(Report by Scott Cox – Photos by P. Batini…Thanks also to www.ktm.com and www.dakar.com)
Ouarzazate to Tan Tan – Total distance: 819 km – 187 km transfer – 350 km special test – 282 liaison
America’s Dakar Rally hopefuls, Chris Blais #9 and Andy Grider #23 continued to forge forward on today’s lengthy 500-mile plus stage across Southern Morocco’s Adraa Valley. With four days in and nearly one-third of the rally behind them, the Red Bull KTM riders have found their race pace.
Today’s 4am start was anticipated with some remorse by riders and technicians alike. Not only would it deprive them of much needed sleep, it would open the door on a tough, two day marathon. Thursday’s stage 6 start from Tan Tan begins at the even more ungodly hour of 1am. Service, if available at the end of the stage will be limited at best so preserving bodies and equipment are the order of the day.
Thick morning fog and overcast conditions made it impossible for support planes and helicopters to fly. Suffering also is the ability for teams and riders to communicate with the outside world and stateside followers (like me) who have enjoyed daily contact and updates since before the rally. (Apologies for a lack of rider quotes and anecdotes in this report.)
Support vehicles and team trucks are today sharing the same track as the competitors, no short cuts and no other way out. No team vehicles will be allowed to begin the journey before the last rider has taken the starter’s signal in Ouarzazate.
ONWARD – There is still a lot of distance to cover and a lot of race to be raced. As the mileage clicks by and the days blend one to the next, second year veteran Blais will have the chance to dig deep into his 2005 Dakar bag of tricks – when the going gets tough and when he recognizes an opportunity for attack. On the other hand, every new Dakar day and every new obstacle is a new learning experience for rally rookie, Grider. Already he?s suffered reality’s harsh reprimand but he remains unshaken in his resolve and commitment to excel. As he claimed prior to the start in Portugal, ‘I’ll ride my own race.’ And every indication is that this continues to be Grider’s plan.
MEONI REMEMBERED – This item from www.ktm.com – One of the private riders is Italian Fabrizio Mugnaioli, a 44 year-old farmer from Tuscany. We met him near the airplane that transports the metal cases, one for each rider. There the competitors can store everything they want only limited by the volume of the boxes. Normally, a sleeping bag and spare parts. Fabrizio is competing on an old 2001 KTM Rally Replica that the late Fabrizio Meoni gave to him. The motorcycle is conserved as the reminder of a friend and a Champion we will never be able to forget. Rankings: 5th stage ? Special: 350 km
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