Day 2 of the Dakar Rally 2020 saw competitors from southern Africa experience both triumph and disaster on the stage from Al Wajh to Neom.
In the Motorbike Category, Botswana rider Ross Branch came in first while some of the leading contenders struggled in his wake.
This represented the first time that a competitor from this gemstone-rich country had shone as a diamond in the rough at the Dakar.
Yesterday’s result took Branch up to sixth place overall.
Wessel Bosman (#123) had to take evasive action to avoid a truck, but in doing so, he was forced to jump a large hole in the sand. A hard landing resulted in him breaking his ankle. Agonisingly for Bosman, this was the fourth time that he has had to withdraw from the Dakar.
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Image: Motul SA
Stuart Gregory (#100) had a better time of Stage 2, which he described as really quick. HeCo came 18th in the Original by Motul category, finishing less than an hour after the fastest Original by Motul rider. With two stages of the Dakar Rally 2020 under his belt, Gregory has consolidated his position, climbing two places within his category.
He reported: “One of the biggest challenges today was the dust kicked up by the cars and then the trucks as they passed us. In this fast stage, the first car passed me after around 120km, and each time I was overtaken, it caused near white-out conditions which meant I had to slow down repeatedly. I probably saw half the field come past me today!”
Many participants found the navigation on Stage 2 challenging and in an event as competitive as the Dakar, even a few minutes’ doubt can result in lost places. With just 4km remaining before the Stage 2 finish line in Neom, Gregory trusted his gut instinct rather than following the rest of the field and hit a good line that helped him claw back precious minutes.
He was particularly happy that he arrived at the Bivouac in time to benefit from the skills of the massage team on the Motul stand who were able to help him deal with his slightly tight back and neck muscles.
The Car Category also saw a southern African stage winner, with Dakar Legend Giniel de Villiers coming home in first place. The all-British crew of the Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined Nissan Navara put their desert training (the team is based in Dubai) to good use, finishing Stage 2 in 50th place. After 2 of the 12 stages of this year’s Dakar, they lie in 47th place overall.
Terence Marsh, CEO of Motul-backed Red-Lined Motoring Adventures, commented: “We had no mechanical issues, but a couple more punctures due to rocks being thrown up when the SSVs, trucks and cars all became bunched together. It was very rapid terrain, including mountain canyons and riverbeds, with some really tough navigational issues at the end of the Stage.”
In addition to the varied terrain, competitors also had to contend with herds of wild camels end route. All in all, it was a day of mixed fortunes – most of them positive – for the southern African contingent on a Stage where much of the terrain recalled the African origins of the Dakar.