BATTLING THE ELEMENTS: Team Rhide SA's Hannes Saaijman is 11th overall while team mate Brian Baragwanath's was forced to retire from the Dakar. Image: Team Rhide SA
IQUIQUE, Chile - After racing for a week and completing more than 4000km, South Africa’s off-road quad rider Hannes Saaijman (Team Rhide SA) is 11th overall in the quad category of the 2015 Dakar Rally.
Team Rhide SA’s debut Dakar Rally did not start well for Saaijman and his team mate Brian Baragwanath, the latter experiencing engine problems during the very first day.
Saaijman had to tow him for 620km – 100km in the special racing stage and more than 500km on the road to the overnight bivouac where the service crew changed the engine on Baragwanath’s Yamaha Raptor.
TOUGH START TO THE DAKAR
Both riders lost time and dropped down the field of about 200 motorcycle and quad competitors.
The pair recovered and Baragwanath posted times on par with those of the top three fastest quad competitors at the first few way points. Both riders were slowed by flat rear tyres though.
Baragwanath did his best racing with two flat rear tyres at one stage but he was eventually forced to retire. Saaijman was carrying a spareand had to make use it after he also had four flat wheels. He completed the day’s tough 685km.
Baragwanath runs his own workshop (BB Motorsport) in Centurion and he became part of the back-up crew to support Saaijman for the rest of the race. Saaijman tackled the third stage and admitted that he was trying to make up lost time. This resulted in him again getting flat tyres but he reached the finish to keep his 21st place overall.
At Stage 4, Saaijman was running in the second half of the quad field (33 of the 45 quad competitors who started the race, had reached Day 4) but to date he still leads the First Timers' Class.
Saaijman commented from the Iquique bivouac in Chile: “The terrain is extremely rough and the dust is very, very bad. The Dakar is not like racing anything we know back in South Africa and you have to approach it differently. That is what I decided to do.”
His strategy seemed to pay off as he finished Stage 4, the first stage in Chile, 22nd (he lost time due to electrical problems caused by the kill-switch wire that chafed through. He was then 19th in the quad category.
STAGE 5 - 6
Early morning starts and long hours did not hold him back and he posted the 13th-fastest time of the quads after Stage 5’s 458km to move up to 16th place in this class.
Stage 6 was the last stage before the rest day at Iquique, Chile and riders had to travel 322km to reach the start of the 318km special stage, which consisted of a 50km dune section.
Saaijman said: “Stage 6 was fast and rough. At some places over the pans you could not hold on to the handlebars. It was also extremely dusty and the fesh-fesh* got into everything. My quad died again and I lost time looking for the problem. It was the ignition switch that was damaged by the dust.”
NO ENGINE CHANGE
He managed to post the ninth-fastest time and this pushed him to 11th overall. At the rest day (Jan 10) nearly half the field has been eliminated - 24 quads still running. Former winner Rafal Sonik leads on a Yamaha Raptor.
Saaijman and his crew decided not to change engines as he was still satisfied with the quality of the current engine. They changed the axle (it was bent during the last stage); did an oil change and also replaced the chain and sprockets while they put new axle bearings, front hub bearings and seals on the Raptor.
The 37th Dakar Rally started on January 4 in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and will finish there on January 17 after motorcycle and quad competitors have had completed a total of just over 9500km through the toughest terrain in the world.
Team Rhide SA is riding for the Save The Rhino campaign, hoping to raise international awareness of the rhino poaching epidemic in South Africa.
Stay with Wheels24 for daily coverage of the 2015 Dakar Rally.