January 13 2011, Standings after stage 11: Quinn Cody 9th; Mirjam Pol 67th; Alexey Naumov; Vadim Pritulyak;
The final days are harder, as promised
The Dakar 2011 organizers kept their word: each and every day is taking a greater toll in time and energy from all involved. The riders cope with very difficult terrain, requiring maximum power in extreme hot weather at close-to zero speed sometimes. This is very hard on the engines for lack of cooling effect that forward speed normally has. It is too early to determine exactly what needs to be done to make the bikes even more oven-proof. Pointing a finger at an oil cooler, radiator fans, fuel pressurization or ignition system is far from exact science now. The workshop logbooks that are kept for each of the four Honda 450X's shall be compared with riders' experience and the status of the bikes when they return in The Netherlands. Only then can decisions be made. Getting sleep is as important as it is difficult, for only by the time the first wake-up calls are due, the ambient temperature falls to a level that with some imagination might be called comfortable. Sleeping bags are, with some exceptions in the mountains, mostly used to absorb sweat and lots of it.
Quinn Cody performed up to his personal standard today, finishing among the elite riders in seventh place. It took quite some work on his bike to tune it to the day's stage, one time using a smaller fuel tank for greater cooling effect and another time switching to the larger front tank to extend range. Quinn Cody had a fine day: "It went well today, I was pretty upset about yesterday, I was pretty angry. Today, I rode pretty hard, the hardest since I have been here. The terrain here is really similar to Southern Baja, pretty rocky with wet dirt and rocks, and I felt comfortable. I knew what I could expect on the route. Didn't make a mistake today, kept it up the road and everything went really well. There was almost no navigation today, pretty much just go. I kept up with the danger and passed a bunch of guys. The bike was running okay. A little problem with the fuel, just when I was running really hard and turning the throttle really hard. It was a fun day."
After a wonderful day yesterday, Alexey Naumov is hit with bad luck today, stranded just walking distance from the ASS Arrivee Section Speciale. The team is hoping he will find help on his own, while no assistance at all is allowed inside the special stage. It might be very late in the night before Alexey returns in the bivouac. The team is already making arrangements to make up for the lack of sleep that is generally expected. The very last word is that Alexey has made it on his own to the finish of the special stage, a distance of some seven kilometers from where his bike gave up. He had to do some work on the bike, most likely, in order to remain in the rally and he made it. Official times of stage 11 are not available yet. The Russian rider will start stage 12 at 09:05:00 on position 91.
Mirjam Pol was 67th in the stage, and is now 65th overall. "It was a long and warm day. The first section went quite well. So I expected the second to be the same. But it was so hot, that I was really struggling in the last 22 kilometers. I was lucky when I hit a root of a tree in between some rocks and crashed hard. With this heat I think I will take it a bit more easy tomorrow."
Vadim Pritulyak is working hard to make up for his loss of time yesterday. He left the bivouac after just one hour of sleep and a quickly serviced bike. To be sure, the fuel system was drained of possible foul petrol and refilled with clean fuel. In addition, the ignition module was replaced. Official times of stage 11 are not available yet but Vadim Pritulyak from Kazakhstan came in at 04:45 this morning and has got a start time in stage 12 at 09:06:30 on a 93rd position. He survived three very tough days, and is on his way to the finish. After all the fighting every day to reach the bivouac he deserves it!
On a brighter note, the Team Honda Europe spot in the San Juan bivouac is convenient beyond description. After seemingly having to settle for a third-rate place far from where things are going on, an urgent request with the organizers was duly rewarded. Team Honda Europe is the center of the bivouac, surrounded by all it needs: restauration, bathrooms, competitor's desk, cooled fresh grapes from the local tourist office and even tire service. While the team brought new tires for every bike and every stage, mounting these requires heavy equipment that is not carried.
Preview January 14th San Juan - Cordoba
The final battle for the title will take place in broad day-light for the trucks, which will have a head start, exceptionally kicking off proceedings for this stage. For the rest, the length of this penultimate stage requires caution, especially over the first still sandy 100 kilometres. Since the gaps are sometimes tiny between the quickest drivers and riders, a lot can still change at this stage of the race.