Van Niekerk moves ahead of Curtis in the overall standings
With almost 3 000 kilometres of the 8 500-kilometre race completed the Broadlink KTM Rally Team’s Darryl Curtis and Riaan van Niekerk are among the 151 survivors of the 183 bikes that started the 2013 Dakar Rally in Lima, Peru, on January 5
Riding factory-built and prepared KTM 450 Rally machines, the two South Africans are giving a good account of themselves in the world’s longest and toughest motor race. Van Niekerk, delivering a fine performance so far in his first Dakar, moved up to 16th overall on Broadlink KTM #40 after finishing Thursday’s 454-kilometre special stage six in Calama, Chile, in 15th place, 11 minutes behind stage winner Francisco Lopez of Chile on a KTM.
Curtis, who finished a remarkable 22nd in his Dakar debut in 2012, was 25th on Thursday’s stage on Broadlink KTM #37 and is now 19th overall, 10 minutes behind his team-mate and 45 minutes off the lead. The top 19 bikes are a lot closer than the equivalent in the car category, where the gap between the leader and the 19th competitor is a massive 3 hr 52 min.
Three French riders occupy the top positions overall and are separated by less than five minutes after nearly 1 400 kilometres of high-speed special stage racing in Peru and Chile. Olivier Pain (Yamaha) leads from race favourite and 2012 champion Cyril Despres (factory KTM) and David Casteu on a Yamaha.
Curtis: “We switched over to Chilean time today – two hours ahead of Peru – so we started in the dark at 3.30 this morning. It was very dusty. I didn’t have a great day. I caught up with a couple of riders and really played it safe for the rest of the stage. I’ve moved backwards in the overall standings and Riaan has moved forward. He had another good day. We’re crossing the Andes Mountains tomorrow and are going to have some high altitude stages. It should be interesting.”
Van Niekerk: “It was a trouble-free day today. I had a lot of fast guys a way ahead of me, so I had a clear run – not too much dust. I was making dust. I concentrated on navigation. This was good because I had to concentrate on the road book and make sure I didn’t make any mistakes.”
Immediately ahead lies the marathon 806-kilometre challenge of stage seven on Friday from Calama in Chile to Salta in Argentina. The ascent of the Andes Mountains will be in the small hours, taking all the drivers and riders in convoy for a 534-kilometre liaison stage finishing at a record altitude of 4 975 metres above sea level, at the top of Argentina’s highest mountain pass. The temperature will drop to 15 degrees from highs of more than 40 in the opening days. The 220-kilometre special stage will be at altitudes fluctuating between 3 400 and 4 000 metres, but the speedometer will rarely go below 100 km/h.