Curtis and Van Niekerk hold top 20 positions in Dakar Rally
South Africans Darryl Curtis and Riaan van Niekerk, competing for the Broadlink KTM Rally Team, are holding their top-20 positions as the Dakar Rally enters the sixth day of its 8 500-kilometre 15-day journey from Lima in Peru to Santiago in Chile.
Curtis, riding Broadlink KTM #37 in only his second Dakar after finishing 22nd in 2012, finished 24th on Wednesday’s 136-kilometre special stage five between Arequipa and Arica in Peru and is now 15th overall in the general classification for bikes.
Van Niekerk continues to enjoy an impressive Dakar debut on his Broadlink KTM 450 Rally #40 and is currently 17th overall, two minutes behind his team-mate, after finishing Wednesday’s stage five in 19th place, three minutes ahead of Curtis.
The stage was won by Frenchman David Casteu on a Yamaha in a time of 1 hr 39 min 42 sec from countryman Olivier Pain on another Yamaha and KTM factory rider Juan Pedrero of Spain. Pain holds the overall lead from Casteu with an advantage of just 1 min 15 sec. Defending champion Cyril Despres of France, leader of the factory KTM team which also includes Curtis and Van Niekerk, is third overall and six minutes in arrears.
Curtis: “Today was our last day in Peru before crossing into Chile. A short special stage that didn’t go so well for me. I had another slow crash in the fesh fesh (a fine powdery sand) that’s like a magnet to me. That stuff goes everywhere, in your goggles and everywhere else, and makes you very uncomfortable. Later on my stand spring broke, so I had to stop and try to make a plan with cable ties. Tomorrow is a big test for us, the longest special stage of the rally so far. We’re both quite comfortable at the moment. We’re just taking it day by day and, with a bit of luck, we can hold our positions or improve them by the time we reach the finish in Santiago.”
Van Niekerk: “It was a bit easier today on what was quite a short stage. The fesh fesh is very difficult to ride in. It’s like a thick dust that makes it impossible to see where you’re going. It’s dangerous, because it can hide rocks and other obstacles that can cause you to fall.”
The overnight rain in Arequipa on Tuesday didn’t continue the next day and the stage was completed in good weather conditions.
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.