SA riders cling to top 20
SA'S DAKAR HOPEFUL: Riaan van Niekerk powers his KTM through stage 6 of the Dakar Rally. He's 17th overall.
ARICA, Chile - South Africans Darryl Curtis and Riaan van Niekerk, racing for KTM, are still in the top 20 as the Dakar 2013 enters Day 6 of its 8500km, 15-day journey from Lima, Peru to Santiago, Chile.
Curtis, competing in his second Dakar after finishing 22nd in 2012, finished 24th on the 136km special stage five from Arequipa to Arica in Peru. Curtis is 15th overall in the general classification for bikes.
Niekerk continues to enjoy an impressive Dakar debut and is currently 17th overall, two minutes behind his team mate. He completed stage five 19th, three minutes ahead of Curtis.
'FESH-FESH' TAKES ITS TOLL
Curtis said: “Today (January 10 2013) was our last day in Peru before crossing into Chile. A short special stage that didn’t go so well for me. I had another slow crash in the fesh-fesh (powdery sand) that’s like a magnet to me. That stuff goes everywhere, in your goggles and everywhere else, and makes you very uncomfortable. Later on my stand spring broke so I had to stop and try to make a plan with cable ties.
"Tomorrow is a big test for us, the longest special stage of the rally so far. We’re both quite comfortable at the moment. We’re just taking it day by day and, with a bit of luck, we can hold our positions or improve them by the time we reach the finish in Santiago."
The stage was won by David Casteu (Yamaha) in 1hr39min42 ahead of Olivier Pain (Yamaha) and Juan Pedrero (KTM).
Pain holds the overall lead from Casteu with an advantage of 1min15. Defending champion Cyril Despres (KTM) is third overall.
Niekerk commented: “It was a bit easier today on what was quite a short stage. The fesh-fesh is very difficult to ride in. It’s like a thick dust that makes it impossible to see where you’re going. It’s dangerous, because it can hide rocks and other obstacles that can cause you to fall.”
Stage 6 from Arica to Calama is a 313km liaison stage and a 454km special – the first special stage in Chile.
The stage is split into two parts, with a 97km neutralisation section after 229km. It reaches 3000m above sea level before dropping back to 2400m at the finish.