The Dakar is not only a race for the result, but also a test for strength of the human body and vehicles. Having faced with diversity of the landscape and its rapid change on the first day of the rally, contestants of the competition moved to the next stage almost without rest. The rally caravan moves to the north of Saudi Arabia – towards the border of the largest state on the Arabian Peninsula with Jordan. And picturesque landscapes with the view over the Red Sea and the Hejaz mountains, which height is more than 3300 meters, are replaced by tough conditions on the route.
Not having time to get used to new conditions after 11 years in South America, sports crews faced a difficult task: road books were handed out 15 minutes before the start of the second racing day. This action is a novelty from the organizers who, trying to equalize opportunities between amateurs and professionals and make the race unpredictable for millions of the Dakar fans. At the same time, the hardest track at any moment can stop both beginners and experienced rally-raiders, and send them home.
The route of the 367-kilometer long second stage with elevations, almost entirely consisted of soil and stones, while sands were rare. In such conditions, the pace becomes “torn”, and the risk of a tire puncture increases multiple times, so crews need to be extremely attentive to what is happening at a distance. Navigation added an additional headache to navigators: it was necessary to find the right course to the finish among a large number of ordinary and parallel tracks.
Unlike yesterday, when the total length of the liaison was 433 km, today the contestants were awaited by only 26 km of public roads. A mixed start allowed faster and more experienced drivers to avoid a large number of overtaking and focus on the main – faultless passage of the stage. Out of 46 truck crews admitted to the Dakar, only 42 remained in the battle on Monday morning. The first to conquer the route to Neoma was the winner of the first stage, the Russian Anton Shibalov from KAMAZ-master team.
Having shown the best time at around 52 km, Shibalov’s crew subsequently lost the lead and rolled back to fifth position. Closer to the finish, the Russians could not take the right point from the first time. As a result: the sixth place and loss of 15 minutes 15 seconds to the Belarusian Siarhei Viazovich (MAZ-SPORTauto), who passed the distance in 3 hours 47 minutes 44 seconds.
Anton Shibalov, driver of crew No 516: “There was very difficult navigation throughout the whole stage. On the 314th km we couldn’t find the point. Unfortunately, when we saw the finish, I had to go back and drive one more time, but on a different way. It is good that we found this point and finished. In the cabin we try to keep calm and not to hinder the work of the navigator. The task is to calmly find the right route and the right point. Thanks to no fuss and panic, we reached the finish line. Today there weren’t many dunes, there were sandy roads, many stones and fast sections. If yesterday it was more difficult in terms of driving, today it was in navigation.“
An insidious surprise from the organizers was waiting for the participants literally 5 km before the finish: the hidden navigation point could not be taken from the first time, making many crews stray. One of these was KAMAZ crew of Dmitry Sotnikov. Having shown stability throughout the special stage, the Chelny drivers lost time in the very end. Despite the difficulties in navigation, Sotnikov became the best among four KAMAZ-master crews, showing the second result of the sports day (+1:46).
Dmitry Sotnikov, driver of crew No 501: “About 5 last kilometers we drove in some direction, there were a lot of tracks. It seemed to me that I saw Viazovich, who was going to the right, and the navigator led there. We arrived, but we felt that something was wrong: two cars and a bike were driving towards us, we tried to analyze the situation, realized that we were not far from the point, and decided to go back, where we saw two of our KAMAZ trucks going in the opposite direction. The problem was that, getting up to the right course, we started to find binders, while everyone was driving towards, but we tried not to pay attention, we realized that we were in the legend and we had to take the hidden point, the radius of which did not open. When we took it, we began to look for a road that was in the radius of 200-300 meters. We climbed higher to the mountain and found it, going to the finish line.“
The defending Dakar winner in the truck classification Eduard Nikolaev sorted out yesterday’s technical problems and on Monday focused on the battle on the track. Moreover, his crew had more difficulties than other KAMAZ members: starting behind a part of jeeps and trucks, Nikolaev had to break through and win back time, overtaking in heavy dust. In the final classification, he became fifth, with a lag of almost 11 minutes.
Eduard Nikolaev, driver of crew No 500: “Everything was fine with the truck today. We started in the mixed race, it was hard. The first 70 kilometers I had to take the foot out off the gas pedal: because of yesterday’s loss of time, we ‘were sitting’ in thick dust of started earlier crews, a lot of stones. And in the second part we went around in the canyon, looked for a point. Of course, these moments led to a loss of time. We will come to the bivouac and analyze this day. As for the driving, everything was ok with it.“
Andrey Karginov (+2:07), who became third by the results of the day, set a high pace already from the start and “was catching up” Siarhei Viazovich with every kilometer. Already on around 214th km the Russian crew No 511 showed the best time. Karginov overtook the Belarusian crew in a wide wadi, which in Arabic means a dry riverbed. After trading places on the track, both trucks were going at the same pace and only at that very point, cleverly hidden by the organizers shortly before the finish, the KAMAZ-master crew got lost, their rival was a bit lucky to turn in the other direction and become first.
As for the other representatives of the truck category, Martin Macik was in the top 5 for the second day in a row on his IVECO. After being third on Sunday, Janus van Kasteren (IVECO) finished 12th, while Martin Soltys (TATRA) changed 7th line to 13th. One of the contenders for the Dakar finish podium Martin van den Brink (RENAULT) is the ninth.
On Tuesday, contestants of the Dakar 2020 will be awaited by the longest special section for now with the length of 427 km, the total length of the third stage, laid along the Neom – Neom circular route, will be 504 km. A mixed start will send sports crews to north to the border with Jordan, and a series of canyons and sandy mountains will take them to the highest point of the rally-marathon at the height of 1,400 meters.