At the half-way point of the 2o14 Dakar Rally with a well-deserved rest day there has already been a death on stage 5 in the severe heat approaching 50 degrees.
Riders have also thad to conquer a rally record high altitude of 4300mm and had stages changed and cut short by heat and rain. Only 85 of the 196 motorcycle competitors remain. In all categories only 53% will contest the second week.
At least there have been no sand storms which plagued the rally when it was staged in northern Africa. In 1982, Mark Thatcher, son of UK PM Margaret, went missing with his French co-driver, Anne-Charlotte Verney, and their mechanic for six days in a Sahara storm.
The second half of the rally starts tomorrow with Spaniard Marc Coma in the lead and chasing his fourth win and KTM’s 13th consecutive Dakar Rally title.
He is being chased by Honda’s Joan Barreda Bort and Sherco rider Alain Duclos.
The Yamaha threat hasn’t eventuated with five-time winner Cyril Despres plagued by mechanical and electrical problems and a couple of small crashes where he broke his camelback both times and had to ride without water in the oppressive conditions. He’s about 11th and 2.24:41 hours adrift.
Half the field of six Australians have withdrawn, including Ben graham (KTM) who scored his best finish on stage two with a sixth place. Troy O’Connor (KTM) is 43rd and Allan Roberts (KTM) 46 and Shane Diener (Yamaha) 56th.
Mystery still surrounds Aussie Mark Davidson (KTM) who has been marked down as a withdrawal from stage four.
However, he featured on the Dakar highlights when he came into the bivouac after 27 hours of riding in stage four, then headed out on the next stage 10 minutes later.
The second half of the rally starts tomorrow.