Total distance: 568 km – 34 km transfer – 508 special test – 26 km liaison

My morning wake up call today was extra special. On the phone from the
Stage 8 finish in Nouakchott, Mauritania was an elated Chris Blais. The Red Bull KTM team rider had just wrapped up 2nd place for the day, the best finish of Blais’ budding Dakar Rally career. Here are a few highlights from Chris’ spectacular day:

CHRIS BLAIS ‘I guess it was a little bit of luck and a little bit of
everything today that worked for me. It was another wild day. Everybody is
charging way fast. Sometimes to just stay on top of the sand and not sink
in, sometimes to chase down the guy ahead, and sometimes to try to stay
ahead of the pack.

LOST! – At 272km in, there were big gap between the GPS waypoints and the
lead group [including Esteve, Coma, Despres and De Gavardo] ended up going
quite a distance off piste [off course]. We appeared to be going off to the right too far in search of the proper waypoints which are supposed to appear 3km before you get to them. Lots of confusion for everyone. I saw that
nobody had a proper read so I stopped and went to one side of the course,
retraced my tracks and went back 1 to 2km in the direction we’d come. I was
convinced that we were all at least 5km off course.

EUREKA! – I’d located the course again and acquired the waypoint we were all
looking for, I started to head back in the proper direction. Despres #1 and
Casteu #8 saw what I was up to and passed me. I dropped in with them and
chased ’em to the fuel stop. Had I not found the waypoint we would not have
found the fuel stop. And this is not a place where you want to be lost and
out of fuel.

MAALOX MOMENTS “I began the day with a bad stomach so I had to stop and
take care of business at 60km. I lost a few minutes taking care of my situation but it was worth it. Believe me.

SAND, SAND & MORE SAND “The sand out here is endless and tricky. At first
very fast washes then super soft sand then lots and lots of loose rocks and
more sand. I kept pushing hard but I wasn’t comfortable going so fast. After
the sand and rocks the course entered a twisty, 2nd gear brush sections.

MEN OVERBOARD “Everybody was crashing, and often. I watched guys like Gio
Sala #6 and Andy Caldecott #10 falling off and getting stuck in the very
soft sand. Everybody is falling no matter how much experience they have.
Pro or amateur they’re all going down. Again and again. Everywhere you
looked riders were cartwheeling. We skid off dunes and roll over. One time
I fell down hill and couldn’t unstick my bike. I’d try to turn it around but
the bars would just dig deeper – a bad spot an extreme angle. I tore up
parts and ended up riding the last 120km with no front brakes. To make
things worse we had very windy, sandstorm conditions. It was much warmer
today and my feet were hot all day from endless standing. You couldn’t sit
ride you had to stand on the pegs all day.

GOOD SAMARITAN – At one point I launched off a small cliff and went down. Caldecott stopped to get me going again. I dropped in behind and let him
lead the way after that. He did me a big favor by helping me. I owe that guy
a big one!

“Approaching a fuel stop I hit a road crossing and launched my KTM about 60-feet! It was very scary. It was like clearing a big double. Fortunately I didn’t crash but it was hairy – not something I expected to see and I was disappointed that it wasn’t marked in our road books.

CARNAGE “Both Casteuas and Fretignes bikes were very torn up. They’d
obviously gotten off hard and lost pieces and parts including road book
holders, which you can’t navigate without.

FINALLY A DAY OFF! ” The entire Red Bull KTM US Dakar team is glad to have
arrived at the rest day. Speaking for myself I need a break to make the
rally fun again. For me it gets tiring riding every day as much as we do and
24-hours off the bike will be awesome.

SIGHTINGS, ETC – In the beginning we went through 4 or 5 villages then 300km
where we didn’t see a thing. No living beings.

Jonah Street, passed me on his 525 KTM. It’s better suited for the tight
stuff and he blasted by in the twisty section.

About 50km from the finish there was some guy on an Adventure bike riding
along straight toward us, appearing to be having a good time. I thought ‘Who
is this guy coming at me? And what the is he doing way out here?’

The roadbook hasn’t been as good as it should be. We went for 15km where
there were no notations, nothing to gauge from. You can’t go in a straight
line and detect partially visible tracks but they are not reliable.

We see photo guys every so often. When you are out there you realized there
is nothing out here. The organizers tell us how much fuel need to be in the
bikes. I always want a little bit extra so that if I get lost I won’t also
get out of gas, too. If you are all by yourself and nobody else goes.

BLAIS ON GRIDER “After the stage 7 start I never again saw Andy [Grider
#23]. I had branched off with a couple of other riders during the stage and
our paths didn’t cross. Until I finished riding yesterday and arrived at the bivouac, I had no idea that he’d been hurt or that they had transported him to the hospital in the Canary Islands.

HOW THINGS WILL CHANGE WITH 1 MAN TEAM “Andy’s mechanic will stay on to
help out and gain experience but now we’ll just have one less rider. Both
mechanics, Matt Spencer and Matt Hebert are working on my bike right now. A
decision was made to leave the same engine in the bike because it’s really
been running well. No problems at all. Normally we would change the engine
by now but we’ll leave the bike as is. My WP forks and rear suspension never
even get serviced, they’re good. Same grips. Same bars. Same seat, very
nice. Same bodywork, no damage at all.

JOE BARKER CHECKS IN: Red Bull KTM US Dakar team manager, Joe Barker, is the
tireless captain of the American team. His flashlight burns into the wee
hours of each rally morning while he checks and rechecks the all important
details that will assure that his riders and mechanics will have a chance to continue on until next weekend. Today, he was elated to locate and secure a house, with one bed [maybe for Blais?] so that his guys might seek a few hours of refuge from the blowing sand.

It’s really blowing out at the bivouac. Couldn’t see anything, couldn’t
breathe. The bivouac is 3km from the airport which doesn’t allow easy access, we couldn’t just run back and forth. There are a ton of military types
around these parts. So thanks to our friend Jordi Arcarons, we’ve been able
to secure a house for the rest stop and it’s been a real treat. Steak and
pasta dinner. Showers. It’s all good!

Stage 8 rankings : Special: 508 km

Stage Results:
1. Casteu (Gauloises KTM), 05:55:55h
2. Blais (Red Bull USAKTM), + 02:13
3. Despres (Gauloises KTM), +02:17
4. Esteve Pujol (Gauloises KTM), + 06:58
5. Coma (Repsol KTM), + 08:02
6. Caldecott (Repsol KTM), + 08:47
7. Rodrigues (YAMAHA), + 09:51
8. Vinters (KTM), + 11:24
9. Viladoms (Repsol KTM), + 12:16
10. De Azevedo (KTM), + 13:52
11. Sala (Repsol KTM), + 14:07
12. De Gavardo (Repsol KTM), + 15:21
13. Bethys (HONDA), + 16:24
14. Ullevalseter (KTM), + 25:38
15. Duclos (KTM), + 30:33
16. Meillat (HONDA), + 45:03
17.Piroud (YAMAHA). + 48:06
18. Rivera (KTM), + 49:44
19. Stanovnik (KTM), + 52:15
20. Gau (Gauloises KTM), + 54:07

Overall Results
1. Coma (Repsol KTM), 30:49:20 h
2. Esteve Pujol (Gauloises KTM), 30:55:43 h, + 06:23
3. De Gavardo (Repsol KTM), 31:01:09 h, + 11:49
4. Despres (Gauloises KTM), 31:16:14 h, + 26:54
5. Sala (Repsol KTM), 31:33:48 h, + 44:28
6. Caldecott (Repsol KTM), 31:36:49 h, + 47:29, Penalty: 02:00
7. Ullevalseter (KTM), 32:01:33 h, + 01:12:13 h
8. Casteu (Gauloises KTM), 32:10:36 h, + 01:21:16 h
9. De Azevedo (KTM), 32:17:27 h, + 01:28:07 h
10. Blais (Red Bull USAKTM), 32:17:56 h, + 01:28:36 h
11. Duclos (KTM), 33:32:18 h, + 02:42:58 h
12. Gau (Gauloises KTM), 33:50:01 h, + 03:00:41 h
13. Czachor (YAMAHA), 34:14:30 h, +03:25:10 h
14. Bethys (HONDA), 34:38:15 h, +03:48:55 h
15. Rodrigues (YAMAHA), 34:40:54 h, + 03:51:34 h
16. Marchini (YAMAHA), 34:41:55 h, + 03:52:35 h
17. Stanovnik (KTM), 35:01:38 h, 04:12:18h
18. Vinters (KTM), 35:15:27 h, 04:26:07h
19. Viladoms (Repsol KTM), 37:10:18 h, + 06:20:58h
20. Piroud (YAMAHA), 37:23:22 h, 06:34:02


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