Stage 10: Survival of the fittest…

Today’s stage between Córdoba and La Rioja was the last in the Argentine mountains for this year’s Dakar and the special more closely resembled an enduro or WRC stage than postcard Dakar dune country. Still, it was heavy duty exercise from the outset on the riders’ bulky, fuel laden machines. Meandering soil tracks flanked by dense scrub wore down even the fittest athletes as they negotiated blind corners at speed for near on 5 hours. River crossings offered fleeting moments of respite from the stinking heat and dust but tacked yet another hazard on to the running list of potential show stoppers in the roadbook – the prospect of drowning an engine.

#156 Todd Smith was the fastest Australian on the stage today, spending most of the special in the top 20. #89 Brett Cummings stayed out of trouble finishing 30th for the day, and #131 Warren Strange was less than three minutes behind in 33rd on stage. #274 Paul Smith muscled his TRX700XX through the stage in just over 5.5 hours, safely within the top ten times throughout today.

Comments from Todd Smith:
“Had another good day today, put in a pretty solid stage and came in 17th which puts me into 39th overall. Even though there were fewer bikes in front of me today I still had to battle a fair bit of dust. It was a tiring stage, very hot but everything went well with no crashes! Have to tackle the Andes again tomorrow and we are back in the dunes… 4 long stages left, hopefully all goes well!”

Comments from Paul Smith:
“What a hot one. Nearly 50 degrees I’m told, and I struggled with it. Still got 9th though. Tomorrow is the nightmare stage of Fiambalá. It could take out nearly half of the remaining competitors with 50+ degree hot weather and quicksand-like terrain. I don’t care for results tomorrow just want make it through.”

GHR times and overall placings: MOTO
31st #131 – STRANGE Warren (AUS) 34h10m51s (+03:23:47 behind leader)
39th #156 – SMITH Todd (AUS) 35h12m51s (+04:25:47 behind leader)
56th #089 – CUMMINGS Brett (ZAF) 37h23m26s (+06:36:22 behind leader)
GHR times and overall placings: QUAD
12th #274 – SMITH Paul (AUS) 39h27m32s (+04:55:45 behind leader)

Stage 11: La Rioja > Fiambalá means a shorter distance for the riders, but all anticipate an exhausting return to sand dune country. The 256km north bound liaison will deliver the first bike to the start of the 220km special at 09:15. Race organisers estimate that the lead group should finish the stage in approximately 3.5 hours but the soft sand and inhospitable conditions will tax the rest of the field to breaking point as the day warms. To give them the best prospects of a trouble free run, the mechanics will make some bodywork modifications to boost engine cooling while all four riders are resting outside of the bivouac this evening. Tomorrow will definitely be an important factor in the final outcome for the rally.

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Stage 11: La Rioja > Fiambalá. Courtesy of” width=”590″ height=”267″ /><p class=Stage 11: La Rioja > Fiambalá. Courtesy of