Dakar: Szalay Dakar Team stage six to rest day report

SS6: Challenging day It is Balázs Szalay's 9th time taking part in the Dakar Rally, however he has never seen such as on Thursday. On the connection from Tan Tan to the Mauritanian border it was raining all the way. It wasn't much better ...

SS6: Challenging day

It is Balázs Szalay's 9th time taking part in the Dakar Rally, however he has never seen such as on Thursday. On the connection from Tan Tan to the Mauritanian border it was raining all the way. It wasn't much better before that, either, because they had to pull down the eating-tent due to the sandstorm. There were a few who had set out without breakfast. One of them was the Balázs Szalay - László Bunkoczi duo with the Opel Antara, although it wasn't one of their biggest problems in the morning. On the connection they had some trouble with the gas pressure - the engine received way too much fuel, and the car ate up a lot.

Luckily, before the start of the special they could correct this mistake, while from 140 kms the duo was praying not to lose all their fuel. "When we arrived at the bivouac the indicator has been at zero for quite long, so we were very much worried - said Szalay. - We loved the first Mauritanian stage, but I felt the car was a bit out of power at the beginning. Among the fesh-fesh my mood got higher and we dictated quite a good tempo. The Opel Antara took the first real desert obstacle very well."

In the totals the dual is 39th, and their greatest happiness is that they reached the bivouac in daylight.

From among the team, supported by MOL, Jaroslav Katrinak is still among the best, his Thursday 16th ranking was enough to make him 13th in the totals. The Slovakian biker told us; the first part of the stage was difficult because one had to take great care not to fall at any moment. The other Slovakian biker had troubles with electronics at the connection, so he couldn't even set out for the special.

Péter Kátai isn't so much worried about himself but his bike, and says, he will have plenty to do on the day-off. The past few days have really taken the strength of the bike. Today he lost his front wheel protector, while his meter counter has been out for days, therefore it makes no sense to roll the route-plan in. He enjoyed today's dunes better than those of yesterday; it showed on his results, too: his best on the Dakar is the present 28th position.

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Even the wind is an opponent

The last two nights were quite tough for the Balázs Szalay -- László Bunkoczi duo. However, this was an average problem for all the rest of the competitors.

Heavy winds were blowing in the past few days in the Sahara, getting stronger by night-time. An own tent for everyone is not much of a help here, since it is quite challenging to sleep with a tent sticking onto your head. One can hardly breath under it...

Szalay, therefore, had spent his last two nights with his hand on his forehead while sleeping, in order to breath at least. Not a comfortable position at all, but at least he could get to some oxygen. Or rather sand, since the smooth dust made it through the wall of the tent, swirling on on the inside. Quite uncomfortable, because in the morning one can shovel out half a kilo of sand from his nose and ears, just to make himself close to an acceptable shape as for climbing out of the tent and head towards the breakfast tent.

Breakfast in fact was pretty substantial, they took a huge amount of scrambled eggs with a few slices of ham, and as a dessert some pancakes with nutella.

The pilot of the Opel Antara knew that he would need the energy, since the longest and most difficult special of the Dakar was awaiting the field on Friday.

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SS7: Trapped among sand dunes

It was Friday's stage that would have been the longest on this year's Dakar, however from Atar on heavy sand storm was threatening. Due to this organizers decided to shorten the 542 km stage, and delete the end of it. This way competitors had to take 407,6 kilometers, often under bad visibility.

The Balázs Szalay - László Bunkoczi - Opel Antara trio finished as 73rd. The boys were quite exhausted and dirty by the time they arrived, but luckily they did (!) to the Atar bivouoac in daylight. We've had troubles with the engine in the morning already, and again with the oil pressure. The car stopped twice on the way to the start of the special due to injection problems. The duo went right back to the Zouerat camp, servicemen worked on the trouble, and then set out.Everyone blamed the extremely soft dunes, among them Szalay, who got stuck in one of them.

"I misjudged one of the dunes, went to the bottom, but the car didn't make it back to the top. One of the reasons for this was that the engine was out of energy, and because I have never seen such soft sand in my life. - said Szalay. The pilot and the navigator have been digging for two hours without any movement of the Antara, by the time the team's race truck arrived. It wasn't easy for Zsolt Darázsi either to pull the car out, so by the end a little caravan was formed.

Balázs Szobi's truck pulled Darázsi's truck, which pulled Szalay's car out. Finally the race vehicle got saved from the trap and arrived at the bivouac in daylight. It was Darázsi's truck that pulled Palik's car out from a trap, too. Without them they wouldn't have made it out from among the dunes. They also thanked them in the finish. It is Jaroslav Katrinak from the bikers supported by MOL who is the first among them. No wonder, the KTM pilot has been a stage-winner on the Dakar, too. On the way to Atar he took his speed back a bit, he didn't want to risk, but still at this pace he made it to be sensational 14th. " Because of the sand storm we've had a very tough day. I got really exhausted by the end." - said Katrinak. Emanuel Gyenes, the Romanian biker of MOL supportees is the youngest member of the team (22 years old), crossed the Atar finish as 88th, being really tired. This made him 57th int he totals.

Péter Kátai has never been biking in sand storm before, but this is what he thought it would be like. He had hardly seen anything in the storm, luckily he found a pilot who was well informed, and whom he could follow. He said that he had a feeling that if he gets lost here, he would never find the right direction. He got very much exhausted before the rest day, because due to the wind the previous night he hadn't slept much. Plus this stage was ahead of him. He, personally, was very happy that the end of the stage was cancelled, because it would have been simply dangerous to go on in such an awful visibility.

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Rest Day: Magical remake of the Antara on the rest day

We are over about half of the Dakar Rally, but -according to Friday data - 125 entrants out of the 510 are already out of competition, which is a lot (68 bikes, 42 cars and 15 trucks). Competition hasn't been easy until now, and it would be quite naive to believe that it will get better on the remaining 8 stages. Competitors say that there are 3 especially tough stages awaiting the teams, not to mention that these 3 are right after each other. Cars for example will have marathon stages on Sunday and Monday, meaning that service units are not allowed to Tichit. No wonder that the service unit took the Balázs Szalay - László Bunkoczi duo's Opel Antara apart to the very last piece on the rest day. They were trying to prevent any trouble concerning the car.

"Nothing really needed to be repaired on the car, but since it is half time, we have replaced several parts - said Balázs Szalay, who knows what he's talking about, this being his 9th Dakar. - It is the front and back differential, the gear shift, separator, and steering mechanics that get replaced in the Antara. Guys are transforming it in order for us to have the least trouble with it. In the afternoon Robby Gordon's engineer will come over, the one who reprogrammed the computer that controls the engine in the first few days. Now he will further improve things. We are doing pretty well, we'll be finished by night."

Were the days left behind the easier ones? Or will it be the ones coming up? Szalay's answer to this was that there was a hell of a difficult ten-kilometer stage among the dunes on Friday. Almost everyone there ended up digging, even the pros. We need to be prepared, however, to everything, since the next three days in the Sahara will definitely be a challenge for the team.

Bikers, Péter Kátai and János Dési, were trying to do their best to keep their KTMs in the best race condition. Both of them were saying that since they reached the rest day, they will definitely try and reach the finish in Dakar. Their situation, however, is different from Szalay's in the sense that none of them have reached the podium at Lac Rose before. Kátai suffered an accident last year, while it is Dési's very first time on the Dakar. (Balázs Szalay had completed the distance of the desert show four times, this making him the champion among Hungarian competitors).

-credit: szalay dakar team

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Laszlo Bunkoczi , Jaroslav Katrinak , Szobi Balazs , Balazs Szalay