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2013-01-09 13:27

JUST LIKE HOME: South Africans Darryl Curtis (pictured) and Riaan van Niekerk (KTM) are well up with the lead bikers in the 2013 Dakar rally in Peru. Image: Motorpics


AREQUIPA, Peru - The Dakar Rally is starting to show its teeth and the Broadlink KTM Rally Team’s Darryl Curtis and Riaan van Niekerk are meeting the challenge in true South African style, with resilience and fortitude.

Dakar rookie Niekerk, on a factory KTM 450 Rally, had a good day in Wednesday’s 289km special stage between Nazca and Arequipa. It was the longest and the toughest stage so far but the South African responded with a fine ride that saw him finish 11th - his best result so far – and only 15 minutes behind stage winner Joan Barreda Bort of Spain and improve his overall position from 33 to 25.

Olivier Pain of France (Yamaha) leads overall after four days and nearly 800km of specials.


Broadlink KTM team mate Darryl Curtis is also enjoying an excellent performance so far in his second Dakar. Despite a fall early in the stage he kept his cool and settled for a safe ride to finish 22nd, 4min30 behind Niekerk.

He maintains his 13th overall – much better than his 44th place at the same stage on 2012’s Dakar (he went on to finish 24th at his first attempt) – and is 18min behind Pain.

Curtis said: “Today’s special was pretty hectic – lots of fesh fesh, very dangerous, fast tracks. I fell off my bike this morning about 10km into the ride. I couldn’t get my rhythm back so I settled for a safe ride. Riaan did better and improved his overall position by eight places.

"We’re just trying to keep it together, carrying on doing the same thing every day and we should have a good result by the time we get into Santiago.”


Niekerk added: “It was a long and tough stage but I concentrated hard and just kept at it. It’s tough navigating while riding as fast as you can without hitting something and falling off but I’m getting the hang of it and feeling stronger each day.”

Overnight rain in Arequipa signalled the possibility of a wet ride on Wednesday, which could complicate things dramatically. The bikes have a shorter liaison and special stage than the cars.

Wednesday’s Stage 5 will start with a 136km special followed by a 27km liaison to Arica on the edge of the Pacific in Chile. The special stage will see a big change in terrain with stony tracks, river crossings and a series of valleys. The pace will be slower and navigation will be difficult.


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