Six SA drivers race for places in the finish in Dakar after halfway mark

2015-01-12 00:00

HAVING passed the halfway mark in the Dakar, the six South African drivers in the 9 000 km cross-country race can now start to race for a place instead of just aiming to finish.

Yesterday’s fast stage eight saw the cars finish the longest special stage in the rally, 781 kilometres, with a race down the massive dune, for which Iquique has become famous.

Team manager Glynn Hall said he looks forward to racing the normally aspirated Lexus V8 engine in the Toyota Imperial Hilux at lower altitudes.

Nasser Al-Attiyah still leads the race in his turbo-boosted Mini, but the Hilux of SA’s 2009 winner Giniel de Villiers is maintaining a gap of less than a minute behind the Qatari.

The car drivers rest today, but for the riders and truckers, the halfway-mark of the Dakar means the cross-country race has now morphed into an merciless enduro that will test the limits of each competitor until it ends on Saturday. As one of the crew in last year’s winning supporting truck, Albert Geel (26) from Pretoria, told The Witness: “The Dakar is not a race, it is a journey of self-discovery”.

The oldest biker among the South Africans competing in this year’s Dakar, Wessel Bosman, retired this weekend, but he said he viewed the gruelling race as “perhaps a prize to thank me for my life”.

The 57-year-old biker, who started riding to promote the Afriski resort in Lesotho with his late son, Juan, is the latest South African withdrawal from the cross-country race.

He entered the Dakar after impressing the organisers by riding from Cape Town to Egypt to compete in the Pharoah’s rally, where he came 10th after 17 000 km of hard riding.

Before the Dakar, he told media: “I’m not saying I will finish the Dakar. I believe in dreams and I also believe in the fact that for good luck, you have to face bad luck. A year ago, I thought the Dakar was impossible, that it was just for champions. It’s a chance in my life and it’s an opportunity to promote winter sports in Africa.”

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