Bike A long night for Pierrick It is his eighth Dakar, and it is probably thanks to the experience built up over the years that Pierrick Bonnet, who even finished in the Top 30 in 2002, managed to take starter's orders for the third stage. It...
A long night for Pierrick
It is his eighth Dakar, and it is probably thanks to the experience built up over the years that Pierrick Bonnet, who even finished in the Top 30 in 2002, managed to take starter's orders for the third stage. It all started after the end of the special stage that led the participants to Puerto Madryn: "I felt that the bike wasn't working well and was getting worse. I finished the 600 km link stage at 50 kmph". When he finally settled down at the bivouac, around 01.30, he had to start checking the bike. Pierrick thought it might be the carburetor, but his efforts bore no fruit. In fact, he was joined by others and it was a while before they managed to find the problem: the engine was packing in. In the middle of the night Pierrick convinced KTM to sell him an engine. He spent the rest of the night repairing his bike with the help of Steven, an Australian mechanic. "We finished at around 06.00. I packed up my tent, but I hadn't even slept in it. I filled up my camel bag, ate two energy bars and then I set off again". Pierrick Bonnet finished the stage in 163rd position.
The Argentineans' Dakar
Andres Memi, biker number 196, is not the type of guy to get easily excited. However, this is his first Dakar and it does make him dream somewhat: "It's a known fact that in Argentina football really draws the crowds, basketball as well, but I wasn't expecting to see so many spectators for motor-sports". The Argentine competitors were prepared to discover the Dakar, but it is their countrymen and women that have surprised them. "What surprises me most is their patriotism, I'm really astonished. Even in places off the beaten track like Jacobacci, the crowds try to touch us and encourage us because we are Argentinean". Ruben Marcelo Miti, No. 103, took part in 2007, but his goal of being the first Argentine to finish the event is no longer his leitmotiv: "There are people everywhere, I can't understand it. I feel like I'm a national hero like Diego Maradona, though I haven't even finished the Dakar yet".
The solitude of the champion
At 19.30, local time in Patagonia, whilst some contestants were showering, eating at the bivouac, or even sipping a cool Argentinean beer, Yvan Muller, world champion no less, crossed the finishing line of the special stage, still sixty kilometers from the bivouac. "I had all the mishaps I could have had: I broke my GPS, punctured a tire, the jack wouldn't work and I even hit a fence, after which a wire got tangled in my back wheel". In short, it was another difficult day, after having spent a good part of the previous day wheel-spinning in the sand. In the general standings, the Alsatian and his single-place buggy are in 80th position, 6:46.00 behind the leader.
Casteu: not having a 'swell' time...
As if he had not already had enough trouble with his tires, David Casteu had to deal with another problem during the special stage between Puerto Madryn and Jacobacci. The previous day, during the 600-km link stage, an insect found its way into his helmet and stung him above the left eye. "I felt the sting, but I was okay, until the helmet started to press against my face. When I took off my helmet, the skin swelled up completely blocking my eye. I though I was going to have to abandon the race all because of an insect". The KTM Vectra rider had a medicine drip put in on his arrival and a clay poultice over his eye. As a result, Casteu spent yesterday's special with wonky goggles and his helmet askew. "I was riding with just one eye and it was absolutely exhausting. I don't look very handsome, thankfully my children can't see me..." In light of all these problems, the native of Nice did well to finish fourth on the special state.
Definitely not Turkish delight for Kemal
In the other Dakar rallies in which he has taken part, Kemal Merkit has built up a reputation as a regular in the repair area and as a "trouble magnet". In fact, he is a past master in the category, having previously finished the rally with a broken shoulder blade, for example. However, his latest problem picked up during the second stage is one of his best. At 5 kilometers from the finishing line of the special stage, the man with the best moustache in the rally was let down by his machine, due to a broken engine. "I had to push the bike to the finishing line, in soft sand, perhaps all for nothing, since the prospect of having to withdraw was very real", said Kemal. Because, on finishing the special, there was still 600 km of link stage to go, with a machine that was out of service: "I had to ask everyone to tow me, at least for a few kilometers. In total, around twenty competitors helped me and I got to the end of the stage at 03.00 in the morning! Now that I was there, I had to go and wake up the guys from KTM to find a new engine and I spent the rest of the night with the mechanics from Desert Rose putting the new engine in. So, I didn't sleep a wink, and let me tell you, the stage to Jacobacci was terrible, especially since my left wrist, which I broke a few weeks ago, is really starting to hurt!" But, these mishaps have not dented his confidence: "If there is a happy ending to this story, then it will be my best one yet".