With the two opening European stages behind him and today's (Monday 1/8/07) Stage 3 still in progress, America's ...
With the two opening European stages behind him and today's (Monday 1/8/07) Stage 3 still in progress, America's #1 rally hopeful, Chris Blais, has finally arrived on the Dark Continent and the "real Dakar" is finally underway.
Here's a quick snapshot of Stage 1 and Stage 2 via satellite-phone from Red Bull KTM US Dakar team physician and trainer, Dr. Johnathan Edwards, M.D.
Blais gets the party started with a 7th place day 1 finish
Chris Blais and his "new" KTM* survived, somewhat uneventfully, the 100km mostly sand special. As the official start of the rally, the prologue doesn't serve much in the way of determining who's gonna shine in the brutal African stages -- it's much more a showbiz spectacle which serves as a showcase for the event organizers and sponsors to kick off a spectacular event in a spectacular way.
Based on his returning for a 3rd got at the Dakar and having finished just minutes off the podium in 2006, Chris is an early favorite for rally watchers and according to Doc Edwards he's getting lots of attention from print and TV reporters covering the 2007 rally. Doc is seeing a more aggressive rider in Chris and we all hope that this portends an early attack mode for the easy going California desert specialist.
Time out for engine trouble - Blais 18th after stage 2
What could have (and probably should have!) been Chris Blais's first visit to the podium was compromised due to a mechanical gremlin that sidelined his #9 Red Bull KTM 660 Rallye. In a nutshell the problem was a pinched oil breather tube created a pressure build up in the engine resulting in the loss of a substantial quantity of engine oil (about 700cc - almost half of the supply!) and sub-par performance for Chris' KTM 660 LC4 engine.
"Thank God it didn't happen tomorrow on the first major stage (Stage 3) in Morocco." Explained Dr. Edwards. "With today's short special, the lack of oil wasn't as traumatic and while it took him out for a short time, his engine sustained no damage."
*NOTE ABOUT CHRIS' #9 KTM 660 Rallye: While many on the KTM factory (Galoises and Repsol teams, for instance) are riding the newer, potentially faster 690 KTM's, Chris has opted for what he believes to be the more dependable 660 machine, virtually identical to what Cyril Despres and Marc Coma rode in the 2006 Dakar. Only time will tell but Chris and chief technician Matt Spencer believe that the proven reliability of the 660 model, the same bike that took Chris to 4th place in 2006, will give up little to the newer, larger KTM's.