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Close call for SA Dakar bikers

2012-01-04 11:38

The four South African bikers of Team Memo Tour were pitted in a race against time to take starter's orders for the first special stage as their racing machines had a longer sea cruise than expected.

The SA team suffered delays when they sent their vehicles to South America from South Africa.

Dakar 2012 gallery

Iain Stevenson, who took part in th 2011 Dakar said: “The container was expected in Brazil to change ships and then it should have arrived at Delta Dock on December 20. When we didn't have any news about its arrival, we soon understood there had been a problem. In fact, the container wasn't unloaded and reloaded in time and in the end the bikes took a different ship which left Sepetiba a lot later than planned."

Rider Neil Scott-Williams recalled the tense situation as the team waited for news: "We left South Africa without knowing whether we would be able to start the rally, but told ourselves we had to try.

“We experienced a whole range of emotions but the last two days were absolutely terrible. The rally organisers went to incredible lengths to make the procedures easier for us, in particular for customs. However, on  December 30 we were following the ship's progress via on-line tracking and we were totally stressed, all the more so since on December 31 the port offices were due to close at 3pm."

'COULDN'T FACE COMING BACK'

However, the day before the start of the Dakar, there was still no sign of the ship. In the end the container was unloaded and the riders got their hands on their bikes only a few minutes before closing time.

While David Castera had made plans to allow the South African bikers to undergo a whistle-stop technical scrutineering session there was still the question of reaching Mar del Plata (almost 500km away) and fitting the bikes with the essential safety equipment.

For Darryl Curtis, the relief of taking starter's orders and reaching the first bivouac in Santa Rosa ended the teams anxiety:

“We had been preparing for this for so long! I think that if it hadn't worked out right, I couldn't have faced coming back again”.