Right now, the mechanics are taking care of the machines in the bivouac, most of the riders are at the briefing and those who were not so lucky are still struggling somewhere on the track. “The whole turbo engine was completely useless to me today when I had to drive so slowly,” Martin Prokop, who we were waiting for before we disappeared into the desert, blathered a while ago.

Each of the people here, regardless of whether they are drivers, navigators, mechanics, team managers, journalists, photographers, in short, anyone, started living their next Dakar story today. The first thing is to do your job as well as possible. Then eat. And finally, at least get some sleep.

David Castera already promised in the summer in Prague, when he presented the Dakar 2024, that it would be the most difficult year that was raced in Saudi Arabia in the past five years. “And he obviously didn’t lie,” says motorcyclist Jan Brabec at the finish line. “The first two hundred kilometers were fine, but then we drove around volcanoes, on lava and on rocks. Terrible. I passed a couple of guys who broke it. Among them was the Spaniard Schareina, who was thirteenth last year and was also the winner of Friday’s prologue. It is said that Michael Docherty, who was probably leading the way, also had to quit after the fall. And the cars had to have problems too, didn’t they?’

Foto: Marian Chytka (MCH Photo)

The prologue was just a warm-up, but in the first stage it was already pretty tough, confirms motorcyclist Jan Brabec.

Well then. Martin Prokop made two punctures in the first one hundred kilometers and was clearly troubled by the rest of the stage, he has a loss of fifty minutes. “I had to drive slowly and leave a lot of time there, because if I drove fast, I could have left the whole race there.” The very first car that started for the stage hit a careless spectator three hundred meters after the start, who was transported by helicopter to the HOSPITAL. It meant a fifty-minute delay for the entire Dakar convoy, so the organizers shortened the track to 281 sharp kilometers for the trucks.

Another Czech favorite, Martin Macík, also had problems in the stones. The eighth finished between the trucks with a loss of less than twenty minutes. “We set a beautiful pace, we cut one after another in a row. Then we cut the rock, which is my fault. And we had to change the tire.”

Brabec, in 37th place, loses over an hour to the fastest motorcyclist, eighteen minutes to the fastest Michek.

As you can see, in the very first stage, many took a bigger loss than has been the custom in the Dakar in recent years. Sébastien Loeb loses more than twenty minutes after the first stage, five-time champion Nasser Al-Attiyah nearly twenty-five. Peterhansel, like both appointments, also had two punctures and lost 32 minutes on the first one. And have you ever heard the name Guillaume de Mevius? No? So he won the car category today.

In all likelihood, it will be carried out in a similar spirit in the next stages, at least in the first half of the competition. Even the biggest favorites can burn like paper and unknown names can shine. It will want to grit its teeth and go kilometer by kilometer, stage by stage. No one would be surprised if, unlike in previous years, at the end of the Dakar Rally, the competitors were not separated by tens of seconds, but by minutes. “I’m calm, all my rivals had the same bad luck,” said Loeb at the finish line.

Photo: Jan Červenka

The working environment in Dakar is very, very makeshift.

Well, that will be their fight. My struggle will be to write about it and then send it directly from the place to the Czech Republic. I thank the guys in the editorial office for any help and you for your patience. We have a local data connection, but that is often tens or hundreds of kilometers of absolutely no use to you. And when the entire Dakar caravan gathers in the bivouac in the evening and everyone tries to connect to the Internet, or maybe just send a message home that they are fine, there is nothing left but to go somewhere on the signal.

And one more thing you asked: “How do you go to the toilet in Dakar?” So that it is clear once and for all. Most racers can handle it because they have completely different concerns. When they don’t and they want to pee, they drop it in their overalls. Or they have some kind of condoms with a tube. When they want to go big, they have to hold on. The best simply do not stop.