Stage 4 of The Dakar Rally 2014 pushed many racers past their breaking points. The route from San Juan to Chilecito, Argentina caused numerous tire punctures forcing cars to make changes throughout the day’s race. Others didn’t fare so well as a number of vehicles literally crashed out of the race. Stage 2 winner #18 Sam Sunderland was forced to withdraw after his Honda’s engine went kaput. His name is added to the large Withdrawals List that’s growing daily…and nightly. There haven’t been any fatalities but a few close calls that had families, fans and officials holding their breaths. Thankfully aside from some bones only hearts have been broken by the merciless Dakar Rally.
¡La espada del matador es muy afilado!
#303 Carlos Sainz is known as The Matador and along with his German co-driver Timo Gottschalk, they attacked the trail and probably only lifted off the throttle when it was time to change a bad tire. By the day’s end they were at the top of the overall standings with four Minis behind them. Reigning champion #300 Stéphane Peterhansel and his co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret, could only manage a second place stage finish, just over six minutes behind the SMG Buggy. In the overall standings, they’re fifth and have to make up eighteen minutes to catch the leader. If there’s anybody who can do it, Peterhansel’s the man, but the team mates he has to go through won’t make it easy for him. #302 Giniel De Villiers and Dirk Von Zitzewitz are hot on his trail and ready to burst into the top five.
#305 Robby Gordon and Kellon Walch battled along and managed to get up to 31st overall but are hours behind the top five. They have a huge task ahead of them to even crack the top twenty. #318 BJ Baldwin and Quinn Cody had their best result in this stage and are now 46th overall. According to updates on his Facebook page, they’ve also been beset by vapor locking problems. If these American cars have a hope of doing well in this race, these fuel issues need to be fixed as soon as possible.
The Toughest People on Two Wheels
Another reigning champion having a tough time was #1 Cyril Despres, who suffered a major electrical problem with his Yamaha motorcycle. The delay led him to finish the stage 16th and 6th overall. Despres is famous for incredible comebacks and has snatched victory from hopelessness before. The rest of competitors know better than to count him out. #92 Mike Johnson finished the stage last (118th) but is 113th out of 118 racers. Fatigue got the better of #22 Alain Duclos in the stage. He finished 9th and holds his 4th overall spot but being so far behind the leader makes him very vulnerable. His team mate #23 Juan Pedrero Garcia surged forward to take the stage and move up to 16th overall. Like Despres this is his first Dakar rally with a different manufacturer.
The motorcycle ground to a halt and I worked hard until I found the problem: a short-circuit. Do I look disheartened? Well, I’m not. We’ve just finished stage 4 out of 13. The day I give up is the day I should pack up and go home. True, it’s a big setback, but I love this race, and I know it’s not over until it’s over. I could have given up today, but I’m still here. The motorcycle doesn’t miss a beat, and I’m in tip-top shape.” – #1 Cyril Despres
This Ain’t No Trucking Playground
#501 Gérard De Rooy is holding on to the overall lead and will not give it up without a fight, which is exactly what the Kamaz Master team is trying to do. #506 Andrey Karginov and #500 Eduard Nikolaev are hot on his trail, but it may be all for nought. They’re over forty minutes behind him and still have to get past #508 Marcel Van Vliet to get within striking distance of De Rooy. Unfortunately, this is why extra care is required because one misstep or miscalculation could end in disaster for any of the racers. In a race like The Dakar Rally, you really are your own worst enemy. Anxiety and overconfidence both lead to mistakes. All the competitors need to remain calm and focus on preserving their equipment. Every man and woman who fails to do this (barring a freak accident) will end up on the Withdrawal List. That’s a guarantee.
Stage 5 Chilecito to Tucumán was completed on January 9, 2014. Information is still coming from various sources on the ground, but our recap will be posted soon. You can also follow along with The Dakar Rally official mobile apps and their social media channels: