End of a very tough marathon stage with atrocious conditions and the drivers nearly refusing to go out. Despite this, HIMOINSA Team obtained its best classification
The cold and the rain made this second part of the marathon stage even harder. The riders left the Salar de Uyuni salt plain and completed a special section divided into two parts with a neutralised section. Rosa Romero and Antonio Gimeno enjoyed their best stage yet and are still 45th and 47th respectively. Given the atrocious weather conditions the drivers contemplated refusing to go out. According to the latest reports, Miguel Puertas is due to travel to Barcelona to be examined by the medical team headed by the doctor Xavier Mir, who operated on his torn ligaments in the past.
After spending the night at 3,600m and having completed the first part of the marathon stage, Rosa Romero and Antonio Gimeno joined the rest of the motards for an early start. Given the low temperatures and the heavy rain, raincoats, fleeces and coats were very much the order of the day. The drivers gathered around Marc Coma to try and persuade him to refuse to set off in such inclement conditions but the organisers refused to budge and the stage eventually got under way. During today’s 784 km-long stage, up to 46 drivers suffered from hypothermia and many had to be airlifted from the race and forced to withdraw.
Antonio Gimeno gave us his views on the punishing past two days of The Dakar. “We’ve gone from a stage with extreme temperatures and suffered dehydration to a mammoth stage and nearly hypothermia. It began to rain in the last 100km yesterday and that, combined with being at 4,000m, was sheer madness. We were soaked through and freezing cold by the time we reached the bivouac … When we got up this morning it was still raining and apparently it had even snowed in the night. The organisers didn’t want to cancel the special stage so we set off for Salar de Uyuni which was like crossing a marsh. Loads of bikes skidded and there were tonnes of problems. But we’re still in one piece and thinking about tomorrow.”
We were also able to speak to Rosa Romero who had yesterday finished exhausted and today told us she couldn’t believe the special stage had gone ahead. “We made it today. The past two days have been really tough, especially yesterday. It rained and the terrain was extremely slippery and we had about three hours to cover the last 100km. I arrived at camp on the brink of hypothermia, I saw the doctors and then had a hot shower and something to eat. I had a really bad time yesterday. It didn’t make any sense to go out today in such treacherous conditions, the organisers wanted to go ahead and I just couldn’t believe it. Everyone overtook us as we were going at 120km/hr but we were lucky as our engines held out, our radiators didn’t get clogged up and we were able to overtake lots of drivers. Antonio’s advice today was spot on.”
The HIMOINSA Team duo are sticking to their flawless strategy in The Dakar and are 51st and 52nd. Other Spanish drivers had to pull out today, including Jordi Viladoms whose engine packed up.
Miguel Puertas, the airforce Lieutenant Colonel forced to withdraw, is already in Utrera, Seville, resting with his family. He’s due to fly to Barcelona to be assessed by Xavier Mir’s medical team. Dr. Mir has operated on his shoulder in the past and has also operated on Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez. Puertas will be treated by one of the leading joint specialists and will soon be on his way to recovery.
In the push for victory, Joan Barreda has had to withdraw from The Dakar. Today his bike wouldn’t start and he had to be towed away by Jeremías Israel. This comes just one day after he’d managed to mend his broken handlebar. So Coma is still in the lead, 9´39″ ahead of Gonçalves and 13´45´´ ahead of Quintanilla.
Stage 9. Iquique / Calama (Link: 88 km / Special: 451 km)
On the day we bid farewell to the Atacama Desert, all the competitors will gather together to set off on a 50 km-long special section over sand and dunes. They must savour the sensations as the stage will be heavy going. The bad weather means the route will be bumpy, strewn with potholes and mounds, while the narrow tracks bodywork will be scratched.