Day One of the Dakar Rally 2020 on Sunday saw the opening of the third chapter in the history of the ultimate rally-raid event, with competitors roaring off into the Saudi Arabian desert.
The largely coastal stage served as the ideal curtain-raiser for this year’s Dakar by giving participants a sample of every kind of terrain they’re likely to face. This included rocky stretches towards the end of the stage that caused numerous punctures.
For Port Edward rider Stuart Gregory (100), his initially cautious approach paid dividends. He reported that after finding his feet for the first hour or so (in very rocky terrain, where a fall could have spelled an early end to his Dakar), he was able to take advantage of some much faster sections and go flat out. He also had a different kind of close escape.
“Riding through one town with my music turned up loud, I was doing around 120km/h and didn’t hear the ‘screamer’ alerting me to a change in the speed limit. In the same 50km/h section, I picked up nine speeding fines,” Gregory confessed. “Fortunately, as this was the first day, we were all let off with a warning – from now on, I’ll just be using one earpiece!”
Gregory came in 87th overall and lies in 19th position in the challenging Original by Motul category – a very solid start indeed. He spent the evening in the Bivouac, making minor adjustments to his new KTM 450 Rally Replica. Following his heart-breaking exit last year due to an engine failure, Gregory has done all he can to prepare and has high hopes to finish this year’s event.
Like Gregory, Wessel Bosman (123) also played it safe on Day 1 of the Dakar 2020. He finished some two hours behind Gregory to sit in 37th place in the Original by Motul category (135th position overall). He also found this to be a long day, having ridden almost 800km (including the liaison section).
In the cars category, the Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined Nissan Navara (342) sponsored by Motul, was one of many vehicles to suffer a puncture on the rocks. Terence Marsh, Red-Lined Motoring Adventures CEO, reported that while this lost the team of Thomas Bell and Patrick McMurren a few minutes, there were no major issues.
“It was a nice clean stage despite the tough terrain and navigation,” commented Marsh. “I’m happy to be able to say that at the end of Day One of the Dakar 2020, in 50th place in the cars category, life is pretty good for now,” he added.
Of course, that can all change in an instant: Day Two of this year’s Dakar will see competitors head further along the Red Sea coast to the futuristic city of Neom. It will be a significantly shorter stage, where the challenges are expected to come more from the navigation than the terrain.
For Gregory, Bosman and their fellow motorbike and quad riders, Day Two also sees the start of the “super marathon” component of this year’s Dakar. This will restrict riders to just 10 minutes of maintenance time per day, adding a new twist to the challenge of completing the Dakar.
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