Ha ufficialmente inizio l'avventura moto-automobilistica più importante di inizio anno: la Dakar 2011. Le moto e le auto che parteciperanno alla gara hanno iniziato giovedì la prima sessione di verifche tecniche presso il Palazzo della Esposizioni La Rural e piloti ed equipaggi hanno dovuto fare il tour dei numerosi stand dedeicati alle verifiche amministrative.
A thick fog on the morning of the 13th january caused the start to be delayed for almost 3 hours. Only when the helicopters were able to take off, the start was given free. All that time the bikers were waiting at the start. The stage was very fast. Fast mountain tracks which could be ridden full throttle. After the last fuel stop the route changed to sand dunes. 70 tough kilometers long. Just before the finish there was a waypoint which wasn’t mentioned in the roadbook.
Although in this phase of the rally the stages are the toughest ones, they are also the most beautiful ones. The landscape around Copiapio is breathtaking. The first bike left La Serena at 05.25 hours. The special started at 07.00 hours. As always just at the first light, starting in the dark is not allowed according to the regulations. The glare of the rising sun was dazzling the first riders on the track. Next to that there was a lot of fog, which caused another problem as condense came onto the goggles of the riders, and with a lot of dust in the air this is no fun. Dutchmen Henk Knuiman (11th overall) crashed after just 5 minutes after he started because it was so difficult to see properly.
At the end of the restday, in the bivac you still hear the sounds of wrenching, welding and hard work. Also at Dakarsport / Team Honda Europe. Vadim Pritulyak has arrived late in de afternoon, and his bike needs a lot of work. He is lucky when ASO puts him on the startinglist for the 8th special, as he did not return from the stage on time. When Henk Hellegers tells him the good news, he gets a big high-five from Vadim. Pritulyak had leaking fueltanks, causing him to loose a lot of petrol. After a long wait and a lot of help from other competitiors and the crowds he managed to reach the finish after 13 hours. In the mean time he wasn’t so lucky as Jurgen and had a collission with a horse.. The second part of the connection went along very high mountainpaths, with difficult trailsections, so he and a French competitior decided to go back to Mendoza and use the road to ride to Valparaiso.
The last competitors are still battling to make it to the bivouac in time. Arriving too late means you’re out, the rest day cannot be used make a late arrival. All Team Honda Europe riders are in, except Vadim Pritulyak, who’s still underway in the 400 km long liaison to Valparaiso. (Which is partially off-road)
After a tough fourth day only 150 of the original 270 bikes and quads could continue their race. And even less will have survived the fifth day. What was feared from the fifth stage turned out to be true, as again for many is was a struggle to finish today.
After a very fast first part of the stage the terrain and the navigation changes. Only after the second tankstop this changed, as the last kilometers were very tough. Frans Verhoeven, who has fought back from 18th to place 4 in the general rankings expected this kind of ending for the amateur teams when he arrived in the bivac at night. “It was a nice stager, but it will be a struggle to finish for everyone!” As we write all members of Dakasport / Team Honda Europe have reached the bivac, exept for Vadim Pritulyak! The last 20 kilometers were the hardest part, throught difficult sand dunes. We hope our Kazach manages to get through and find the bivac. Today also the first Bowler Nemesis has broken down, with Tim and Tom Coronel out of the race. Due to the neutralization, they did get a starting time for the sixth stage though..
Mick Extance is by far the most experienced rider in the Dakarsport/Team Honda Europe. Since 2002 he’s been in the Dakar every year. Always in the top 50, his best result was the 26th place overall in 2006. Mick (46) has been riding motocross and enduro his whole life. He was European Enduro champion in 2002, and won a gold medal and two silver medals in the International Sixdays.
The fourth day finally brought what you can expect from the Dakar. A technical, challenging special which had everything to offer. Navigation was tricky from time to time. Faultless navigation got you further than riding at a high pace. Even the top riders regularly made mistakes; already there have been many changes in the top ten. Spaniard Marc Coma kept his coolness, and won the stage. He remains in the lead comfortably.
Three days are behind us, and the competitors had the chance to get into their rhythm. Slowly everybody’s riding in the position where they should be riding. Until now the stages were fast and technically not so difficult. The big 690’s were the ones to profit most of the fast stretches, the lighter 450’s haven’t been in the picture that much, although Frenchmen Fretigne is doing very well with a second place overall on a Yamaha 450. Also today, 350 km. out of the 550 km long special could be ridden with the throttle full open. Kees Koolen (99th in the special, 72nd overall): ,,It’s frustrating; the bikes you don’t see in the technical stuff are flying by just as easy moments later. It was a nice day, although I rode badly. Mainly thanks to my wrist, which is quite painful at the moment. Tonight we’ll have a look together with Wolter (the team’s physiotherapist) to see if I should be wearing a brace tomorrow. I missed a speeding zone, I was doing 79 instead of 50. It’s going to cost me.”