SA riders show real Dakar Rally spirit, helping first, racing second

2015-01-06 00:00

THE two South Africans racing on quads in the 14-day Dakar rally ended the first day at the tail-end of the 49 strong field, but first in team spirit.

Brian Baragwanath (29) experienced engine problems on his Raptor 700 in the special stage and in the tradition of this enduro, his Rhider team-mate Hannes Saaijman (33) towed him for well over 500 km to the finish.

As a result Baragwanath started yesterday’s race in 41st and Saaiman in 43rd. But by mid-point last night (SA time) Saaiman was 27th and Baragwanath 38th, trailing the dust of last year’s winner Ignacio Casale, who in 2014 became the first Chilean quad rider to win the Dakar. Casale told media a long battle still awaited over the next two weeks.

Three South African riders are competing in the 168-strong bike field — arguably the toughest category of the Dakar. Only Riaan van Niekerk, for Team Broadlink KTM, yesterday ended 12 and he is gunning hard for the Top 10. But riding fast while navigating is really hard and on the Dakar, you can only go as fast as you can read and navigate, Van Niekerk said.

Among the 4x4 cross-country petrol vehicles, SA’s 2009 Dakar winner Giniel De Villiers yesterday started third in his Lexus-powered, 310 kW Hilux, but second-placed American Robby Gordon got lost in his Chevrolet-powered Humvee and De Villiers grabbed the gap to finish second, eight minutes behind 2014 winner Nasser Al-Attiyah. Imperial Toyota team mate Leeroy Poulter finished 10th.

The two SA privateers, Johan van Staden/Mike Lawrenson staged a careful race in their Nissan Navara, aiming to finish the 9 000 km rally in one piece.

Today’s race is from San Juan to Chilecito, with the riders racing 220 km and the drivers 284 km. The route traverses steep valleys, with competitors warned large stones could see them crashing out. Among the 143 cars, Foton and Audi have already withdrawn.

Among the 4x4 cross-country diesel cars, the Mini team had lived up to expectations in the first day, claiming nine of the first 11 spots, giving only Mitsubishi a look in at 5th and 8th spots. Argenintian driver Orlando Terranova and co-driver Bernardo Graue used their local knowledge to end the stage in 1.13.

Among the 4x2 diesel cars, the new Peugeot proved its mettle with first, second and fourth placings, with Spanish driver Carlos Sainz leading the French trio.

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