Wasteland, a dreaded place in Saudi Arabia. Endless dunes, sometimes up to 250 meters high. Three roads lead through it, you will not meet people or animals here, no sensible person will go there without water and fuel in canisters. And there, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, was the 48h Chrono, the first such stage of its kind on the Dakar.

If you follow Dakar, you already know. Seven bivouacs and wherever you reach before 4 p.m. on the first day, you sleep there. No mechanics, just what you carry for possible repairs. No RVs, just a tent and military rations. Different route for motorcycles and for cars with trucks. The next morning it starts at sunrise, in minute intervals. At the last minute, the organizers had to adjust the length of the stage because they only had one refueling zone and most of the cars in the top Ultimate class would not reach it despite having fully filled 500 liter tanks. In the end, the cars and trucks had to complete 547 racing kilometers.

Foto: Red Bull

In Empty Quarter, Loeb was great. But Sainz and Ekström were able to hold on to him and lead the standings. Al-Attiyah’s predictions that the electric Audi would only last two days proved wrong.

The organization of this demanding stage was rather faltering. Even at half past eleven in the evening before the start of the 48h Chrono, the organizers changed the rules. “The longest and hardest stage awaits us, we get up at three in the morning and instead of sleeping, we wait to see what tomorrow will be like,” the motorcyclists lamented. Riders and navigators in small teams ran around asking questions. In the big teams, the competitors had a convenience store, the others arranged it for them, with the idea that they would try to set everything up.

“Long into the night we calculated how we would manage with the fuel,” explains Ivan Matoušek, Prokop’s engineer. You can fill up, but then you’ll be carrying unnecessary kilos. And that’s how we put some extra parts in the car. We calculated what the crossing would eat up, like in the dunes, and how much to top up for the rest of the stage.”

Photo: Orlen Jipocar ​​Team

Martin Prokop and Viktor Chytka drove Shrek to the finish line in ninth place overall and are currently ninth. “Being in the dunes with this car is a huge experience.”

The mechanics were preparing the equipment as best they could, with the view that some of them were waiting for the 850 kilometer long transfer to Riyadh the next day. Others were waiting in the Empty Quater bivouac for equipment and will not leave until today. The contestants will fly by plane. That is, if they reach their destination…

Because 48h Chrono was a network for everyone. Favorites and no-names ended up in it. At the time when I am writing these lines in the parking lot in Rijhád, there are not many competitors at the finish line (including the Czech ones). Just yesterday, Al-Rajhi, a local rider and one of the favorites, crashed. Peterhansel in the Audi ended up with a hydraulic failure. And Skyler Howes, one of the best bikers, also had problems. From the Czechs, Ouředníček stopped, who apparently slept in the dunes, and the stars of the Buggyra team spent the night in the dunes as well (de Baar got stuck and Valtr helped him out and with repairs). Dušan Drdaj, a promising Czech motorcyclist, retired in tears with a punctured tank.

And this morning a stop sign for Nasser Al-Attiyahs, who was stopped by a broken steering wheel and waited three hours for an assistance truck. Just yesterday, I and all the Dakar fans were enjoying the ease with which it surfs in the sand – the video you can see on my social networks sums it all up. And Martin Prokop came with the information that for the second half of the stage Prodrive is preparing a more durable suspension for Al-Attiyah so that he can push harder. Late.

I write on a computer, open live timing and news from the organizers on my mobile. The lucky ones who are at the finish line are overcome with emotion. The others are still fighting on the track. The dunes of the Wastelands are not only huge, but also loose and treacherous. When you see some of the descents, the dreaded funnels and that sandy infinity, it makes a person wonder without being there. “Even the organizers didn’t expect that it could be so challenging,” said Prokop at the finish line. This is also evidenced by the fact that the last of the seven bivouacs remained empty last night, no one had reached it.

Martin Macík spoke similarly at the finish: “The feelings are really incredible, today we are really happy.” Mitchel van den Brink reached the finish line second in the trucks, he had a loss of almost an hour and five minutes to Macík even in the specialization, followed closely by Aleš Loprais.

In cars, Loeb won the hardest stage of this year’s Dakar, Sainz finished just two minutes behind him after more than seven hours of driving. Third is another Audi, imported by Ekström. These two are also at the head of the current standings in cars.

Among the bikers, Ricky Brabec from the USA takes first place, the best Czech Martin Michek rides with an injured hand and dropped to eleventh place. A heroic performance is then shown by Libor Podmol, who after a fall in one of the previous stages has nine stitches on his eyebrow and can only see in one eye due to a huge monocle.

The Dakar caravan split up

And I? Dear diary, yesterday a hundred kilometer trip to the start of the 48h Chrono, which was the best start I have seen in the five years here at Dakar in Saudi Arabia. Motorcycles and cars started together, but each went in a slightly different direction. Nervousness, anticipation, adrenaline and sand. An awful lot of sand everywhere.

Then a hundred kilometers back to the bivouac, pack and change things and head towards Riyadh. Only 850 kilometers. The camper van, i.e. the bedroom of Martin and Viktor, also drove, as did one service truck. Another truck remains in the Wasteland, as does a smaller DAF, which mostly functions as a kitchen and bedroom, but will now be a garage for Shrek at the crossing.

Photo: Jan Červenka

How many kilometers is it? All!

Now everyone is on their way too. The first three hundred kilometers will be driven on completely empty roads, only the Dakar caravan. Then it will get worse, the traffic will increase and the locals are definitely not the kind of drivers you want to meet. Most of the road is straight, so everyone is looking at their cell phones. Attention zero. The boys will have to watch out for them too.

A while ago, we still had time to wash the three cars we have here, the sun is already frying. Still, I get goosebumps when I look at the results, photos and videos. This is Dakar too. Tomorrow is a day off, but whoever came up with the name has probably never been to the Dakar. Everyone will be screwing, repairing, putting together technology and themselves. And then the second half begins…

Thanks for being with us!