Dakar: KTM stage 4 report

A scratched number one and arguments about a new Dakar regulation The first stage in Africa exposed all of what a Dakar is made off: great victories, small surprises and hurtful crashes. He was barely touching African ground and Richard Sainct...

A scratched number one and arguments about a new Dakar regulation

The first stage in Africa exposed all of what a Dakar is made off: great victories, small surprises and hurtful crashes.

He was barely touching African ground and Richard Sainct was already flung into the sand. “6 km after the start I crashed to the ground on the slippy surface. It was my mistake. I underestimated the composition of the ground.” Sainct came in 29th and was about 7 minutes behind the leader. The exhaust and the side covers were especially damaged on his KTM 660 Rally. Tonight Mauro Sant, the mechanic, will take the bike apart to make sure nothing further was damaged. Furthermore, his number 1 sticker was scratched, hopefully only on the outside. At the moment Richard is doing comparatively well. His left arm hurts and the doctor had to stitch the wound on his forearm. Further, the Dakar winner did ask for medicine to smooth his stomach ache.

Sainct met his team mate Jean Brucy at the doctor’s tent. He too crashed shortly after the start. “I rode right behind Fabrizio and wanted to stay close to him. I thought I could fly across three successive little peaks all at once. I did not make it.” The first doctor’s diagnosis states that Jean Brucy might have bruised his hip. He was subscribed some pain relievers.

About the race: Fabrizio Meoni showed that the rally has finally started for him. The Italian needed all his experience and the power of this KTM 950 Rally for the track. He won 43 seconds ahead of Alfie Cox who arrived in 2nd place. Meoni made sure everyone knew: He would have a say in the fight for the Dakar victory. However, he seemed relaxed at the finish. “Actually, I can’t really tell you why I have won today. The first part of the stage was fast and slippery and the second part was rather technical. After all it was not that hard and pretty short. I guess the others made more mistakes than I did.”

Isidre Esteve fought himself on a 3rd place today. At first it seemed he had claimed the top position in the overall standings. That is what the official Dakar pages tell after all. Only hours later did the officials comment that accidentally one minute was added to Cyril Despres’ time. If we counted right the 29-year-old Frenchman would now be leading the overall standings, ahead of Isidre Esteve and Fabrizio Meoni. We hope to give you the precise facts on that by tomorrow. Isidre Esteve, father to be, walked around the bivouac with a smile on his lips: “It went pretty well today. I’m excited about the race. Most of all I’ll be trying to avoid any mistakes. I want a place on the podium in Dakar. This is my goal. I do think I’ll have a good chance for that. The extremely long stages are still to come. I really like those, they are made for me.”

With the arrival in Africa a new A.S.O. regulation comes into force. It includes that the top three drivers can choose their starting place the next day. The officials hope for more excitement do to tactical games. Who is best at navigating? Who likes to have his track set and passes rather late? Who likes to ride in the tailgate of a competitor to keep his lead? Not everyone agrees to this regulation. The KTM team-riders agreed to not to follow the regulation at all. Hans Trunkenpolz, technical manager at KTM: “We have got many extremely great riders in our teams and don’t think it is fair that the ones in 4th and 5th place cannot choose their starting position and in the end even have to set the track for the others.” The team managers had the riders decide if they wanted to follow the regulation or not – in secret. Fabrizio Meoni: “We all agreed that we did not want to go according to this regulation. We, the team-riders, will start in the same order that we have reached the finish line.”

Tomorrow morning the drivers leave the bivouac on the plateau at the edge of the Wadi Ziz. Only 182 kilometers of the 575 kilometers long stage from Er Rachidia to Quarzazate are taken into account. The route has many quick turns and it leads at times across sandy at other times across rock invested ground. Finally it reaches the Erg Chebbib that is difficult to cross.

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Jean Brucy , Fabrizio Meoni , Cyril Despres , Alfie Cox , Richard Sainct , Hans Trunkenpolz