Van Staden’s and Lawrenson’s Dakar dream comes to an end
The Dakar dream of South Africans Johan van Staden and Mike Lawrenson (KEC McRae 4×4) came to an end on Friday when they were forced out of the famous marathon rally on Friday after damaging the car’s roll cage on special stage six in Chile on Thursday.
It was a bitter blow for the two South Africans, who had earned a lucky wildcard entry into their first Dakar Rally just two weeks before the race started in Lima, Peru, on January 5. Runners-up in the special vehicle category of the South African off road championship, it had been their dream to compete in the world’s longest and toughest motor race, a 15-day 8 500-kilometre marathon through Peru, Argentina and Chile.
They grabbed the opportunity with both hands and despite the fact that this year’s event, the 34th running of the Dakar, started immediately with very challenging special stages in soft sand and dunes, conditions they are not familiar with in off road racing back home, they gave a good account of themselves.
After achieving their best result of 71st on Monday’s special stage three in Peru, ahead of their European team-mates in two other ProDakar McRae 4x4s, they had a catastrophic stage four. Clutch problems and then a broken gearbox after getting stuck in sand saw them complete the stage just as they were due to start stage five. This they duly did without stopping for any rest or servicing and, to their credit, they completed the route in 116th position. They were now 118th overall out of 122 survivors from the 153 cars that had started the race in Lima.
On special stage six on Thursday, between Arica in Peru and Calama in Chile, they crashed into a ditch in the dark not far from the end of the 454-kilometre stage and damaged the car’s roll cage. They were forced to retire for safety reasons when they finally made it to the overnight bivouac at the end of the stage.
“We’re devastated. Our dream of finishing our first Dakar is over. It’s like having to turn back with no oxygen after getting halfway up Mt Everest,” said a disappointed Van Staden. “On the credit side, we have to be pleased that we lasted this long. You have no idea how difficult and challenging the Dakar is until you actually experience it. We have the highest admiration for those who manage to complete this iconic marathon each year, not just the elite drivers and riders but especially the privateers like ourselves who endure unimaginable physical and mental hardship.
“Mike and I are very grateful to the Dakar organisers for the wildcard entry. Thank you to ProDakar for the McRae and for all the hard work during the race, and thank you to our families, friends and all the supporters back home for inspiring us to keep going until we couldn’t any more. We’re really sorry we won’t be at the finish, but we’re proud to have taken part in this great race at all.”