Dakar 2005: Burning Bivouacs and Strong Winds During the First Mauritanian Stage
It came like a real whopper for all the participants of the Dakar in the evening: The service tent of the bivouac burned down completely. Thank God no one was hurt. How high the damage is and what effects this has on the ongoing Dakar is still unknown.Day of the Cunning Old Desert Devils
There were two words that were heard everywhere in the bivouac in Zouerat today: —-ing wind! The strong wind on the course was quite difficult for the drivers. Whenever a driver left prints in the sand, they were gone within seconds. “Sometimes you couldn’t see a thing,” said Chris Blais. The young American, who has never ridden in Africa before, has drawn the right conclusions for himself. “The course was really fast and my bike worked wonders. But now and then I wasn’t sure which way to go. So I let the number 11 [Marek Dabrowski, KTM] pass and I just followed him. That’s how I learn best. And I am satisfied with my ride today.” Chris Blais came in 10th and lost 17 minutes on the winner of the day. A respectable result.This first Mauritanian stage has definitely mixed up the rankings. It was the first long stage through endless fields of dunes, and the wind didn’t help. Those who know the Mauritanian desert like the back of their hand were able to deal with the challenge best. Today, no one was faster than Fabrizio Meoni. Anyone who thought the 47-year-old was racing this Dakar to merely participate was wrong. Fabrizio showed off his skills. “For me, it was a test today to see whether my brain still functions: Whether I can go fast and at the same time be able to navigate. I am quite satisfied. I could have been even faster, but 80 km before the finish my Mousse broke at the back tire and it started this rolling motion in the rim. That’s why I had to reduce my speed. But other then that it went well.”Alfie Cox (today 3rd place) and Cyril Despres (4th) were also satisfied with their race and navigation skills. By contrast did Jean Brucy (12th) and Carlo de Gavardo (15th) had some bad luck. Carlo nearly lost half an hour on Meoni. He fell and cartwheeled his bike during the stage; after that, his ride went on a little slower. At the moment, Carlo is limping through the bivouac but wants to be in the race tomorrow again. Jean had his bad luck already on the liaison at the start. “Yes, this stage today was longer for me than for the others. My front brake stopped working 15 km into the stage. I turned around and went back to the bivouac to wake my mechanics. Marc fixed it and I went back to the start. Unfortunately, I was three minutes late at the start.” Jean is now waiting for whatever penalty the organizers will impose.Cyril Despres took over the lead in the overall ranking, followed by Marc Coma (+0:35) and Fabrizio Meoni (+1:16).During this 27th Dakar, we also want to spend some time looking at the men and women who go on the toughest rally of the desert and are the real heroes— often wrongfully forgotten:The Secret Heroes
He is an impressive guy, Kevin Heath. Born in South-Africa, he was later drawn to California. Building electronic go-karts he managed to pay for his living. With his earnings he tried to get over his creative crisis. The 46-year-old giant winks an eye and says: “I have my midlife crisis. In this difficult period of life, some buy themselves a Porsche to impress young women. Others are looking for a challenge in order to prove something to themselves. I am one of those people.” Kevin Heath wanted three of his dreams to come true: participating in the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE), in the Baja 500 and 1000 and in the Dakar.ISDE and Baja he has already done. Now he is at his biggest dream, the Dakar. Heath is going on this rally with a KTM, supported by the KTM Costumer Service. But the man with the starting number 118 is not only a pilot. As many others, Heath likes to wrench on his motorcycle at night so that his bike is ready for the next day. “I need this challenge. But it would be too difficult without any help. That’s why I decided to work with the KTM Customer Service”, claims Heath.His goal is to reach Dakar. Which place? Doesn’t matter as much as simply arriving. And when he crosses the podium at Lac Rose, then, his third wish has come true as well.Will his midlife crisis be over then? The answer to that question might be found on www.kevinsmidlifecrisis.com
.From the beginning on, there was one problem that took a lot of energy out of the private divers: the batteries.Statement from KTM team management about the battery issue:
“The batteries of several private riders have been discharging during the motorcycle downtime. An immediate check of KTM on the spot has resulted in the conclusion that all power supply components, as well as the security devices which have been newly specified by the organizer, have no negative influence on the batteries. Due to the fact that models of the last three years of manufacturing seem to be affected, the cause of these problems comes primarily from individual installation issues.
“Irrespective of fact finding, the point is now to help the private riders. KTM assists all competing pilots to the highest possible extent with spare parts and batteries from the factory teams. The two ‘KTM Racing Trucks’ are integrated in the assistance and may support private riders also during the stages.
“Moreover, additional replacement batteries have been delivered by airplane two days ago. Onboard the plane was an electronic engineer of KTM, who is assisting the riders in correcting the problem.”
Tomorrow, there will be the first part of a difficult marathon stage waiting for the drivers. 660 km will count for the ranking—the longest special of the rally! Big parts of the course are new to the old hands as well. Additionally, the start will be in a line up of 20 drivers at a time. The stage of tomorrow has it all: the difficult pass El Ghallaoiya surrounded by rock formations, far reaching dunes, many little ergs, tricky camel grass and at the end only a small possible path into the oasis of Tichit. There is no service allowed in the bivouac. The drivers have to take care of the bikes alone.