Broadlink KTM Rally Team’s Curtis and Van Niekerk hanging tough in the Dakar
The Dakar Rally is starting to show its teeth and the Broadlink KTM Rally Team’s Darryl Curtis and Riaan van Niekerk are meeting the challenge in true South African style, with resilience and fortitude.
Dakar rookie Van Niekerk, on factory KTM 450 Rally #40, had a good day in Wednesday’s 289-kilometre special stage between Nazca and Arequipa in Peru. It was the longest and the toughest stage so far, but the South African responded with a fine ride that saw him finish 11th – his best result so far – 15 minutes behind stage winner Joan Barreda Bort of Spain and improve his overall position from 33rd to 25th. Olivier Pain of France on a Yamaha leads overall after four days and nearly 800 kilometres of special stage racing.
Broadlink KTM team-mate Darryl Curtis on bike #37 is also enjoying an excellent performance so far in his second Dakar. Despite a fall early in the stage he kept his cool and settled for a safe ride to finish 22nd, four and a half minutes behind Van Niekerk. He maintains his excellent 13th place overall – much better than his 44th place at the same stage on last year’s Dakar (he went on to finish 24th at his first attempt) – and is 18 minutes behind the leading Yamaha of Pain.
Curtis: “Today’s special stage was pretty hectic – lots of fesh fesh, very dangerous, fast tracks. I fell off my bike this morning about 10 kilometres into the ride. I couldn’t get my rhythm back, so I settled for a safe ride. Riaan did better and improved his overall position by eight places. We’re just trying to keep it together, carrying on doing the same thing every day and we should have a good result by the time we get into Santiago on the 20th.”
Van Niekerk: “It was a long and tough stage, but I concentrated hard and just kept at it. It’s tough navigating while riding as fast as you can without hitting something and falling off. I’m getting the hang of it and feeling stronger each day.”
Overnight rain in Arequipa signalled the possibility of a wet ride on Wednesday, which could complicate things dramatically. The bikes have a shorter liaison and special stage than the cars.
Stage five starts with a 136-kilometre special stage and is followed by a 275-kilometre liaison section to Arica on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Chile. The special stage will see a big change in terrain with stony tracks, river crossings and a series of valleys to contend with. The pace will be slower and navigation will be difficult.
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