Van Niekerk and Curtis rested and ready for second week of Dakar
Refreshed and rested after the Dakar Rally took a break on Sunday, in the Argentinian city of San Miguel de Tucuman where the final stage of the event’s first week ended on Saturday, Broadlink KTM Rally Team’s Darryl Curtis and Riaan van Niekerk are all set to tackle the second and final week today.
The two South Africans, riding factory-supplied and prepared KTM 450 Rally machines, have been impressive so far. Van Niekerk, riding Broadlink KTM #40 in his first Dakar, is currently 14th in the general classification among the 140 bikes that have survived so far out of an original 183 starters in Lima, Peru, on January 5. He is 43 minutes behind race leader Davide Casteu of France on a Yamaha. His best special stage result was 11th on stage four in Peru on January 8.
Curtis is making his second visit to South America after finishing a creditable 22nd in last year’s Dakar at his first attempt and is 18th overall on Broadlink KTM #37, 26 minutes behind his team-mate. His best day so far was on the second special stage on January 6 in Peru when he was sixth.
Curtis: “We have had an awesome rest day and have washed all our kit in preparation for the new week. The team and mechanics have been amazing getting the bikes ready. Managed to get away from the bivouac for a while and have a killer pizza in town. We’re both disappointed to have got so lost on Friday and now I have to start Monday’s stage in 77th place. Riaan starts 38th. This means it’s going to be really tough coming from so far back in the field. I will have to suck dust for the next few days. The elite riders – the guys with yellow numbers – can opt to move up the field twice during the race as they have ‘jokers’ they can play.”
Van Niekerk: “The rest day came at the right time after all the drama on Saturday. We needed this break. The days are getting longer now – over 800 kilometres on Monday with a special of nearly 600 kilometres – and another long stage on Tuesday. We just have to take it day by day and try and stay on top of things. Our aim remains to be at the finish in Santiago on January 20.”
Monday’s special stage nine from San Miguel de Tucuman to Cordoba is the longest of the event, a marathon test over 533 kilometres split into two parts with liaison sections leading into both. The battle resumes on the flood plains and in the forests of Argentina. A dry day will see a high-speed race over a torturous route in the first half, with quick tracks and winding sections. The second half is much more technical with forests and lots of bends. Caution will be the watchword as the rapid assistance trucks won’t have access to the route today.
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