Empty Quater One of the few places on the planet that is not yet fully explored. The world’s fourth largest desert has an area of 650,000 square kilometers and has dunes up to 250 meters high. “We’ve done everything to make this the toughest stage the racers have ever driven here in Saudi Arabia,” warns David Castera, race director.
You could read all the important things about this stage here, but the competitors themselves say that they don’t really know what to expect from it. The 530-kilometer long stage is divided into two days, when they will sleep in several temporary bivouacs, depending on where the competitors reach by 4:00 p.m. “Even after the evening briefing, there are still a lot of question marks in the air,” says Martin Prokop, who has been working his way through the overall standings among the cars since the first stage and is in twelfth place.
“So far we know two things. The bikers have at least partly a different track, so the cars will have to navigate on their own. We drive 570 sharp kilometers, they drive 620. We made a pretty decent result today (P11), which means that we will start perhaps unnecessarily early. But Viky is good and you can rely on him, maybe we won’t get lost.” Well, what about the other one? “According to the organizers, it is realistic for the first competitors to reach the finish line of the overall stage already on the second day in the morning. It will start at half past seven, with minute intervals. The first cars can be at the finish line early in the morning. Then we will fly with Viki and the other competitors to Riyadh, where it is a free day, Shrek will drive with the boys on the road.
But first he has to reach the finish line of the stage called 48 Chrono. “It will all be on sand and it will all be heavy. I tried to spare the technique and us a bit today, but still good. I like the sand, but there are a lot of us here.’
Even something as trivial as running out of gas could stop them. “At least Toyota, Audi, Ford and we have no chance of covering the 570 kilometers without refueling,” says Prokop. “There will be a refueling zone, basically at such an intersection, but when it will be refueled, how much time it will take, how we will compare there if there are more of us, we don’t know yet and we have yet to find out. For the fact that it’s a quarter to ten in the evening, they’re quite a mess.’
Not even motorcyclists are clear. And they are waiting too. It is clear, however, that especially Czech riders like sand. Jan Brabec took twentieth place in the fifth stage, making the most of what he trained in Dubai. “But today it was only 118 km, tomorrow and the day after that it will be almost five times as much,” he laughs.
And how is the technology prepared for the 48 Chrono? “We will make rubbers, filters, oils, fluids and check the technique in general,” reports Dušan Drdaj from Moto Racing Group, consistently the best rookie at the Dakar. The mechanics at MP Sports will have significantly more work. In addition to new fillings, filters and tires, their Shrek will also get a new rear differential, new brakes and pads, and the rest remains to be seen.
“We’ll take out the front differential and check it, we’ll see what the oil is in the gearbox, if there’s a problem we’ll replace it. We will also check the exhausts, axles, bearings and we will certainly do the geometry,” calculates chief mechanic Petr Brynda. “We will have everything important in hand by the evening. The car is holding for now, but we don’t want anything to spill tomorrow.”
It will be similar in trucks. Yesterday’s stage there was won by Martin Macík, but the day before he took a penalty of more than half an hour when he missed two passing points. “But the Dakar is not even half over yet. The car holds and we are able to go fast. In short, we must not make navigational mistakes and we will see what the others do.”
For a change, Aleš Loprais lost half an hour in the fifth stage while repairing the starter. “I was glad we got it together. Tomorrow we will pull.’
All competitors agree that it will be important to prepare not only the technique, but also themselves. “Get a good night’s sleep. When we slept in the desert two days ago, it was terribly cold, and in those tents you can hear not only the one who sleeps with you, but also in the tents around you,” smiles Macík.
Today and tomorrow we are keeping our fingers crossed for all Czech riders! In cars, motorbikes and trucks, let them only make us happy.