Relive #Dakar2002 with Annie Seel.
STAGE 11: TIDJIKJA-TICHIT (538 km)
Wednesday 9/1 2002.
Through hell and rain storm…
Last night I couldn’t sleep the few hours until start, so I was already dead tired taking off again in the morning.
The softest of Mauritanian sand was on the menu, and I had to rev my little 400 like mad to keep up any kind of speed, and I heard the engine struggling and heating up.
Many competitors were stuck in soft sand bowls in the dune, and trying to avoid them when traversing the dunes was extremely difficult. I was picking my own lines and didn’t get stuck, but still I felt the bike was loosing power, not giving me the drive I needed in the dunes. And then loosing the drive completely, didn’t matter how much I gassed, the rear wheel didn’t turn and the bike came to a stop – I could smell the burnt clutch.
I pulled out my tool kit and opened the clutch case and black smoke of gear box oil steamed in my face. I tried to bend the clutch plates to give them more grip, but no success.
Could this be it, my Dakar was over? I was in disbelief. I had faught so hard through pain and technical issues, and now the race had ended. It felt unfair. But also a little relief, it wasn’t me that had given up. The bike died on me.
I parked the bike to rest in the shade of it to wait for the organiser truck to pick me up. I knew it could take many hours…
Don’t know how much later, but I could se the Swedish car team Roos/Rosenblad coming through the dunes. They stopped to check on me, and gave me some Swedish candy to comfort me in my misery, before driving off again.
Then I saw a biker approaching me slowly. It was a French guy on a Honda 400, and he stopped and asked me about my problem. I told him the situation with the clutch, and he nodded his head and said that was pretty normal for these bikes. Luckily he had brought a spare clutch-plate, and he offered it to me!
Again I opened the clutch and put the spare plate in. I didn’t have any more oil, so I made sure not to waste any of the burnt oil left in the engine, and tried avoiding any sand to blow into when doing my mechanical work. And miraculously the bike was drivable again. I had been saved by an angel on a motorbike.
It was already 4 pm and I had more than 300 km to the finish, so was in a rush. I continued my Dakar again, pushing as much as I dared, and passed the French biker “angel” and soon the Swedish car team.
At 6 pm the sun set and now the riding became extremely dangerous in the dunes. Planning your route through in daytime is difficult. In pitch dark it can be deadly not being able to see what awaits behind the crest. I slowly traversed dune after dune. At midnight I reached a steep dune traversing but could not build up enough speed to reach the top. I tried to find other ways round but ended up in more trouble and losing my way. I realised I had to wait until dawn to be able to get across. As I shad stopped the Swedish car team caught up again, and also they were struggling and digging but decided to try and find their way in the night. I didn’t want to risk crashing or burning the clutch again so I decided to sleep by my bike a few hours. Another biker decided to stop there also, italian Massimo Tresoldi. We unpacked our safety blankets and rolled ourselves in them, by our bikes as the cold nightly desert wind picked. After a while we were trapped in a sand storm, and then I heard rain drops hitting my foil blanket.
I was half asleep trying to ignore the rain puddle I was now lying in.
I could not believe all this was happening in one day. But I just had to accept. And await sunrise.
To be continued…
STAGE 11: TIDJIKJA-TICHIT
Wednesday 9/1 2002
Liaison : 18 km
Special : 520 km
Total : 538 km