Dakar 2011: Day 06
“And then there was one…”
Day 6 was yet another tough day. Warren Strange is now officially out of the Dakar and will be heading home shortly.
The stage headed south from Iquique and doubled back on itself to finish in Arica, all the while staying relatively close to the coast. Sand dunes abounded and the riders were forever rising and falling in conditions that made navigation challenging.
Initially, Jacob Smith was making good pace in the special, but his GPS stopped working. He stopped to attempt repairs and lost about half an hour. Jacob’s earlier start and stoppage saw Warren catch up and the pair continued on together to share the navigation duties.
The pair were riding close together when Warren was thrown violently from his bike, seriously damaging his shoulder. There was nothing Jacob could do but wait with him for medical assistance, so wait he did – for about 30 minutes. Warren was air lifted from the stage to Iquique and Jacob soldiered on to the end alone. He came in 50th today, and stands 34th overall. Unfortunately, because the GPS was not working it may be impossible to claim back the time he spent assisting Warren. The guys managed to move Warren from Iquique to Arica so he could be with the main crew for the rest day, but he is booked to fly back to Australia today.
Contrary to some reports suggesting Jake is feeling overwhelmed and down-trodden, he is still fiercely determined to finish the rally. Other than a couple of mistakes that can be attributed to this Dakar being his first, the race so far has been cycle of relatively small issues beyond his control that compound to cause 10 or 15 minute delays each day. While Jake and the team know that he has the pace to run with the top 20 riders, most stages have seen these delays put him down the start order the following day, where the laborious task of passing in dust swallows up opportunities to race hard. As Glenn put it, he’s serving his apprenticeship. Most of the great names in the sport are 10 years his senior and have all taken knocks along their journeys. But at just 22 years of age, Jacob gets up each morning and puts his gear on to do it all again – even if it means that he starts 86th on the stage as he did on Day 5. Not all competitors have willingly accepted the consequences of mechanical problems as was seen in the last stage…
Overall, the team are very happy with the way the bikes have performed. The few problems with them will be easily remedied for next time, but importantly there have been no mechanical failures that stopped any of the riders from proceeding. During the rest day everything will be fully assessed in preparation for the second week’s stages. The only good thing about having just the one rider still in the field is that the service crew can now dedicate all their time to Jake’s machine for the red of the event.
The hope is that with the rest day behind him, Jake can have a bit of a break from the bad luck and start banking some good specials.
The logistics of running the team remain a never ending challenge, but would be so much harder were it not for the friendly locals. Glenn called in at 1.00 am his time, having only finished dinner 20 minutes before. He’d been running around trying to find the motel earlier in the evening using the GPS, and of course, the address was not available on the map. He stopped the first two people he happened upon who turned out to be a couple on holidays from Santiago in Arica. Indicative of the hospitality experienced everywhere in South America, Connie and Marcel jumped in the car with Glenn and took over navigation without hesitation. They seemed to be enjoying the novelty of it all (they were unaware the Dakar was moving through Arica when they planned their holiday) so Glenn encouraged them to wave out the window, knowing full well what the outcome would be. In no time, a crowd had gathered as they seem to do when they see a vehicle associated with the Dakar. In return for their assistance, Glenn took them through the pits and introduced them to the team. They eventually came and ate dinner with Glenn and Jacob too. Total strangers earlier, they have become the “fixers” and interpreters for the team in Arica and everyone will part as friends. Such is the convivial spirit of the Dakar.
I have a heap of photos to sort out, so stay tuned!
More to come soon!
I have not had the call in from Glenn yet, but there is news just in that Warren Strange and Jacob Smith were riding together on the stage from Iquique to Arica when Warren came down hard. It appears that he probably has a broken shoulder and is being attended to in Iquique.
Jacob continued to finish 50th for the day, yielding another 01:52:41.
More updates coming soon…