic engineer of KTM, who has been and will be assisting the riders in correcting the problem."
Tomorrow, there will be the first part of a difficult marathon stage waiting for the drivers. 660 km will count for the ranking -- the longest special of the rally! Big parts of the course are new to the old hands as well.
Additionally, the start will be in a line up of 20 drivers at a time. The stage of tomorrow has it all: the difficult pass El Ghallaoiya surrounded by rock formations, far reaching dunes, many little ergs, tricky camel grass and at the end only a small possible path into the oasis of Tichit. There is no service allowed in the bivouac. The drivers have to take care of the bikes alone.
The real cunning old devils of the desert were able to come out on top against the others in the first Mauritanian stage. Today, the ability "to read the sand" and having a nose for the right track won over reckless courage and youthful carefree attitude. The two time Dakar-champion Fabrizio Meoni, team KTM Gauloises, turned out to be the fastest on the special with a length of 492 km, which, by the way, was part of a marathon stage last year. Meoni crossed the finish line after 4 hours 37 minutes and 14 seconds. A staggering speed in this difficult stage!
Meoni steadily took over the lead: 3rd place at CP 1, 2nd place at CP 2 and after the last difficult part with a lot of dunes he managed to be today's winner.
Additionally, this stage will go down in history, just as typical for the Dakar: An amateur made it on the podium. The cunning old devil Pal Anders Ullevalseter came in second, only 1'38 minutes behind Meoni. Quite respectable of the Norwegian KTM pilot!
Alfie Cox is another old hand who came in third. Alfie had lost 2'58 minutes on his teammate Meoni.