Despite organisers having their plans, the weather had decided to thwart them. Due to heavy rain and flooded bivouac, the organisers had to cancel the Marathon plans between stages 2 and 3 – the Marathon rules state that drivers must service vehicles on their own without mechanics and any team support. Instead, both stages are now classic stages, with Monday’s route taking place between Ha’il and Al Qaisumah (568 km / 338 km), which put the competitors in front of their first challenging terrain with chains of dunes.
Champion moves up
Just before the start of the second stage, the Buggyra ZM Racing team lost one of its drivers. While the reigning champion Josef MachaÄek continues, the local favourite Saleh Al Saif had to retire. The Saudi driver had a brilliant start, but soon after he started to struggle with technical issues following a series of smaller incidents. And he was unable to make it back within the allocated time. “The fact is that Saleh is from Ha’il, where the stage started and ended. His retirement shows how very difficult this stage was, especially in terms of navigation,” said the team owner Martin Koloc.
Josef MachaÄek still believes in his own philosophy that the only way to succeed is to make it to the end and survive. He finished in 12th place, which moved up him to the 8th position in the standings. That is a big improvement by 12 places during only the first two stages. On the other hand, Seth Quintero, who had been dominating until now, today lost all his chances to achieve a good result.
“Today’s stage was very similar to the one we had yesterday. We had to deal with lots of wet sand and tracks. Even though we started at the front, we faced rutted tracks and dunes. Many vehicles had problems, but the Can-Am is handling well. The only issue was a belt, that started to get loose during the stage. In the neutral zone, we changed a tyre. We didn’t have a puncture, but it felt damaged, so we just wanted to be sure,” said Josef MachaÄek. “We focused on our own drive, even though some segments were so rough that even OT3 specials didn’t make it.”
Pedal to the floor
Just like in Prologue and the opening stage, Kamaz – Master drivers dominated the second stage as well. However, Ignacio Casale was not far behind, repeating his yesterday’s result that has moved him up to 7th place. “I’ve just finished an incredibly fast stage, full of dunes, driving on the limit and with a throttle pedal to the floor,” confirmed the Chilean from the Buggyra team. “So, just before the end, I’m happy that it’s behind us, but once again, I say that it could be even better.”
According to mechanic TomaÅ¡ Å ikola, the result was affected by the 60th kilometre of the stage. “We hit some hole and it looks like we have moved our steering a bit there. But Ignacio has shown that he can drive on the limit. In comparison to the last year, it was like 20% faster. At one point, we got ahead of Martin Macik, but then came the dunes. Anyway, the truck is running smoothly, and the Kamaz team had to do an insane pace. We saw them only at the start, neutral zone and the finish.”
Big things are coming
The Buggyra’s head of communication Jan Kalivoda agreed, that this stage was brutal in terms of speed, but it was much easier to lose than to gain. However, Josef and Ignacio kept their heads cool and made it to the end. “As I say every Dakar, it’s an incredibly difficult competition with many traps. In Josef’s category, there was no bigger favourite, after the first two days, than Seth Quintero and he had retired today. We’re still at the beginning and big things are coming.”
Results: Stage 2
T3 – Light prototypes: 1. Giullaume De Mevius (Belgium/OT 3) 4:02:24, 2. F. Lopez Contardo (Chile/Can-Am) +4.18, 3. Sebastien Eriksson (Sweden/Can-Am) + 6:46… 12. Josef MachaÄek (Czech Republic/Buggyra Can-Am) + 38:38
T5 – Trucks: 1. Andrey Karginov (Russia/Kamaz) 3:52:07, 2. Dmitry Sotnikov (Russia/Kamaz) + 0:38, 3. Eduard Nikolajev (Russia/Kamaz) + 2:14… 8. Ignacio Casale (Chile/Tatra) +15:58
Standings after Stage 2:
T3 – Light prototypes: 1. Lopez Contardo (Chile/Can-Am) 8:30:15, 2. Sebestien Eriksson (Sweden/Ca -AM) + 7:22, 3. Pavel Lebedev (Russia/Can-Am) +23:48… 8. Josef MachaÄek (Czech Republic/Buggyra Can-Am) + 2:01:47
T5 – Trucks: 1. Dmitry Sotnikov (Russia/Kamaz), 2. Eduard Nikolajev (Russia/Kamaz) + 2:07, 3. Andrey Karginov (Russia/Kamaz) + 18:34… 7. Ignacio Casale (Chile/Tatra) + 47:48
Buggyra Racing Organisation
Buggyra Racing Organisation
Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road
P.O.Box 31303 Dubai
United Arab Emirates
Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Empire Gazette USA journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.