After the cancellation of Monday’s Stage Eight for Bikes and Quads – out of respect for the passing of Paulo Gonçalves – the full field of Dakar Rally 2020 entrants were back in action on Tuesday.
Port Edward rider Stuart Gregory (100) made the most of the unscheduled day off to catch up on some rest and relaxation, and carefully planning his oil and tyre changes around the next Marathon stage (when maintenance time will be strictly limited). He was also able to get to the bottom of a mystery that had been puzzling him for days:
“I found out why I was struggling in the first week – the pin inside my steering damper had rusted solid. That’s why I was finding it so hard to turn around the rocks and my arms were getting surprisingly tired,” he revealed. “Now the bike feels much better and I can push a lot harder,” he added.
Stage Eight was still run for the Cars and other Categories as a loop Stage, starting and finishing in Wadi Al Dawasir. “Wadi” means valley, and there were plenty of those (all filled with different colours of sand) to contend with – despite some navigational challenges experienced by the top drivers, there was no change at the top of the General Classification for the Cars. The big news of the day was a second place for ex-Formula One driver Fernando Alonso (#310) – his best showing yet on his maiden Dakar.
Terence Marsh, CEO of Motul-backed Red-Lined Motoring Adventures, explained that the Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined team’s Nissan Navara had had another “adventurous” day, but finished in 34th place to gain one position on the General Classification.
“Monday was another good day – the guys got stuck in dunes a couple of times but no major issues,” reported Marsh. “With 8 Stages down and 4 to go, the end is in sight – but on the Dakar, you never know what tomorrow can bring,” he cautioned.
Tuesday’s Stage Nine took competitors north-east to Haradh, a small settlement in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s famous oil and gas fields.
Gregory had another very solid day in the saddle and was the 15th Original by Motul rider to finish the Stage. In the General Classification, he’s still just outside the top 10, in 12th position. American Ricky Brabec (#9) still leads the Bike Category, with defending champion Toby Price (#1) in third position.
The cream rose to the top in the Car Category with Stéphane Peterhansel (#302) taking the Stage win, although the top three in the General Classification remains the same. Leading competitors had to avoid a lively herd of camels, which were dispersed by helicopter for safety reasons.
The Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined team’s Nissan Navara crossed the line in Haradh in 32nd position, enabling them to consolidate their top 40 position in the General Classification.
Their stated goal may be nothing more than to finish the Dakar Rally 2020 (itself an achievement not to be underestimated) but they are on course to do so in some style.
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