Heroic effort by Van Staden and Lawrenson keeps them in Dakar Rally
An heroic effort in the best traditions of the Dakar Rally saw South Africans Johan van Staden of Centurion and Mike Lawrenson of Edenvale (KEC McRae MC-4RS) reach the end of special stage five in Arica in Peru on Wednesday in 116th position.
Despite a nightmare special stage four on Tuesday, when they were stuck in the desert and forced to spend the night there, they are still in the world’s longest and toughest motor race and are lying 118th in the official classification for cars. Only 122 of the original 153 starters among the cars are still running since the 15-day 8 500-kilometre race started in Lima in Peru on January 5.
The Dakar rookies started Tuesday’s 288-kilometre special stage four from Nazca to Arequipa in 96th place overall after being the leading finisher in the three-car ProDakar McRae team on Monday’s stage. Early in the stage they had gearbox problems. They got stuck in the sand a few times but managed to keep going until the clutch gave in at the 38-kilometre mark. They waited for support and the clutch and gearbox were fixed and they managed to get going again in the early hours of Wednesday morning to complete the remaining 250 kilometres to the bivouac.
They finished the stage in 115th position, over five hours behind the winning Mini of Nani Roma and Michel Perin and were classified 118th. Because they were so late they had to start special stage five immediately, without any rest or time for the team’s technicians to check the car in the bivouac.
Displaying true South African grit and never-say-die attitude, they completed the relatively short 172-kilometre without further problems. Dog tired and exhausted after 36-hours without sleep, but cheerful and physically in good shape, they headed immediately for bed while their support crew attended to preparing the car for Thursday’s stage.
“It’s been a tough couple of days for sure,” admitted Van Staden, who was runner-up with Lawrenson in the special vehicle category of the South African off road championship in 2012. “We’ve found it very difficult in the sand in the McRae and we’ve got stuck far too many times. Eventually the gearbox and the clutch had had enough. We’re enjoying this amazing experience of competing in our first Dakar, a dream that we’ve both had for many years. It’s the Everest of off road racing and we fully intend to be at the finish in Santiago on January 20.”
Thursday’s stage six from Arica to Calama consists of a 313-kilometre liaison stage and a 454-kilometre special stage – the first special stage in Chile. The stage is split into two parts, with a 97-kilometre neutralisation section after 229 kilometres. It reaches 3 000 metres above sea level before dropping back to 2 400 kilometres at the finish. It’s back to the Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth, where competitors will face sand and dunes for two thirds of the distance.