Stage 10 of the Dakar Rally 2020 not only tested the competitors, but also the organisers.
As more and more accidents befell the participants, the safety helicopter resources were stretched to the point where the stage had to be curtailed after 345km. The rest of the route to the Bivouac in Shubaytah was then run as Liaison for all categories.
The day began with extremely fresh temperatures at Haradh in the Saudi Arabian desert, but with only three stages remaining in the rally, the race was on to make up both times and positions in the General Classification.
Inevitably, this led to riders and drivers cutting things a little fine, with some unintended consequences. One of the more spectacular moments involved fan favourite Fernando Alonso (#310) in his Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux, who happily escaped uninjured (and was able to continue) after a dramatic roll down the back face of a dune.
A difficult day
To make the helicopter pilots’ day even more challenging, heavy winds limited their flying window. Conditions at ground level (for those competitors who didn’t crash) weren’t any easier, and Stuart Gregory (#100) stated that he had had a very nerve-wracking day, with the limited visibility throwing up multiple surprises as natural obstacles appeared with very little warning.
Once Gregory was safely back in the Bivouac, he said: “It was super windy today, but a lucky break with the navigation let me overtake a few other Bikes." The Marathon rules were applied again today, meaning that the permitted maintenance time was strictly limited.
Gregory chalked up another commendable result, finishing 11th in his Category to remain in 12th place in the General Classification for the Original by Motul Category. After ten Stages, Gregory is closing in on his goal of finishing the Dakar and is a mere 40 minutes outside of the Top Ten in his Category. He has already successfully completed more Stages than he did last year, but confessed to some nerves today due to the tough conditions.
Terence Marsh, CEO of Motul-backed Red-Lined Motoring Adventures, also emphasised the role that the weather had played during Wednesday’s Stage 10.
He admitted: “It was a really difficult day in the dunes, with limited visibility caused by the wind blowing sand off the top of them. With ten Stages down, we’re getting close now – but also nervous at the same time."
The Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined team’s Nissan Navara (#342) avoided any major issues on Stage 10, other than those caused by the ever-present winds. Finishing in 31st position was another extremely creditable performance but results elsewhere meant that they actually slipped back to 37th place in the General Classification.
Although there are now only two Stages remaining in this year’s Dakar, it is still impossible to predict the final results with any real certainty. Unexpected events like today’s strong winds can cause competitors to lose significant amounts of time and can really shake up the General Classification.
Stage 10 saw some movement at the top: American Ricky Brabec (#9) on the Motul-supported Monster Energy Honda extended his lead in the Bike Category General Classification by 5 minutes to a healthy 25 minutes after coming second in today’s Stage. Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz (#305) is looking to nail down his third Dakar triumph (after victories in 2010 and 2018) after winning the shortened Stage 10.