Broadlink KTM Rally Team’s Curtis and Van Niekerk conquer the Dakar Rally
The all-South African Broadlink KTM Rally Team’s Riaan van Niekerk and Darryl Curtis were among the 125 motorcycle racers out of an original start list of 196 who successfully completed the Dakar Rally in South America on Saturday after a 15-day 8 500-kilometre odyssey though Peru, Argentina and Chile.
Van Niekerk, 36, from Brakpan in Gauteng, rode a factory Broadlink KTM 450 Rally machine to an impressive 13th overall in the bike general classification on his debut appearance in the world’s longest and toughest motor race. After 14 special stages totalling a gruelling 4 100 kilometres and more than 44 hours on the bike, he was just over two hours behind five-time Dakar winner Cyril Despres of France on a factory KTM at the end of the final stage in Santiago in Chile.
Team-mate Darryl Curtis, 41, from Douglasdale in Gauteng, overcame a big crash on special stage 11 on Wednesday and rode through the pain barrier from a badly bruised shoulder and arm to finished a creditable 32nd on his Broadlink KTM. It was the multiple South African off road and enduro champion’s second Dakar after he finished 22nd last year on a Broadlink KTM.
Cyril Despres, the legendary KTM factory team leader, completed the rally in a time of 33 hr 48 min, finishing 13 minutes ahead of KTM team-mate Ruben Faria of Portugal and 18 minutes in front of Francisco Lopez of Chile, also on a KTM.
For Van Niekerk, also a multiple off road and endure national champion, competing on his first Dakar was a dream come true. “After all the planning and preparation and the testing we did in Morocco and Namibia, and the long flight from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo in Brazil and then on to the start in Lima in Peru, the reality of racing in my first Dakar among some of the biggest names in rally bike racing only really kicked in as I negotiated the first stage.
“This has been an awesome and mind-blowing experience. The race was tough, really tough, and it’s only once you’ve been there and done it you realise what a massive challenge it is. It’s enough just to finish. To come home in the top 15 is beyond my wildest dreams. Thank you to our sponsors, especially Broadlink and KTM South Africa, and to KTM Austria for the bike and technical support.”
Curtis described his final day as the worst he has endured on his two Dakars so far as he battled a severely bruised shoulder suffered in a big crash on Wednesday’s stage 11. “I’m very sore, but very relieved to have made it to the finish,” said an exhausted Curtis at the final bivouac in Santiago. “The Dakar’s a big challenge for a fully fit rider, with its sand dunes, rocky paths, fast gravel roads, mountains and deserts and extremes of temperature. With a badly bruised body and pretty well useless shoulder and arm, the last four stages were very stressful. But I’m here and I’m feeling pretty good right now.”
He paid tribute to the South African companies who made it possible for him and Van Niekerk to compete in the rally and to KTM who provided the bikes and the technical support during the event. These were: Broadlink, KTM South Africa, Emperors Palace, Grindrod Logistics, Leader Tread and MTN.