San Juan – Villa Carlos Paz

As of today, 85 bikes, 25 quads, 69 cars, and 46 trucks left the bivouac for today’s stage. The attrition rate for the competitors is something that is discussed a lot during the year in preparation for the Dakar Rally. It is kind of like an overhead cloud and you know its going to drop rain, but you never know when. The ASO directors design the course to have a certain attrition rate. Of course, they don’t tell you this, but they count on about 30% of the racers dropping out of the race at some point. This is statistically the case, and it has never changed from year to year. So many things happen during the rally that sometimes you just shake your head and know that you are lucky if you make it to the end. Of course there is a lot of skill involved, but as the saying goes, “chance only favors the prepared mind.”

An update on the American CR Gittere. CR apparently had an acute gastritis that left him dehydrated before the stage. It came upon him so quickly that he didn’t have time to react or treat it. He tried taking special antibiotics for the dysentery, but nothing was going to help. He went out anyway, gave it his all and between the length of the stage and the heat, there was pretty much no way he was going to be able to take in enough hydration to finish the stage. I have seen these situations many times, and I have seen the doctors in the medical tent administer IV’s the morning of the stage to competitors who have bad dysentery so they can continue the rally. This is the reason many bigger teams bring their own doctor to the Dakar Rally, to deal with the many emergencies that the Rally throws upon the crew and competitors.

There was a great interview with Ian Blythe today that kind of shows what the competitors are going through. If you are wondering why the French use the words, “chewing the fat,” it is an expression that means to sit down and chat.

“Ian Blythe is chewing the fat with a group of Argentinean spectators who have come to congratulate him on his performance today. On his first Dakar, the American rider is one of the fourteen bikers to have reached the finish on the 430 kilometre special on the eleventh stage of the rally. It is 5 PM and it is still hot on the tarmac of the San Juan racing circuit that is playing host to the Dakar bivouac on 14th January. With a dusty face and his hair all over the place, the American rider does not look like he has suffered much in the scorching sand on which so many competitors got stuck. “You know, this morning when I woke up, I didn’t feel too great,” he admits. “I went to sleep late and got up at 3 o’clock in the morning. I set off on the link section feeling like I hadn’t slept at all. I was spaced out…” Fortunately, at the age of 24 years, he has good physical resources to call upon. “I woke up quickly when we reached the special,” he continues. “It was nice and I started to catch up with the guys who had set off before me. That helped me with the navigation. I set off in eleventh place and I managed to keep a good pace up until the end”. …. “It’s what I expected of the Dakar,” he explains. “I didn’t like the first week. It was just tracks on which you had to ride very fast. It was very dangerous because you could get caught out at any moment. Personally, I prefer sand and navigation, so I’ve been in for a real treat here”. Astonishingly, the young man who won the Dakar Challenge on the Australian Safari 2014 had not ridden his bike before the prologue. “I didn’t prepare at all for this Dakar,” he acknowledges. “But given how I’m enjoying myself, I’m going to do my utmost to come back next year with a new bike and properly prepared.”

The special started today with Price setting the pace. He is just riding his race and making sure to avoid any mishaps. Meo and Quintanilla will be fighting for position if they have the energy. I will try to report on the results as they near the finish.

A lot of action behind the leader Toby Price. The French did not have a great day. Meo fell and lost tons of time, injuring his hand, and Duclos either had a mechanical and then lost his helmet! He’s now in 42nd place, from the top ten! So It looks like its going to be KTM, KTM , Husqvarna on the Podium with Price, Svitko, and, Quintanilla. Brabec fell back to 9th which I did not expect and Blythe apparently ran out of gas with 12 km to go to the CP and lost a bunch of time.  The excitement never ends in the Dakar. Nothing changed in the car division as Peterhansel is going to win his 10th Dakar or something like that…

The Dakar is a place where you make many acquaintances and many good friends. I had the pleasure of knowing Pierre Karmakers and his son Jay for the full month of the 2005 Dakar Rally. I treated Jay for a shoulder injury during the Dakar and got to know Pierre and Jay pretty well. We’ve kept in touch ever since.

On the right is Dakar Rally veteran Jean Brucy from France. He rode for the Gauloise KTM team way back when and finished 4th in the 2003 Dakar Rally. But even more impressive than that, he has participated in 20 editions of the Dakar Rally. He started way back when in 1989. He is one of the most knowledgeable racers on the Dakar Rally and has made it his life over the years.

100_0766 100_3228