The desert is cruel.
Rough, rocky terrain with fast corrugation sections, saw to it that many of the teams in this year's Dakar race had tyre problems today. Amongst the cars Jutta Kleinschmidt, Giniel de Villiers, and Ari Vatanen to name but a few, suffered with tyres, whilst Nani Roma and Fabrizio Meoni had an ill-fated stage as well. Both completed the stage with a flat moose.
Vicus van Deventer, South Africa's hope in the Experimental Class for quads, was flying along through the checkpoints 1, 2 and 3 with his DHL DS650 BAJA Bombardier, and then lost a lot of time to the other contenders. At one stage Van Deventer was so far ahead of his nearest rival, he was about to take over the overall lead in the class, but the terrain claimed its toll in the skinny South African.
In order to prevent a repeat of his reason for retirement last year, the Bombardier now carries a spare wheel mounted behind Van Deventer on the seat. Last year he had a flat tyre in the sand and he was forced to soldier on to the overnight stop, but the chain drive dug into sand due to the lower riding as a result of the flat. The sand eventually ate into the rear axle bearings and after a number of overnight repairs, grounded to a halt.
Tomorrow's stage from El Borma to Ghadames starts after 13km of liaison from the bivouac. The special stage of 228km is considered a big stage by the organizers. The entire stage is off road with the crossing of numerous belts of dunes. A stage described as beneficial to the toughest and most skillful riders. Lots of navigation will be needed to get to the finish, before the 37km liaison to the overnight stop at Ghadames.
A world heritage site, Ghadames is built on an oasis and is also known as the pearl of the desert. It is one of the oldest pre-Saharan towns in the surround of the red plateau or the Hamada al Hamrah.