Story by Scott Cox – Photos DPPI

Stage 13 – Labé to Tambacounda
Total distance 567km – 7km transfer – Special test 348km – Liaison stage

Chris Blais and the Red Bull KTM US Dakar team would like to extend
congratulations to Giovanni ‘Gio’ Sala for a heroic ride and his first ever
Dakar stage win today. Starting from the 20th position, this journeyman of
the rally circuit and multi-time Enduro champion proved that he had what it
takes to run hard when the going is very tough.
From – Giovanni Sala (ITA ?quot; KTM ?quot; 1st)
‘I am very happy about this victory. Today’s stage was very fast and
dangerous, with many holes. So, I avoided taking too many risks. Then, in
the mountains, it looked like an enduro course. And enduro is my business
(laugh). When I reached the refueling, I saw that Blais was already there
and I worried a bit. So, I attacked as much as possible until the end to
protect my third place in the overall ranking.’

‘Sala was on a mission today, that’s for sure!’ observed an elated Chris Blais #9 at the finish of Stage 13’s very technical slippery, rock and obstacle strewn ‘piste’. ‘I got a glimpse of his eyes at the fuel stop 210km in and he looked possessed. It was definitely his day.’

‘Gio is the nicest guy in the world but he gave me a look like he wasn’t gonna let some punk kid -like me- beat him. So I just said to myself, ‘let him go! He rides so fast. He was like no other enduro rider I’ve every seen. Incredible!’

Blais reported further that today was super technical and filled with opportunities for failure. One false move and its over with.

‘For sure, this was a stage that could easily have ended the rally for me or
anyone. It was full of tricky mountain passes and endless villages, which
often contain speed traps that we have to be very careful about. The climbs
and passes were sort of like running the Baja 1000 and heading up to Mike’s [Sky Rancho – a famous Baja racing destination]. But today I wanted to have a perfectly clean ride with everything working and I did. It was perfect.’

As has been the case each day of the rally, adjustments to the roadbook and
extra attention to danger situations have been a big part of Blais’ strategy. Due to severe weather and the effect this has had on the terrain, it’s vital that front runners, such as Blais, take extra care in nightly pre-ride prep and planning.

‘I corrected over 8 pages of the [road] book last night. Focusing on dangers
and ‘double dangers’ is necessary because of the weather they have had down here since the roadbooks were laid out in 2005. There are gnarly rain ruts
and problems that you cannot ignore.’

Blais’ only other major concern has been his IRItrack which the rally organization require be installed on his KTM. It provides telemetry and GPS
monitoring useful for scoring and, when necessary, a measure of safeguarding.

‘Two guys are reinstalling my IRI-track right now,’ said Blais. ‘They’ve been working on it almost every day because of problems in tracking the race. It’s a lot of hardware and wires, just hope they get it fixed right.’

Red Bull KTM Team manager, Joe Barker, equated the day to an ISDE (International Six Days Enduro) stage – ‘It was rough out there and Chris just kept his head and rode safely, rather than trying to beat everyone. This was a marathon stage and any little situation could have been disastrous if he wasn’t cool and calm. He’s a very smart rider and each day he gives us another glimpse of how good he is.’
FUNNY STUFF FROM BLAIS – ‘Today the helicopter was following, and I knew
they were rolling video but I really had to pee. Real bad. But I did not
want to pee on camera. After a while I just said ‘Oh the hell with it, I
gotta go!’ so I pulled over and did my thing. Last year, I would have just
let go in my pants but not today. You try to hold it, you try to talk
yourself out of having to go but it plays with your head and eventually you
gotta give in.’

Congratulations to American Jonah Street for continuing to prove himself as
a future star of the Dakar – (from – Jonah Street (USA – KTM – 5th) ‘Another good day for me on a stage even faster than yesterday’s, but sometimes a bit dangerous. I stopped when I saw Azevedo on the ground and stayed with him for about five minutes. Except a tiny mistake, I have been almost perfect in navigation. Actually, I improve every day. For me, the rally should last one more week to enter the top 10.’

Special: 348 km

Stage Results:
1. Sala (Repsol KTM), 05:03:49h
2. Despres (Gauloises KTM), + 03:12
3. Duclos (KTM), + 03:32
4. Coma (Repsol KTM), + 04:35
5. Street (KTM), + 06:28
6. Viladoms (Repsol KTM), + 08:05
7. Fretigne (YAMAHA), +08:07
8. Blais (Red Bull USA KTM), + 09:59
9. Rodrigues (YAMAHA), + 11:15
10. Goncalves (HONDA), + 12:40
11. Gau (Gauloises KTM), + 16:09
12. AgraCarrera (YAMAHA), + 16:17
13. Marchini (YAMAHA), + 17:04
14. Casteu (Gauloises KTM), + 20:05
15. Ullevalseter (KTM), + 23:14
16. De Gavardo (Repsol KTM), + 27:56
17. Algay (YAMAHA), + 28:59
18. Faria (KTM), + 32:03
19. Verhoeven (YAMAHA), + 34:17
20. Bethys (HONDA), + 38:49

Overall Results:
1. Coma (Repsol KTM), 52:09:45 h
2. Despres (Gauloises KTM), 52:41:01 h, + 31:16
3. Sala (Repsol KTM), 53:50:25 h, + 01:40:40 h
4. Blais (Red Bull USAKTM), 54:21:59 h, + 02:12:14 h
5. De Gavardo (Repsol KTM), 55:00:01 h, + 02:50:16 h, Penalty: 01.00:00 h
6. Ullevalseter (KTM), 55:33:13 h, + 03:23:28 h
7. Duclos (KTM), 56:07:17 h, + 03:57:32 h
8. Casteu (Gauloises KTM), 57:55:21 h, + 05:45:36 h
9. Rodrigues (YAMAHA), 58:28:53 h, + 06:19:08 h, Penalty: 02:00:00 h
10. Gau (Gauloises KTM), 59:27:45 h, + 07:18:00 h
11. Viladoms (Repsol KTM), 59:31:01 h, 07:21:16 h, Penalty: 40:00
12. Vinters (KTM), 59:40:35 h, + 07:30:50 h
13. Knuiman (YAMAHA), 60:12:44 h, + 08:02:59 h
14. Algay (YAMAHA), 60:17:49 h, + 08:08:04 h
15. Czachor (YAMAHA), 60:25:53 h, +08:16:08 h
16. Fretigne (YAMAHA), 60:56:14 h, + 08:46:29 h
17. Street (KTM), 61:40:00 h, + 09:30:15 h
18. Bethys (HONDA), 61:47:37 h, +09:37:52 h
19. Marchini (YAMAHA), 62:33:38 h, + 10:23:53 h, Penalty: 02:00:00 h
20. AgraCarrera (YAMAHA), 63:12:50 h, + 11:03:05 h, Penalty: 13:00 h


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