The Dakar Rally has resumed after a gruelling first week, with 50 competitors’ vehicles knocked out after just five days’ racing. Joey Evans, who was partially paralysed ten years ago, is the last South African biker left in the race, at 102nd overall. Here’s a brief summary of how the 2017 Dakar played out so far.
Xavier de Soultrait (Yamaha) bagged the first special stage victory ahead of Juan Pedrero Garcia (Sherco) and Ricky Brabec (Honda). Even though De Soultrait made the shortest time, he ended up in 10th place after exceeding the speed limit on the link stage, leaving the top spot open for Pedrero Garcia.
Toby Price (KTM) picked up the pace in Stage 2 and finished almost four minutes ahead of Paulo Goncalves (Honda). Price’s team-mate, Matthias Walkner (KTM), was three minutes behind him, but incurred a five-minute penalty and ended up in 10th position.
Stage 3 held the first portion of off-terrain rallying, but the real test was the high altitude, with passages over 5 000 metres above sea level. Joan Barreda (Honda) successfully navigated the precarious route to win the special stage ahead of Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna). Sam Sunderland (KTM) took third place.
Stage 4 showed no mercy and took Price down hard. After leading in the special, Price lost control of the KTM and fractured his thigh bone in the fall and had to be airlifted to hospital.
South Africa’s Walter Terblanche couldn’t complete the fourth stage either, after mechanical difficulties. Walkner managed to get ahead of the pack in the final kilometres to grab the stage victory.
Chaos reigned between Tupiza and Oruro in Stage 5, as the heavens opened up above the riders. South African David Thomas (Husqvarna) suffered a broken leg and had to be airlifted, but not before Joey Evans had stopped to help out, despite having torn a knee ligament.
The weather called for the shortening of Stage 5, to 219 km from 692 km. Sam Sunderland started first, after securing his second special stage victory on Friday, since he was the only rider not to get lost in the Bolivian dunes, unlike Quintanilla, De Soultrait, Walkner and Barreda, who all lost a lot of time.
Stage 6 was cancelled completely owing to torrential downpours.
Mr. Dakar, Stephane Peterhansel (Peugot), leads overall in the car category, followed by Sebastien Loeb (Peugot) and Cyril Despres (Peugeot). Giniel de Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz (Toyota) are in at 8th position, with Conrad Rautenbach and Rob Howie (Toyota) at 15th position.
The riders have embarked on Stage 7 and the second half of The Dakar. The next five stages include the spectacular Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia.
Motorcycles overall standings after Stage 6
1. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 15h22m05s
2. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) +12m00s
3. Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) +16m07s
4. Gerard Farres (KTM) +20m57s
5. Matthias Walkner (KTM) +29m01s
102. Joey Evans (KTM) +10h58m04s
Cars overall standings after Stage 6
1. Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot) 14h02m58s
2. Sebastien Loeb (Peugeot) +1m09s
3. Cyril Despres (Peugeot) +4m54s
4. Nani Roma (Toyota) +5m35s
5. Mikko Hirvonen (Mini) +42m21s
8. Giniel de Villiers (Toyota) +1h08m11s
15. Conrad Rautenbach (Toyota) +3h23m51s
Report by Tracey Simpson