Van Niekerk and Curtis survive another tough day on the Dakar
The impressive performance of the Broadlink KTM Team’s Darryl Curtis and Riaan van Niekerk continues on the Dakar Rally in South America. Following Monday’s 842-kilometre stage nine between San Miguel de Tucuman and Cordoba in Argentina, Dakar rookie Van Niekerk is an excellent 14th overall on a factory Broadlink KTM #40, 29 minutes behind the current overall leader, KTM factory rider Ruben Faria of Portugal.
Van Niekerk had a clean run to 21st on the day’s stage despite starting well back in the field and having to contend with dust almost throughout the 593-kilometre special stage, which was won by factory KTM team leader and defending champion Cyril Despres of France.
Curtis, on Broadlink KTM #37, was 31st on the stage having suffered a fall in the dust after also starting 94th in the surviving field of 140 bikes (183 started the rally in Lima, Peru, on January 5). He is now 17th overall, 1 hr 27 min behind the leader and nearly four minutes adrift of Van Niekerk.
“The elite riders opted to start closer to the front today and that pushed us right back. Because of our poor results yesterday – Riaan 38th and me 77th – Riaan started 57th and I started 94th. The route was fast and really dusty with narrow tracks in the hills and the forests. It was almost impossible to pass. I had a big crash in the dust. It was a very bad situation, but we came out of it OK and were able to maintain our overall positions.”
Van Niekerk: “We’ve been on the road for 12 hours since the start of the liaison section early this morning and over eight hours on the special. It’s been a really long day – very, very dusty. I didn’t crash, the bike’s still in one piece and I’m OK. You won’t believe the number of spectators that are watching the race. It’s incredible. There are people everywhere, at every corner, cheering and waving and thousands of them in the towns. It’s mind-boggling.”
Another day of fast tracks lies ahead before the rally encounters more dunes later in the week. Tuesday’s 632-kilometre stage 10 takes the field north from Cordoba to La Rioja in Argentina. It starts with a short 37-kilometre liaison section, followed by a 353-kilometre special stage and a 243-kilometre liaison section to the overnight bivouac. World Rally Championship-type fast, twisty roads on hard surfaces with gravel and stones will be the order of the day as the route passes through wooded areas and barren plateaus.