Where in the world are they driving? This was the question of Stage 4 because nothing was to be seen of the pilots on their two wheels. Africa in fog! Although the drivers were already heading towards Agadir, the special was cancelled by the organizers. The reasons: The helicopters of the stewards were incapable of taking off. The safety of the drivers was therefore not guaranteed anymore. Additionally, the A.S.O. claimed that the stage would not be proceeded under legitimate conditions. The drivers were asked to not speed along the course, and after the first checkpoint they left the race track and are currently riding the 500 km to Agadir on asphalt.So there is not going to be a fight for the lead during Stage 4, but the KTM assistance team will have to fight a hard battle. Many private KTM pilots have had problems with the batteries of their bikes since the beginning of the rally. The defects are all of different natures but are mostly concerning the 450 bikes. The technicians have not found the cause for the damage of battery after battery. However, KTM is working feverishly in order to provide service to the private drivers.”It means a lot to us to solve this problem as quickly as possible,” promises KTM team manager Hans Trunkenpolz. “Yesterday, the attempt to send one of our electronics engineers from Mattighofen to Rabat failed. He was delayed at the airport in Munich because his tools and some spare parts didn’t make it through the security check. Meanwhile, the man is on his way to Agadir. Additionally, there is a plane with new batteries and regulators on its way there. Meanwhile, the factory teams are providing the amateurs with their equipment until the problem is solved.” There will be a lot of work in the bivouac in Agadir tonight.Last but not least, some good news: The American Dakar newcomer Chris Blais, team KTM Red Bull USA, celebrates his 24th birthday today. Happy Birthday!Hopefully, the motorcyclists will have a clear view again tomorrow. The first long special is up next. 381 km will be judged on the way from Agadir to Smara. The course is initially hard and fast but will then be very rocky, followed by very tight, twisty sections. The second part is completely new and ends in a tried out river valley. Thus, the old hands will have little chance to bring to bear their valuable experience. It should be an exciting day if the weather gods are in favor of the rally.Stage 5
There she was, the first African stage. And she was quite cruel. One of the young Spanish matadors had to give up today already. Jordi Duran’s dream of arriving in Dakar suddenly vanished in the Moroccan sand. Going high speed, Jordi happened to fall really hard off his bike just before CP [check point] 1. He broke his femur and additionally has an open fracture in his forearm. Consequently, he was immediately flown to a hospital in Agadir.It is a sad moment for Jordi who had planned so much more—also a great shock for his teammates Marc Coma, Isidre Esteve and Gio Sala. “It was a typical Moroccan stage”, said Marc Coma later in the bivouac. “Stones everywhere. If you don’t pay attention for one single moment, then that’s it. I know exactly how Jordi must feel now. Last year I dropped out after falling badly as well. Not only am I really sorry for Jordi because he is my friend but also because he is a great teammate. He always livened things up and was always smiling. It is such a pity.”Coma himself did great on the rocky track; he placed second in today’s ranking. Only 3 seconds faster than him was Australian Andy Caldecott. Caldecott had been on a few top places in the previous year already. But today he was quite surprised of his success. “Actually, I rode very carefully through the sharp rocks. There was an instruction in the road book every couple of meters, so I needed to be very focused and concentrate. That’s why I really didn’t expect this result.” Last year, Andy Caldecott had to give up the race after falling down and breaking his ankle in Atar. This year he definitely wants to reach Dakar. “That’s my first priority. And if everything goes well, I’d like to be in the top five.”Alfie Cox was just as satisfied with his race as Andy Caldecott today. Coming in almost six minutes behind Caldecott, he currently ranks 4th place. My shoulder doesn’t hurt anymore which was most important on this first real stage. I also had to slow down 40 km before the finish line. The Mousse [foam-rubber insert] in the back wheel was damaged.”Scot Harden was fighting against the material-consuming-course, also. 160 km before the finish he lost his rear brake after a stone flew into his back brake disc. “That obviously was a huge drawback,” as claimed by the American team manager. “I couldn’t risk anything anymore and I lost almost half an hour.”Although he came in third, Cyril Despres walked through the bivouac very unsatisfied. His two trip masters played a trick on him and indicated different data. He became disorientation on the rather fast track, and he felt he was put at a disadvantage by the organizers. Claudia Patuzzi, team manager, explains: “Cyril says he was at CP 2 one minute before Marc Coma and got gas just as everyone else. But the commissioners supposedly put him back on track together with Marc. We will now check this on the basis of the course records.”Nevertheless, due to his fast speed Marc Coma took over the lead in the overall standing today. On the following places are Andy Caldecott (+ 0:43) and Cyril Despres (+2:45).Tomorrow there will be a very long, difficult course of 492 km waiting for the drivers. Zouerat, Mauritania, is the destination. Whoever loves dunes and knows how to navigate well will love that challenge. The others could be loosing a lot of time within the dunes.