Sunday, December 4, 2011

I've moved the content and will continue updates over at the new RallyRaidReview.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Libya Rallies Clarification

OK, as a clarification, the German run Libya Rally has been pushed to October while the Belgian organized Libya Rally has been pushed (tentatively) to May. Both were originally set for March. Clear as mud? This might help… or The Libya Rally Extreme Desert Challenge, set to run from March 6th to March 13th has been postponed, tentatively, until May. which was also set to run in March, has been postponed back to run from October 15th to the 29th.

Sorry for any confusion.


New date for Libya Rally Raid 2011

Straight from, Rally postponed due to the current political crisis. As if anyone should be surprised. A long wait, but hopefully it’s long enough to allow the political dust to settle. Better a delayed Libya Rally than no Libya Rally.

New date for Libya Rally Raid 2011

The new date for Libya Rally Raid 2011 is definite:
We'll be going to Libya from the 15th  - 29th of October 2011!

Due to the unrests in North Africa we had to cancel the rally, that was planned to take place in March 2011, to ensure the participants' and staff's security, and are now postponing the event to October 2011. We thank everyone for understanding and hope for a clarifying of the situation in the people's interest.

Ready to go to Libya

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Graceful Exit from the Top

In a perhaps somewhat surprising announcement, seven time Dakar winner Vladimir Chagin has signaled his retirement from racing. Chagin has indeed dazzled and amazed fans from behind the wheel of his big Kamaz truck for many years, a record the belies his relatively young age of 41.

Besides being holder of the single most overall wins in any single category with 7, Chagin also holds several Dakar records, most stage wins at 63 and most stage wins in a single years rally topping 9 out of 14 stages in the 2010 edition.

The Tsar of Dakar, as he has been dubbed, will continue with the Kamaz team as the head of the Motorsport division, so while not driving competitively, he will remain completely immersed in the team's direction while allowing a new crop of drivers to don the top step of the Dakar podium.

RallyRaidReview thanks Vladimir Chagin for years of entertainment that has lead to wonderment about how the goliaths of the desert can attain and maintain such mind boggling speeds. Well done Chagin, well done.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Earthquake in Chile

A magnitude 7 earthquake struck southern Chile today south of the capitol Santiago near the city of Concepcion. So far no reports of injuries and damage looks to be minimal.


Intercontinental Rally Crosses into Mauritania

The Intercontinental Rally crossed into Mauritania today as it winds down for it's finish in Dakar, Senegal on Saturday.

Stage 1

Stage 2

Stage 3

Stage 4

Stage 5

Stage 6

Stage 7

Stage 8

Dakar 2011 Best of

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

2011 Hell's Gate Extreme Enduro

So once again Fabio Fasola will do his best to inflict torment upon 150 privileged riders who descend upon Il Ciocco at this weekend's Hell's Gate Extreme Enduro. They cannpt afford to let the beauty of Tuscany fool them though, because there will be no rest for the weary.

Dougie Lampkin on his new GasGas, Husqvarna's Graham Jarvis, etc... Who will take it this year?

Follow the action here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dakar 2012?

With the overwhelming success that has blossomed from the Dakar rally since its transition from the desolation of apathetic Northern Africa to the welcoming arms of passionate South America, it is quite apparent that more neighboring countries will be eager to sample a taste of that success and more importantly, its promotional and commercial side effects. While next year’s participation of Argentina and Chile are most likely certain, no less than three additional countries are rumored to either have already promised funds or are in serious talks with the Amaury Sport Organization, the Dakar Rally organizing body, to play host to at least one or more stages each.

Indeed, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil are all rumored to be clamoring to host stages of the 2012 Dakar rally in the hopes or raising their international profile and tourist interests which can be very lucrative. It is said that for a $5 Million dollar investment to party host the rally this year, Argentina may reap upwards of $170 Million in returns as tourists flock to see the spectacle that is hundreds of motorbikes, cars, and trucks barreling through as picturesque a terrain as can be found on Earth. While the commercial success and attraction cannot be denied, the question remains, and true to ASO history, will probably not be answered until very late in 2011, which countries will the Dakar Rally visit next year? The safe bet is that it will be more than the current two.

As the ASO tries, not forget its history, but to shake off the romantic but unrealistic notion that the only true home for the rally remains in Africa, it can be certain that the 2012 Dakar will impress even the most hopeless of romantics. Only 50 more weeks…


Friday, January 14, 2011

Oh no, Casteu

Perhaps some stand aghast that I could put out a wrap up for stage 10 without a mention of French rally stalwart, David Casteu. Such are the troubles afflicting Casteu that I felt he needed, no, deserved a place all his own. His desire to persevere can certainly be understood in the context of the Dakar as for most, to finish is to be victorious.

To a rider of Casteu’s caliber, experience, and ability, anything less than a victory must be a failure. The Frenchman’s speed and talent puts him in the same eldritch category occupied by only two other competitors, fellow Francophone, Cyril Despres, and Spanish sensation, Marc Coma. Their otherworldly performances put them on a distinct level, apart from their immensely talented competition. Perhaps the only other contemporary rider approaching that exclusive club is Chaleco Lopez. Where others possess similar speeds, some others the navigational prowess, it is only these four super humans who are able to turn in consistent, quick stage after stage results with precious few mistakes.

After a promising start on the beautiful little 450 Sherco Rally Replica, outright victory or even hopes for a top five finish were dashed on stage 5 with a transmission failure and a 113th place stage finish. Up until that point, Casteu was solidly moving in the right direction up the leader board…Stage 1, 12th, Stage 2, 8th, Stage 3, 8th, Stage 4, 7th. With each stage, David was increasing his chances to equal or better his 2007 finish of 2nd place overall. Casteu had a similar promising start in the 2010 Dakar, but unfortunately, it was the dreaded stage 5, and a viscous crash that ended his hopes. With significant injuries, quite frankly, David was lucky to be able to carry on, get back to health, and take the 450cc class World Championship in the FIM Cross Country series for Sherco and we are all luckier for it as Casteu is a joy to watch.

Perhaps what says more about the man is his determination to complete the Dakar. With the ambiguity of this year’s 3 engine rule, Casteu has been open about taking his 4th and 5th engines and the 40 and 50 minute penalties associated with each. Quite frankly, I’ve lost count and think he may be on his sixth. Casteu is running a new generation transmission this year and unfortunately, his Dakar has become a heartbreaking exercise in research and development as this new transmission has exposed itself as the weak link in the chain. In a rally such as the Dakar, a weak link, any weak link will quickly make itself apparent, usually at the worst of times.

Casteu’s team put in a fresh engine on the rest day only to be rewarded with a locked up transmission shortly into the next day’s stage. He stopped, eventually got the bike into fourth gear, and carried on through the rest of the stage in a single gear. Stage 8 and 9 were much, much better for Casteu and perhaps it seemed the team had wrangled hold of their demons, through an outstanding 3rd place finish on stage 9. After reaching the bivouac after the difficult loop around Copiapo, the decision was made to take the fourth engine and incur the 40 minute penalty.

Near the breaking point himself, Casteu once again ground to a halt on the huge liaison from Copiapo to Fiambala on the way to the start of special stage 10. Reports suggest that somehow, Casteu was able to take the stage start and then head back to Fiambala to begin the process of changing to now his 5th engine. At this point, many other top riders may have decided to pack it in. Due to an illness, fellow Sherco rider, Tina Meier did that morning. A few days earlier, Casteu’s team mate Laurent Lazard was shown on the withdrawal list. The only Sherco’s left in the rally are Casteu’s temperamental mount and that of Belgian rider, Simon Tampaxis.

Casteu was hours behind the leaders for stage 10, but he went anyway. After leaving the Copiapo bivouac at his scheduled 4:24am departure time, by the time David completed the stage and reached the bivouac at Chilecito, it was 2:39am the following morning. Yes, that’s right, 22 hours and 15 minutes, most of which was spent in the saddle. Spare a thought for what the timing sheets don’t show.

Sure David Casteu has been let down by numerous mechanical woes, but don’t blame Sherco for this. Instead congratulate them and Casteu for taking the chance on such a huge undertaking for such a small outfit. With Sherco’s 3000 unit yearly output, barely 5% the output of rally leaders KTM, let alone what comes out of the factories of Honda or Yamaha, we say a huge well done to the small company. Let this undertaking inspire all and hopefully let that inspiration translate into sales which will only help further the rally participation that we know and love.

Bravo Sherco for taking on the daunting climes of the Dakar rally. Bravo David Casteu for taking the change and jumping, head first into a promising but unproven project when more known equipment abounds. Last but not least, Bravo to David and his team for displaying what makes the Dakar and indeed the rally world what it is, the heart and soul of racers and teams whose desire is to compete and be there at the end regardless of what the time sheets say.

Stage 10 Moto Wrap Up

After a near flawless run to victory on Stage 9, Jonah Street kicked off the morning’s proceedings fresh as a daisy. Perhaps ‘fresh as a daisy’ is a gross over statement of the conditions with the riders having, by the start of the now infamous Fiambala Stage, already completed a border crossing and a liaison in the order of several hundred kilometers. The stage designation of Copiapo to Chilecito is also somewhat misleading. Perhaps ‘Copiapo to Chilecito by way of Hell in a hand basket’ would be a more appropriate moniker for a stage that is quickly gaining a reputation to be feared, a reputation of swallowing riders, destroying whatever hopes they may have had for good stage times, and then spitting them out, bruised and battered, if they are lucky, at the stage finish.


With only a 176km special on the stage, it shouldn’t have been so bad, but numbers are tricky little devils. Sometimes those numbers are misleading as well. Every one of those kilometers would become a battle in themselves and only those riders with the drive to win the war will breach the defenses to take the hill that is the finish of stage 10.


Indeed, ‘misleading’ will look to become the best description to define the day that was Stage10 of the 2011 Dakar Rally. The Fiambala stage treats the competitors with contempt and as trespassers who dare attempt to tame her. The stage wasted little time in punishing first on track, Jonah Street. In a self admitted ‘rookie mistake’, Jonah missed the first waypoint and squandered valuable time finding it. As evident by the times at that first waypoint, the previous day’s hero had taken over 34 minutes to find it to Helder Rodrigues’ 21 minutes for the same distance. Helder repeated his stage 9 performance by rocketing to an early lead from his lowly, 11th place start position. The Portuguese Yamaha pilot was followed in close order by the regulars of the sharp end of the timing sheets. Frenchman, Cyril Despres on his KTM 450 Rally trailed Rodrigues by a scant 14” with team mate and water carrier, Ruben Faria of Portugal a further 26” back in third place. 4th place was occupied by Francisco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez of neighboring Chile, with American Quinn Cody hot on his heels just 1’01” back from the lead.


Of course this was early in the stage, but 9th place starter and overall rally leader, Marc Coma must have felt a bit left out from the lead pack because as the riders blasted through the second timing waypoint, it was Coma who grabbed the headlines as the stage leader relegating Rodrigues to 4th. Rodrigues however, was not to be denied the top position and took that back promptly from Coma by waypoint 3. From then, the timing positions remained fairly static. Some jostling for position briefly saw Quinn Cody and his Honda rise to 3rd place at waypoint 4, but the newcomer was put back in his place by the wily veterans with Quinn settling in about the 5th position on stage up towards the end.


Stage 9 dark horse surprise, Daniel Gouet, the young Chilean, showed that his good result was not simply an inheritance gifted through the misfortunes of others. Gouet took charge of his Honda CRF450X from a 6th place starting position and began an undulating rhythm up and down the time sheets to eventually end up in a very respectable 15th place only 37:43” off the lead finisher.


At this point, it may be expected that Helder Rodrigues rolled into the finish of the short stage in the lead followed by the current crop of rally heavyweights, however, lest we forget the ‘misleading’ aspect of Fiambala for it was she that would have the last laugh. Just in the short distance between the final waypoint and the finish of the stage, the expected results changed drastically as a plethora of riders became lost in a tricky navigation section. Let’s clarify that. Not lost, but “very, very lost” as Jonah Street described it after the stage. Quinn Cody was having a stellar performance on the day and, due to his later starting time, had hooked up with Jonah on the piste with the two riding together. As they became more and more lost, Quinn was looking to Jonah, a Dakar veteran, for guidance on where to go.


Eventually, they found their way in to the finish, but both had dropped over 90 minutes to the lead position and stage 10 winner, Spaniard Marc Coma on his KTM. Cody and Street finished in 50th and 51st positions on the stage which was by any terms, a disastrous result.


Early in the stage, Yamaha’s Helder Rodrigues repeated his stage 9 performance by taking the lead. Unfortunately, he also repeated his end of stage 9 performance by getting lost as well. Almost exactly as he had done at the end of stage 9, Helder again lost over 27 minutes from the lead time to finish a very disappointing 10th place. Not all results were disappointing though. Riders such as Azevedo (BRA), Pizzolito (ARG), and Stanovnik (SVN) were the beneficiaries of the misfortunes of others by moving up several positions from the final waypoint to the end of the stage, with Stanovnik jumping from 9th to 4th place for the finish.


The top ten results were: 1st - Coma (KTM), 2nd – Despres (KTM) +9:56”, 3rd – Faria (KTM) +13:22”, 4th – Stanovnik (KTM) +21:26”, 5th – Lopez Contardo (APR) +21:43”, 6th – Knuiman (KTM) +22:11”, 7th – Pizzolito (HON) +22:16”, 8th – Pedrero Garcia (KTM) +24:40”, 9th – Duclos (APR) +26:56”, and in 10th – Rodrigues (YAM) +27:46”


Stage 10 was marred by the withdrawal of notables such as Tina Meier, Ronnie Bodinger, and Vicente de Benedictis Neto. Germany’s iron woman, Meier rode the massive liaison from Copiapo to Fiambala in such pain, that she could not bear to take the start. She withdrew after consulting the medical staff. Depending on which report is accurate, Tina was the victim of kidney stones or a severe gastro-intestinal illness. Either way it is amazing the fortitude that these competitors have, to carry on until the absolute limit has been reached.


As if the timed stage itself was not torturous enough, drama continued on the final liaison into Chilecito. While riding behind one of the assistance trucks, a massive dust cloud was kicked up. Jonah, not being able to see clearly in the dust, clouded into a gas tank the size of a washing machine in the middle of the road. He was thrown from his bike, but was largely unhurt. Enraged, Jonah threw the tank off the road so no one else would hit it and then clamored on to track down the trucks that were in front of him on the road. When admitting that they had seen the tank in the road, Jonah could only shake his head in disbelief that they wouldn’t have stopped to pick it up, thereby preventing anyone else from hitting it like Jonah did, when he asked them why they didn’t do that, his question was met with only silence.


Stage 10 was a dream for few and a nightmare for most. As the rally really begins to wind down to its completion, many riders are simply giving up on competition and turning an eye towards survival. The recent stages have bested many, but still nearly one hundred riders continue to battle on towards Buenos Aires and the humble, understated finishers medal that means so much to so many. Don’t be misled by the simple time results at the end of each stage. This Dakar has been jam packed with amazing stories though and through. 


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tina Meier Out

RallyRaidReview is very sad to report that German rider, Tina Meier has had to call it a rally at the start of stage 10 due to a severe stomach illness. Tina broke the devastating news via a Facebook post to her fans and friends. Keep in mind that she did this after riding from the bivouac in Copiapo all the way along today’s liaison to the start control. A woman with unimaginable toughness! We at RallyRaidReview congratulate Tina on her outstanding performance and sincerely hope to see her back next year, on her Sherco, for a flawless, trouble free run to the finish.


Get well Tina!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stage 9 Moto Wrap Up

Well, well, well, what a difference a day makes. Today’s relatively short loop through the Atacama dunes to the north of Copiapo may have appeared innocuous. It was anything but. A patchwork of early morning fog descended upon the riders like the blurry eyed haze of sleepless nights. Add to that the confusion of a group start, ten at a time, and we start to get a glimpse of what may have been the contributing factors that led all but one of the riders from the first wave astray and out chasing phantoms in the desert.

Certainly much blame will be bandied about but needless to say, when a lonely Helder Rodrigues took a particular turn, the rest of the leading pack had been convinced that he was off on a fool’s errand and continued on their erroneous path. However, they had no idea how right Helder was as they meandered about looking for navigational clues as to their whereabouts. Soon after, the lead pack turned around only to be met en route, by the second wave of riders that had started five minutes later. At that point, the damage was done. Rodrigues had long pinned the throttle on his Yamaha and stormed off to the lead.

What nerve it must have taken for the young Portuguese rider to leave a pack consisting of the brain trust of modern day rallying strategic experience to strike off on his own, trusting his navigation instead of following the pack, brimming with confidence while suppressing the unimaginable feelings of self-doubt. Through the early part of his performance, once it was determined how Rodrigues had outfoxed his main rivals, he was dubbed the modern day ‘Vasco da Gama’ of rally navigation by those following the time sheets like racing junkies at the off track betting.

Waypoint 1 times determined the extent of the navigational damage as overall rally leaders Marc Coma and Cyril Despres clocked times slotting them in 59th and 58th places respectively behind the 57th placed Jincheng of Argentina’s Pablo Oscar Pascual. The sharp end of the timing lists showcased a refreshing crop of riders with names like Bethys, Salvatierra, Schroder, and Pizzolito battling it out with veterans Verhoeven, Rodrigues, and Casteu.

Sitting in a lowly starting position, a quiet, unassuming, unshakable American, named Jonah Street was determined to fight on and not allow the issues of the previous days to cloud his mind. Having been slotted in a starting position behind 44 other riders when the signal was given, Street wasted no time as he began his march toward the front.

Picking off dozens of riders in short order, Jonah smelled blood and began to stalk his prey like a hungry lion following the trail of a wounded gazelle. 45th, 13th, 5th, 2nd, Jonah posted some of the quickest waypoint to waypoint times of the entire field. After two days of mechanical woes resulting in significant time loss, Jonah’s mechanic Niles Follin had forsaken sleep in order to provide the most thoroughly prepared and supremely capable platform to propel Jonah to the front…and to the front he went. Once in second place, the GYTR Yamaha rider could practically taste his next meal. Rodrigues was the carrot on the end of Street’s stick and Jonah was not to be denied, not today, not again.

By waypoint 4, the now second place Jonah was only 2’50” behind the stage leader, Portugal’s early stage hero, Helder Rodrigues. At waypoint 5, the gap had closed a further 21” to put Jonah within 2’29” of Rodrigues. The quiet lion waited no longer to pounce and pounce he did. At checkpoint 2, waypoint 6, Jonah had devoured the time gap and left Helder scratching his head, 47” back in second place. Jonah had turned up the wick as the relative times of the next fastest riders, Rodrigues, Verhoeven and Casteu remained flat between waypoint 5 and waypoint 6.

At the finish, leaving nothing but bare, picked bones in his wake, the quiet American had demolished the field and put his stamp on the day by a massive 3’38” over second place, Frans Verhoeven on the Speedbrain BMW.  Interestingly all three top riders on today’s stage had overcome recent adversity to pluck the top spots, Verhoeven changing an engine during yesterday’s stage and third place David Casteu enjoying a relatively trouble free day after hours lost on previous stages due to a new, but temperamental gearbox in his lovely little Sherco.

The rally superstars were not too far down to fight back however. KTM rivals Cyril Despres and Marc Coma had recovered early enough to pick their way back into the top ten with Coma again planting himself on Despres’ rear wheel much to the annoyance of the Dakar incumbent. Solidly recovering into the top ten along with the KTM duo was Norway’s Pal Anders Ullevalsetter becoming more and more comfortable with his new KTM 450 Rally, and Chilean superstar, Francisco Lopez on his Aprilia.

Behind the Yamaha of Street, the BMW of Verhoeven, and the Sherco of Casteu, the top ten filled out with Spain’s Gerard Farres Guell aboard an Aprilia in 4th, followed by his countryman, Jordi Viladoms on his Yamaha in 5th.

Perhaps kick starting the career of a new, young superstar, an excellent 6th place result for Chile’s Daniel Gouet may force fellow Chilean, Chaleco Lopez to allow some elbow room at the top for the young upstart and his Honda. In came the superstars, Despres, Ullevalsetter, Coma, and Lopez to round out the top ten.

Unfortunately, when the fortunes turned for Helder Rodrigues, they really turned. After navigating so flawlessly and confidently from the start, Rodrigues made a crucial error that not only saw him deviate in the wrong direction by 9 kilometers, but to add insult to injury, the Yamaha hopeful ran out of petrol literally evaporating any chance of recovering a decent result. It is reported that Jake Smith, Felipe Prohens, and perhaps some other generous rally compatriots came to Rodrigues’ rescue and gave him some much needed fuel to finish the day a disastrous 27’17” back from the lead.

In the Ladies Cup, Sweden’s Annie Seel bested the bunch for a 36th place finish followed by 42nd place Laia Sanz less than 2 minutes back.

How long must it have been since the highest finish that a KTM machine could muster was 7th place? The top ten finishers of Stage 9 include the products of no less than six different manufacturers. Yamaha, BMW, Sherco, Aprilia, Honda, and of course KTM…if this is the result of the new 450 regulations, then a well deserved congratulations is to be given to the ASO for undertaking the tough decision and well done to the teams and manufacturers who have responded and perhaps somewhat reluctantly embraced the new rules.

Days such as this display that the leaders in the rally world are not infallible, and while no one likes to see them falter, any tightening of the field or opportunities for others to come to the forefront and shine are always welcomed by the fans and followers of the enigma that is cross country rallying. As was mentioned in yesterday’s wrap up, looks can be deceiving and certainly the short distance of Stage 9 has proven that in spades.

Attention now turns to the few remaining stages in this, the 2011 edition of the Dakar rally. We leave Chile with fond memories of the legions of warm and welcoming fans and an overall job well done. Headed off the circus is for a very long, very early liaison that will see the bikes off from Copiapo at 4:30am for a 686km connection, back across the border into Argentina, and to the start of a 176km special through the Argentine Atacama. With the end of Stage 9, we must bid adieu to Chile. Gracias Chile. Usted ha sido un anfitrión maravilloso! In my worst translated Spanish, Thank you Chile, you have been a wonderful host!


Jonah Street Puts His Stamp on Stage 9

This is the one for which the fans have been waiting. After a group start of ten riders at a time and a navigational issue by nine of them, today’s results were thrown on their head seeing the usual leaders dropping back quite a few spots while Helder Rodrigues, Jonah Street, Frans Verhoeven, and David Casteu stormed to the top of the time sheets. After a few days of misfortune, Street would not be denied, pulling out a 47" lead over Rodrigues at the second to last waypoint.


As the riders came into the stage finish, several lower placed riders first as they were physically in front of the time leaders, the excitement built to a fever pitch as Jonah stormed across the line a dominant 3'38" over 2nd place Verhoeven and 3'40" over 3rd place Casteu. A late stage problem saw Rodrigues drop more than 27' in the last 27 kilometers of the stage.


Well done Jonah!!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Stage 8 Moto Wrap Up

The 'take no prisoners' attitude of the 2011 Dakar Rally continues with its latest victims being Paulo Goncalves and Frans Verhoeven of the BMW Speedbrain Team. Goncalves suffered a crash just before CP1. The Portuguese rider continued to the checkpoint complaining of shoulder pain. When checked by the medical team, his fears were confirmed and he was diagnosed with a broken collarbone. With that, Goncalves, sadly, is out of the rally. Sources also indicate that around the same position the 450 BMW engine of Frans Verhoeven packed up and called it a day. Amazingly, it was reported that Verhoeven was able to swap engines with Goncalves' now pilotless bike and the Belgian continued on losing 4h18'10". Not too bad considering an entire engine swap in the middle of the desolate Atacama Desert.

The early going was somewhat predictable with the top three starters playing ‘duck-duck-goose’ with the lead position. KTM Factory rider and overall rally leader, Marc Coma won out inheriting the lead, fellow KTM Factory rider, Cyril Despres kept his comfortable seat in second, while Chilean Aprilia rider, Francisco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez found himself without a chair and thus, fell to third on stage by WP1. The lead pack maintained this order through the rest of the stage although with iriTrack issues, Lopez’s position was difficult to ascertain after he passed waypoint 6. So too did Coma encounter tracking issues very late in the stage. Once the final times posted, it was clear that the three rally leaders rode together into the stage end.

After the stage, a visibly annoyed Cyril Despres commented about Marc Coma’s tactic of planting himself on the back wheel of Despres and following him home letting Despres pull the double duty of setting the pace physically on stage while doing the navigational duties for both. Such is the ruthless nature of top level motorsports. With his overall lead of 9’19”, Coma no longer needs to set the pace. Keeping Cyril Despres in sight is enough to best the Andorran for the top honors in this year’s rally provided that neither come afoul of any mechanical or physical issues.

The remaining riders through the top ten simply could not keep the lightning pace of the three top rally superstars. Yamaha’s Helder Rodrigues (+8’38”), Norwegian KTM pilot, Pal Anders Ullevalsetter (+25’03”), and KTM Factory rider, Ruben Faria (+29’06”) simply did not have the muster to chase down the lead boys and finished 4th, 5th, and 6th respectively.  Rounding out the top 10 were Alain Duclos (Aprilia), Jean De Acevedo (KTM), Juan Pedrero (KTM), and in amazingly impressive and consistent form for his first ever Dakar, American Quinn Cody on the Honda Team Europe CRF450.

The stage proved to be a cruel mistress for more than a few today. Of course we have the misfortunes of the BMW Speedbrain contingent, but as if yesterday’s headaches were not enough, American Jonah Street clouded a rock, damaged a front wheel and lost use of his brakes. To add insult to injury the magnetic sensor, from which all the speed information is taken for the navigation equipment, also sustained damaged and after making repairs on piste, Jonah completed the stage dropping 1h27’04” from Coma, doing so without brakes or navigational functionality. Fortunately for Jonah, he looks to have only dropped one position in the overall rankings.

Reports are also surfacing that the young Slovakian hopeful Stefan Svitko has had ignition troubles on stage and is broken down. Indeed after hovering around 6th fastest through the early part of the stage, he suddenly disappeared from the time sheets after passing through waypoint 7. It is also being reported that the condition is repairable and although losing considerable time, Svitko should be able to continue.

French rider David Casteu was notably off the pace today finishing the stage in 18th place, 52’48” behind the winner. Currently sitting over 9 hours back from Coma in the overall standings, perhaps the maturity and experience of the Frenchman dictates that a rally finish is better than further stressing the gearbox of his Sherco which has already given him significant problems on more than one stage.

Top ladies honors today go to Laia Sanz who, like Quinn Cody, continues to impress on her first Dakar Rally. Sanz and Cody are showing that perhaps the pokey little Honda CRF450 is the machine to have for first time Dakar riders. Sanz edged out Sweden’s own Rally Princess, Annie Seel, whose courageous day saw her competitive from the start even while battling a severe stomach illness and high fever. Sanz finished the stage in 42nd place, 30’51” ahead of the determined Seel.

As the stages begin to come down to the wire, the riders can no longer expect to make up lost times on subsequent days. With a new engine going in tonight, expect KTM’s Marc Coma to consolidate rather than stretch out the lead. Also expect Cyril Despres and Chaleco Lopez to fight, tooth and nail, in an attempt to grab back any time they can from Coma. The top three places overall span just over 22 minutes, well with pouncing time should Coma stumble with any sort of difficulty. While the rally moves into its latter half, it is far from over and at this point, there is enough time for some major changes to the leader board.

While the picturesque views and endlessly fluctuating sands are certainly alluring, in the parched expanse of the desert, looks are commonly deceiving. Stage 8 has proven to be too big an adversary for some and for those left struggling on the way to Copiapo, Stage 9, a deceptively short 235km, will be of little consolation as the loop from Copiapo back to Copiapo consists of long stretches of the ominous Atacama dunes just waiting to consume the next batch of those who dare enter its foreboding sanctum.

Stage 7 Moto Wrap Up

Special Stage 7 of the 2011 Dakar Rally was short and sweet or perhaps torturous depending on for whom you may be cheering along. Perhaps it was a visit from Chilean President Sebastián Piñera that helped propel Francisco ‘Chaleco’ Lopez to storm up from a 6th place start to take his first stage win in this edition of the rally on his seemingly bulletproof Aprilia.

Perhaps too Lopez figured that enough Chilean stages passed the superstar by that it was time to steal the day…and steal the day he did, in commanding fashion. Lopez wasted little time moving to the front of the pack picking off the big names like Marc Coma, Ruben Faria, and Cyril Despres along the way. By waypoint 3, Lopez stretched out a 1’03” lead over second place Cyril Despres. Stage opener Helder Rodrigues slipped down the order falling to an eventual 4th place at the end of the special.

Stage 7 was odd in that it was shortened considerably from its original, massive 631km special, the longest on the rally, to 272km, one of the shortest as the Dakar freight train steamed its way from its northernmost point in Arica down the Pacific Coast to “La Perla del Norte” and South American Dakar mainstay, Antofagasta. The official reason for the course change was due to the fact that stages 5 and 6 had been so difficult as to force as many as 50 competitors to spend a night out on the piste and many onto the withdrawal list.

More than a few top riders complained about this concession to the competitors having difficulty keeping up as a not very Dakar-esque decision. Venerable top competitor Pal Anders Ullevalsetter described this as removing the “soul of the Dakar”. This is not surprising as it is in these very difficult situations that the Norwegian starts to shine when others begin to falter. However you feel about the course change, it was Chaleco’s day to shine and shine he did. Never looking back after taking the lead at WP3, Lopez rocketed to the stage completion a full 2’21” over second place finisher, KTM factory pilot, Cyril Despres. Today’s win further strengthens Lopez’s grip on third place overall and moved him a few minutes closer to Despres in the overall standings led by today’s third place stage finisher, Marc Coma also on a factory KTM.

Rounding out the top ten stage finishers were Yamaha’s Helder Rodrigues in 4th, factory KTM rider and water carrier for Cyril Despres, Ruben Faria in 5th, and Slovakian, Svitko Stefan in 6th. Team Bianchi Prata’s Paulo Goncalves recovered from his disastrous stage 6 troubles for a respectable 7th place finish followed by a disappointed Ullevalsetter in 8th, BMW Speedbrain’s Frans Verhoeven in 9th, and water carrier for Marc Coma Juan Pedrero who put in another solid, consistent appearance for 10th place.

Where quite a few did not like the organizations decision to shorten the stage, it must have come as a blessing in disguise for GYTR Yamaha rider Jonah Street who was stopped between WP2 and WP3 with what he originally thought was a rally ending engine failure. With the threat of a sweeper truck looming, Jonah, not one to sit and wait, decided to turn the Chilean desert into a repair shop by tearing into his mount. He must have been relieved to discover that his motor was not only fine; it was able to carry him through to the stage end at a fever pitch but what plagued him was an electric gremlin that stopped Jonah in the desert for a considerable amount of time. Much to the delight of his followers, Jonah was able to tell the sweeper truck to go pound sand and continue on under his own power and cut his losses. Always the gentlemen, sources tell RallyRaidReview that his first order of business was to contact his wife through the ASO to make sure she knew not to worry when he didn’t turn up as expected on the timing sheets.

Consideration like that continually enforces his image as a true champion of rally spirit. So true this is also for Tina Meier with the Sherco rider helping along fellow female rider and competitor for the women’s honors, Annie Seel who had emerged from the rest day not rested, but nursing a stomach illness and high fever. Dogged determination will not allow riders like Annie Seel to stop. Like the terminator of rally, Seel keeps on against nearly all hurdles found in her way.

The determination award for stage 7 must go to Sweden’s Ronnie Bodinger who, nursing a hurt shoulder and possible fractured ribs sustained in a previous fall, rode with one arm for nearly the entire stage. Bodinger described, on his blog, having to stop often to clean the dust from his goggles as it was attracted by the tears that he was crying from pain. Bodinger nursed himself to the end of the stage in 102nd place. Such is the determination to finish what is often a lifetime dream for many competitors.

Indeed it certainly not a lack of determination that ended the rally of KTM 150 rider Luis Belaustegui. It was rumored that rider Luis Belaustegui took the start of Stage 6 just after a very late arrival from stage 5. Without any sleep, Belaustegui started the stage only to find a comfortable spot to stop and get some much needed sleep before continuing on through to the end in Arica. Unfortunately for Luis, he arrived too late into the bivouac on the rest day and was not permitted to continue. Devastatingly, his rally is over.

For those that have endured through the difficult stages leading up to the rest day, the Dakar continues on and begins its southerly plunge down through Chile on its way back to Buenos Aires. Over halfway through the rally now, the competitors can expect some very difficult and engine stressing stages in the dunes of the Atacama Desert with both upcoming stage 8 and 9 including more and more kilometers of pure sand delight. Picturesque for the fans and always appreciated and respected by the riders, the upcoming dunes will soon prove both a daunting challenge and also whether the current crop of 450cc engines are up to the task and the revs required. Stage 8 beings with a long 268km liaison with the first bikes leaving at 5:05am local time followed by an ominous 508km special stage as we move from Antofagasta to Copiapo. With Chaleco opening the stage and leading the way, expect perhaps the most exciting stage of the rally.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Early Scare Puts Jonah Street Fans On Edge

Along the route, between waypoint 3 and waypoint 4, Jonah stopped with what he originally thought to be terminal engine failure. Speculating that only after some moments of despair and communication with race control and a mention of the ever looming sweeper truck, Jonah turned his attention to the bike and discovered not an engine problem but an electrical one. Ever resourceful, Jonah traced and repaired the gremlin and started the stage again in a bid to regain the hour plus lost.

For Jonah's fans salivating over the time refreshes, it was moments of panic only to be replaced with moments of elation as he once again popped up on the timing sheets, at race pace, and moving along. Consolidating what could have been disaster, Jonah finished the stage in 53rd place provisionally. He will suffer a bit in the overall standings, so far dropping to 14th place, but there is quite a way to go. 

Go Jonah.

Luis Belaustegui Arrives at the Arica Bivouac...

...Unfortunately too late after stage 6. While the details have been hard to clarify, it looks as though after a long stage 5 and a night spent in the desert on stage, a late arrival for the start of stage 6 meant Luis began the timed section with no sleep. Rumor is that he took the start of the stage and found a spot to sleep for a few hours during stage 6 on Friday.

Per ASO adjustments, Luis had until Saturday at 6pm local time to arrive at the rest day bivouac in Arica, Chile. Reports look to be surfacing that he did not make it in time and indeed Luis is listed on the withdrawals list as of this time. With the withdrawals list being the kiss of death, although he is apparently lobbying for the ASO to reconsider, once a rider makes the withdrawal list, they are rarely, if ever seen to continue on.

Sad to see Luis go, he made a wonderful go at it and it is encouraging to know that it was not a mechanical issue on the little 150 two stroke that signaled his retirement from the rally.

Felicitaciones Luis! We hope to see you back!

Change for Stage 7

The planning of the Personal Dakar Argentina Chile has been designed from tough to tougher; next week will be full of difficulties for the rally raid contenders. After two very hard stages that forced a significant amount of contenders to only reach the bivouac during the rest day in Arica, the rally raid organizers have decided to start the second week of race by removing the second part of the 7th special stage between Arica and Antofagasta.So, after a 272.68 km special stage, the rally raid contenders will drive in liaison up to the bivouac.Although the 7th stage will remain really difficult, the adjustment - made possible by the way the rally raid has been designed with two special stages on certain days - will allow contenders to recover and get into the pace of an intense second week of race.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Quinn Cody Post Stage 5 Comments

You'd better be quick on your feet when Sainz is in town.

Jenny Morgan - RallyRaidio

JMo - Jenny Morgan talks with RallyRaidio just after surgery today to stabilize her leg which was injured in a fall during stage 4. I think the photo speaks to the devastation felt by all her fans when we heard the news we hoped not the hear.

Either way, Jenny is a Dakar champion through and through. Well done m'lady, well done. Now for the healing, as Bounds would say, "steady away".

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Jonah Street comments on stage 5

Another solid run by Jonah not giving up much time at all in the overall today. Go Jonah!!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stage 5 Moto Wrap Up

Drama, excitement, controversy, confusion, elation, devastation...If you enjoy all those things in combination, Stage 5 of the 2011 Dakar Rally is the stage for you.


It was a long day for the riders on the first full stage in Chile. 154 riders were slated to leave the start for a short, 36km liaison to the opening timing control, only to face a grueling 423km charge from Calama to the sea at Iquique getting their first real taste of the Atacama desert.


As the track widened from the defined roads and technical segments of Argentina into the expansive areas and salars of Chile, the navigational aspects of the rally have started to become more crucial and the more experienced navigators have shown hints of beginning to shine.


After opening the track, factory KTM pilot and overall rally leader, Marc Coma quickly and uncharacteristically dropped to sixth place at the first waypoint recovering a bit by WP3. Ever the opportunist, Chilean hero Chaleco Lopez and his Aprilia, wasted no time in taking the early lead ahead of the factory KTM of Cyril Despres and Yamaha star, Olivier Pain. Pain was not content with that however, and stormed off in a hurry to take the lead of the rally by WP3. The Yamaha pilot put a stamp on his early lead by stretching out to a comfortable 1'16" over his next closest rival, Lopez.


As this battle was forming, Coma had another uncharacteristic event, a fall near the 80km mark apparently hitting a hidden rock, damaging both his wrist and the radiator on his KTM 450 Rally. Consequently, Coma quickly dropped from the sharp end of the leader board. His downtime from the fall itself was not too long, but according to the ASO, he stopped again a few kilometers later to perform some repairs as his KTM was leaking coolant.


The battle up front tightened up with Pain maintaining the lead through the middle part of the stage from second place, Lopez. The two traded places briefly through waypoint 7 but Pain was having none of that and reclaimed the lead by waypoint 8. Shortly thereafter, Pain sustained what is being reported as a massive fall and retired from the rally with a broken arm. Chaleco was not able to capitalize on this though because it was time for the BMW of Speedbrain's Frans Verhoeven to take the spotlight and boy did he ever, pulling out a commanding lead and bringing Team Bianchi Prata's Paulo Goncalves along for the ride. Although physically separated on the track, the two riders stretched out a cushion of nearly two minutes over third place Chaleco Lopez.


Excitement gathered steam as 'Speedy' Goncalves started to gain on Verhoeven through the final waypoints towards what could be his first ever Dakar stage win. Fans and followers were on the edge of their seats as Goncalves took the lead at the last waypoint prior to the finishing approach down the beautiful, thirty degree descent to the picturesque seaside stage end. Physically first through to the end were both Chaleco and Despres with Chaleco the provisional winner, at least until the rest of the riders arrived or so I thought. A few minutes later, Verhoeven crossed the line and stunned followers by falling to a single second behind Lopez. It was all down to Goncalves at this point. He was physically quickest up through WP14, but when he crossed the finish, he had dropped a massive, by Dakar moto standards, 2'35" to Chaleco who now looked to have won the first full Chilean stage of the 2011 Dakar.


As the times from other riders refreshed, it looked as though many had encountered difficulty in the final kilometers of the stage and it looked like Chaleco would be the hero of the day. Soon after, the ASO began adjusting times crediting time back to both Marc Coma and Paulo Goncalves for having stopped and tended to the downed Olivier Pain. This time credit handed Paulo 'Speedy' Goncalves his first ever Dakar stage win and moved Coma back up to 4th place in the final standings. I am sure that if you listened closely, the world over could hear the cheers from Portugal. It was a much deserved stage win for a rider who has tried so hard.


The provisional finish for the stage shows Goncalves as the winner with a time adjusted and commanding 2'18" lead over the Aprilia of Chaleco Lopez, BMW Speedbrain's, Verhoeven in third just a second behind Lopez followed by a time adjusted Coma (+3'58"), Cyril Despres (+4'10"), Helder Rodrigues, Ruben Faria, Jonah Street, Pal Anders Ullevalsetter, and Juan Pedrero to round out the top ten. Pal Anders looks to be shaking off his early stage unease with his unfamiliar KTM and seems to be coming to grips with the riding style changes the smaller mount demands.


Another notable on stage 5 is the 22nd place finish of Quinn Cody, a Dakar rookie, navigational rally novice, but experience, top notch racer who again impresses on his first outing. Alain Duclos put in another solid stage in the hopes that the misfortunes of Stage 1 are finally behind him. Aussies Warren Strange and Jacob Smith both completed a smart run to bring it home 37th and 43rd respectively.


The big losers on the stage today were obviously Olivier Pain who fell from the lead, but also Thomas Berglund and Jes Munk who also suffered rally ending offs. Berglund suffering a broken collar bone in a fall from his Husaberg and Stage 3's hero Jes Munk who dislocated his elbow when his Aprilia went down.


The mystery today is what happened to David Casteu. The Sherco pilot hovered between 8th and 11th place through waypoint 4 only to lose a massive hour and 25 minutes between WP4 and WP5. There is still no word as to the cause with the ASO having reported simple, but repeated navigational issues. I find it hard to believe for such an experienced rider. The ASO's report is even harder to believe after studying the times and realizing the pace that Casteu undertook through the rest of the stage, eventually brining the Sherco home with a total stage time of 10h10'20" losing nearly 5 hours on this stage alone.


Stage 5 continued the trend of recent Dakar’s, lulling the competitors in with a few relatively calm easy stages, but like walking into the cage of a sleeping lion, the calm didn't last for long as the Dakar lion has now officially been awaken and is wasting no time in inflicting pain at those that dare come tempt fate.


Stage 6 is another massive, 456km stage and will be the first real taste of the famous (or infamous) Atacama dunes as the riders make their way from Iquique to Arica in northern Chile, just skirting the Peruvian border. Get some rest tonight, ice and splint those F5 fingers and be ready for tomorrows excitement, it's going to be another stunner for sure.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Stage 4 Moto Wrap Up

Stage 4 consisted of a long liaison over the Andes broken up only by the breathtaking views, breathtaking altitude, and the long anticipated border crossing into Chile, followed by a blindingly quick 207km stage in which Coma edged Despres by 16" to take the overall lead by a scant 2" difference. From a timing perspective, the two were nose to tail through each waypoint never more than 34" apart through the entire stage. A purely stunning display of speed and accuracy by the two factory KTM riders as they left all of their competition, literally and figuratively in the dust. The only rider really remaining within any sort of relative position was Chaleco Lopez on the Aprilia, perhaps seemingly stating to the rest of the field that the rally is now in his back yard.


Of course, for team F5, drama continues to play out and nails continue to get whittled down to their nubs as ASO timing and scoring continually dropped riders, and to that end, complete waypoints as no times were displayed for WP3 and the final WP.


Another solid display from both Jonah Street and Quinn Cody with Cody staying right there, impressing all with his pace on what is not only his first Dakar, but his first real navigational rally.


Many top riders looked to have some issues between WP2 and WP4 with many riders dropping considerable time to the two leaders with the next closest riders, aside from Chaleco, more than +6'20" back from Coma. Probably the hardest hit of the main bunch being Goncalves on the Team Bianchi Prata BMW dropping +15'11" behind the leader. Promising young Aussie, Jacob Smith dropped considerable time between WP4 and WP5 dropping from 17th to 80th place with a loss of 38'38" in that segment alone, contrasted by fellow Aussie Warren Strange's rapid ascent back up the standings starting 146th for a yet unknown reason and passing nearly 100 riders to finish up the stage in a provisional 49th place.


Coming to grips with his machine, and I'm sure not a moment too soon looked to be Pal Anders Ullevalsetter who clocked in at the stage finish in a provisional 10th place, just over 10 minutes back from Coma after a steady climb up through the standings from waypoint to waypoint. Solid rides by Craig Bounds and so far, by Simon Pavey, Luis Belaustegui, Mike Stanfield, and Jose Garcia. Jenny Morgan has not popped up on some waypoint times and many are worried as to what that could mean. Missing also is the Bultaco of Ignacio Chivite. Let's hope these are nothing more than ASO timing irregularities, or regularities as some may consider them.


No doubt Coma will want to extend his lead while Despres will look to claw it back as we move into the Atacama and what many consider the real heart of the South American Dakar. Be on the lookout for the upstarts that will soon realize that they need to stop the bleeding time deficits if they are to remain in striking distance of a win or a spot on the podium. We move into the desert, the dunes, and to some, the devastation of hopes dashed. F5's at the ready boys, it's just getting good.

Just because it is too cool

Ignacio Chivite and his Bultaco.

Click for the high res photo. Well worth the price of admission.

Stage 4 Preview San Salvador de Jujuy to Calama - Hola Chile!

Stage 4 kicks off with a massive liaison. As of this post, the riders have been leaving the bivouac at San Salvador de Jujuy enroute up to 4600 meters as they cross into Chile. What will the stage bring? Coma wanting to capitalize on his stage 3 win and carry that momentum? Despres wanting to stretch back out from the less than comfortable 14 seconds he now holds over Coma? Will it be Chaleco wanting to show everyone that they are now in his back yard? What about a surprise attack from Goncalves, Street, Viladoms, or Ze Helio? What about Ullevalsetter? Will he be able to come to grips with the 450 that has tormented him in the early stages.

No matter what happens by the time we get to the Bivouac at Calama, Stage 4 looks to be one to start separating the herd. Today, the riders will climb to new altitudes, cross new latitudes, and will certainly come away with new attitudes about what it takes to survive. Sit back, enjoy, F5's at the ready boys...

AventuraDakar Jose Garcia

Iritrack problems have us scratching our heads as to who is where, but Jose came in with a finish in the stage just as we'd hoped.

Just made of champion stuff...

I am in awe!!!

Jenny Morgan calls into RallyRaidio with a tremendous update about the goings on.

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Marcos Patronelli Out?

(Translated from Spanish)

Mark Patronelli, Dakar Rally Champion 2010 ATVs and who started the currentcompetition is still in full recovery of the fractured fibula he had during training in late November, suffered a further drop today and evaluate abandon the test.

"I see now with family and friends, but I think that this ends for me to Dakar. Lament forthe people, by Argentina, for the good vibes. I put everything, but when things do not go,do not go, "said Marcos, after the third stage joined Jujuy Tucumán.

Mark Patronelli suffered today, during the course of the third stage, a blow to one kneeafter a new fall and so is thinking of deserting from the competition.

"Everything is complicated. Yesterday I also had a small stroke and came barbarictoday, but the floor is very treacherous. I took the gravel and went outside. I went flyingbut fell back on one floor, I was lucky, " he said in remarks Patronelli to the press. The first day of competition Marcos was penalized six hours starting late.

"The quad was 25 meters from the runway and the climb was very steep, so I went looking and came as 15 people Salta and Jujuy. ropes and we got about 20 minutespulling out", he added.

Also, the pilot of Las Flores said: "I are announcing everywhere that I have to stay still. I will do the Dakar to come. Maybe there is a possibility that long morning, but I have hit hard knee, I have a very large hematoma "concluded Mark Patronelli.

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