Tue 04 February 2014

Dakar 2014 in detail

Arriving on the second of January at Rosario in Argentina, we as HT Honda Rally Raid team welcomed our first time Dakar riders:   Carlos Gracida from Mexico,  Mike Johnson from USA,  Toomas Triisa and Mart Meeru from Estonia,  Thierry Traccan from France,  Nicolas Brabeck-Letmathe from Chili and Kazuhito Fukakusa from Japan.

All very excited to start this big adventure and all with the same goal “finishing in Valparaiso on the podium of Dakar 2014”.
In Rosario we had two days to finalise the bikes and prepare the truck with all material of the riders in order to leave on the 5th of January for the first stage. On the 4th in the morning the bikes all passed successfully the technical scrutineering and in the end of the afternoon the riders passed the podium in Rosario, ready for their big adventure. And a big adventure it was, as this Dakar promised to be a very tough one.
Already day 2 brought the riders into 100 km of dunes, part of a special of 359 km, with a temperature of over 48 degrees. This day already 22 riders had to give up, mostly due to dehydration, and unfortunately amongst them also our Japanese rider Kazuhito Fukakusa.  Kazuhito had also some dehydration problems and crashed in the last part of the dunes and hurt his back. He was helped by some very friendly Argentinians who even brought us the bike in the bivouac that night, people are really great in Argentina.

Kazuhito Fukakusa

Stage 3 tested the technical abilities of the riders as they already had their first marathon stage towards San Juan, climbing up to 4.300 meter, the highest point of the Dakar ever. We were able to solve the little technical problems they had by telephone and all 6 riders started day 4 in direction of Chilecito. This was a tough day and knowing the next stage to Tucuman contained a special stage of 527 km, riders were really tested. Nicolas did a great job, but perhaps with a bit too little experience as he said himself, and this monster stage exhausted him. Combined with the fact that his arm hurt a lot and due to dehydration he had to withdraw.
For sure ASO wanted to make this Dakar very hard for the riders, if you wanted to achieve the rest day in Salta you really had to be in perfect shape, both you and the bike! From Tucuman to Salta again a very long special stage of 400 km..… .achieving Salta was a great performance and the 5 riders left were more than happy to arrive; Carlos, Mike, Mart, Toomas and Thierry. In the first part of this Dakar 50% of the riders had to abandon or crashed, so if you arrived in Salta you almost had the feeling of the podium in Valparaiso…with still 7 stages to go.

Toomas Triisa, Thierry Traccan, Mart Meeru, Mike Johnson and Carlos Gracida

After the well deserved rest day in Salta, the bike riders left for their second marathon stage into Bolivia where they received a very warm welcome from the Bolivian people and even the president.
A beautiful special climbing up to Uyuni where they slept on a height of 3.500 meter.
Next day passing the Andes to go to Chili, again over 200 km above 2.500 meter, exhausting for the body. We were very glad to welcome all of them again in the sandy bivouac of Calama. Northern Chili with mainly desert, but a very nice coast line. The wind of the see bringing nice temperatures of around 30 degrees, so a big difference with Argentina and very nice for the riders.
Stage 9 with the beautiful descent of the dune at Iquique into the bivouac, a dune of about 600 meter height. Stage 10 and 11 were very tough again with a special stages of 631 and 605 km and the dunes of the Atacama desert. When you think that you are close to the finish, you have to watch out and stay focussed… But as Mart Meeru said “these dunes of the Atacama were finally what I had hoped of for the Dakar!”. Finally the last stage, stage 13, bringing the riders from la Serena to Valparaíso, not too difficult but long….so the riders had no time to lose to be in time for the very well deserved podium ceremony in Valparaíso!
As HT Honda Rally Raid we are very proud to be able to say that 5 out of our 7 riders achieved the podium; Carlos Gracida, Mike Johnson, Mart Meeru, Thierry Traccan and Toomas Triisa. For first time Dakar riders and with such a tough Dakar, this is really fantastic, congratulations guys!! Well done!

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