Report by: Judith Tomaselli.
A hell of a special stage!
Stage 2: JAMALUN 2013-10-22
Road connection: 3.43 km – Special Stage: 191.69 km – Road connection: 6.07 km – TOTAL: 201.19
As announced yesterday by the organizer, todays stage of the Merzouga Rally was not meant to be taken lightly. In fact, narrow uphill tracks, small dunes and camel herb required competitors to be 100% focused and prove their technical driving skills. Garry Connell and Annie Seel (N°205) managed to earn their first victory on the Polaris RZR XT+ 900 XP40, leaving an important gap between the second place.
“Today was very difficult, tells Garry at the bivouac in Erfoud, and very technical too. We went on goats tracks, so steep I had to lower my gear, three times, to “short speeds”. The roads were stony and went up in only one way, like enduro racing tracks, and our wheels were outside the track. The dunes were so technical that we did some slalom between the camel herbs. The day was long but I am glad and satisfied because Annie taught me many things for the Dakar.”
Annie Seel also had her moment of glory because navigation was difficult today. “I was focused on the road book, tells the Swede, and I did my best to share my experience in the desert with Garry, especially at the moment we crossed the erg. You have to learn how to read the dunes when you arrive to them and then, they open up your path like the Red Sea in the Old Testament. It was a great learning day for the Dakar and Garry has done an excellent job.”
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Back home from Rally Albania! At last we know how we did – the results are published.
I was 31st, Lelle & Henrik within 50, David & Tony further back because they both missed out one stage. I was doing a perfect race until stage 6, then loosing time and many places when I made a nav error and my clutch stopped working completely.
Well, I had a fantastic time, made many new rally friends – especially “super-fast-quad girl” Zornica Todorova from Bulgaria!
Pos 31. 111 ANNIE SEEL, total 11:39:00 (no penalty).
Pos 51. 160 HENRIK RAHM, total 12:35:59 (pen 0:01:50).
Pos 46. 186 LENNART JONSSON, total 12:11:53 (pen 0:01:40).
Pos 81. 234 DAVID PETTERSSON, total 15:55:22 (pen 0:04:50).
Pos 97. 275 TONY JONSSON, total 21:25:33 (pen = 2 maxtimes).
Well I can say I did it again. I finished the gruelling Dakar despite all kinds of unfortunate happenings.
The first week my strategy worked out pefectly. I had been running my own race, riding and navigating very well, but also pacing myself for the second week. The longer stages leading in for the rest day I started gaining time and positions. At rest day I could summarize a comfortable position as 38th general and leading the Womens class by 1.30 Hours. I felt ready for the second week, only my motorcycle had an engine change because the dust fesh-fesh is really eating everything inside.
But then my luck turned bad. Really bad. And the shit hit the fan.
In the evening of the rest day I started feeling sick, and during the night I had fever and bad diarrhea. At breakfast I could eat nothing, and had to make many stops during the morning liasion. At the start of the stage I feelt very unfocused with shivers, and my aim was just to get through the stage. To make things worse, my clutch malfunctioned half way into the stage, which made me suffer even worse in the most technical stage of the Dakar this year – a trial section climbing up and down some mountains with cracks and slippery sides, and really slow riding in narrow canyons. It had been a difficult stage for me even being fit with an intact bike – now I was totally out of strength, and when the bike stopped uphill and I had to turn around, and try start without cluth I almost gave up so many times… To handle the bike in this slow and gnarly terrain with no clutch and a dimmed focus of high fever – I cannot believe I even finished it! The doctor at the finish arranged for german rider Tina Meier to accompany me to the bivouack in case I got even worse. So thanks to everybody helping me.
At the bivouack I arrived almost unconscious with bad shivers and fever of 39,7 C, and was immediately taken care of in the medical tent. For many hours I had IV of antbiotics and other substances to take control of my condition, and the doctor told me this was the end of the race for me. But you know me – next morning I saddled up again, weak but determined to ride to the finish.
But in a sense this is where I left “walk over” in the race for victory, I knew I could not perform at my best and had lost a lot of time and momentum. Now my focus was just trying to make it to Buenos Aires just to keep my rate of 100% fulfilled rallies intact.
Still I tried to ride my best, actually mananging to pick up some speed and made some good stage results even if I stopped longer at refuels to see the doctors and fill up with energy drinks as could still not eat anything. The Copiapo dunes I really enjoyed, which rewarded me with a 36th position that day.
Next day through the Fiambala dunes I was still holding 35 position when my electrical system completely died. Nothing worked on the bike, and I stopped for a long timetrying to find a solution. Finally a fellow rider helped me start the bike and I could continue, but with no navigation instruments it was a challenge to find the good way to the end, and I mostly followed the tracks. This rendering I made the same navigation error as all the previous motorcycles had done – I followed a riverbed too far and then when turning back I unfortunately sunk my bike half way in the very wet and soggy mud. It took me some time and effort to pull the bike out of it, being alone and still quite weak.
Until now all the hardship had not quite broken my spirit, and still I was holding second place in the Womens class.
But on stage 11 disaster really hit me. Starting back in the field, carving through endless of the dangerous fesh-fesh, through rocky canyons and across a mountainpass of more than 3000 m, at km 179 my motorcycle died. As I had passed over the 3000 m mountains, I felt the engine loosing power more and more. Coming down to a very hot valley the engine was almost powerless, and I sensed a smell of oil. As I let off the throttle the motor died with a bang. I looked down and saw all the oil had pushed out from the oil seal by the gearshifter.
For a while I thought “End of bike, end of race”! But maybe someone could tow me… or if I found some oil.. #55 Kemal Merkit stopped and offered a slab of oil, and a lift to get help to push start the bike. I fixed the leaking oil seal, some locals provided with more oil, and finally after adjusting valves the engine was running again. I felt like MacGyver! But I had to ride slowly not to create any oil pressure, and I stopped many times to check oil and water level. And yes, I had no clutch today either.
I almost had the finish in sight, when the engine died again at the check point only 22 km from the finish – I started crying. The engine was steaming hot and leaking oil. I had to stop and let it cool down, pouring water on it. As the sun was setting the bike started but running very badly, and I prayed it would last the remaining 22 km. After 7 km I caught a slow truck, and as I tried to slow down before overtaking in the narrow track, the bike died on me. Again I broke into tears – why couldn’t it run for just the few kilometers – I felt so hopeless.
The bike was impossible to start again. The last biker that passed was so tired he could barely keep his own bike up. Now it was dark night and I was gazing at the stars – thinking I would have to push the bike to the end. Cars and trucks were still passing so my rescue was to get a jump start. Since the engine had now cooled down it started, and it ran very heavily and was noisy. I managed to ride almost all the way before it stopped and had to be pushed the last bit while my tears were running with anger, but I made it!! At 2 am I arrived in the bivouack, and my team hastily started changing the engine back to the one I used the first week. Meanwhile I tried to get my 2 hours of sleep before the next start.
As soon as I took off on the penultimate and very hard stage starting with 70 km of very soft and energy draining sand, I felt I had to ride gentle on the engine because it was also not running well. This showed to be a very good decision as the stage got worse, through some really muddy streches and endless of heavy fesh-fesh filled tracks, putting a lot of strain on the engine. Also I managed to get deeply stuck in a mud rut, and the only person who could drag my bike out of it was #5 David Casteu who was running behind me due to mechanical problems. ( Thanks David, you are a hero!) The last part of the stage I was running slowly, and I could see the oil was starting to leak also from ths engine. Late night I arrived to the bivouac and now I had no more engines to use.
The final stage started really bad. My Sentinel system was malfunctioning, so I lost 30 minutes at the morning start when the officials tried to get it workning. Also my clutch ceased again and now my biggest fear was that the engine was going to cease already on the 500 km morning liasion as I had to ride at 120km/h to make my start before the cars. Worried I started to cry while riding, I could not believe how many ways this Dakar had gone wrong. And still there was a long day to reach the finish in Buenos Aires.
The last special stage was only 180 km on fast track. I took off riding at a moderate pace and the engine was running quite ok. I thought me and the bike would make it… until it stopped only 2 kms from the end. I could not believe this was happening! Luckily #180 Sulem stopped and towed me the last bit (including 2 falls) to the finishline, where I jumped off and pushed the bike across and then let it fall on its side and me standing on it like a dead horse. Then Sulem towed me all the way to Buenos Aires. (Thanks Sulem, this is Dakar friendship!)
What a victory – to get that dead bike across the finishline! Defying all the hardship served to me the second week. And to still have a 100% finishing record is also a victory!
I’m just so disappointed I could not race for the win in this Dakar. But this is why the Dakar is the Dakar. There are so many factors that can go wrong, and you need to get all of them right to win.
Also know there were so many other good riders who suffered from all kinds misfortune – some of them didn’t make it to the finish.
Many thanks to everybody during Dakar that has helped out, fellow competitors (Pedro Bianchi Prata, David Casteu, Emmanuel Sulem, Kemal Merkit, Mathieu Serradori, Tina Meier, Christian Califano, Daniele Carmignani, Pederzoli, and more that i didn’t get name/numbers of)) officials, spectators. Truly this is what makes Dakar a special race – the friendship.
Thanks to my sponsors: Elmborgs Tandvård, KTM, Team Meca’System, Lindroths Maskin, DekkPartner, Michelin, KlarSynt, Lelles MC, IVVAB, Karnag, Exclusive Cars, Toppmontage, Kå-Hå’s bilplåt & lack, Bosse Carlsson, Segway, Jonotech Maskinservice, Real Wear MXW, Mattssons Smide, Safari tanks, ProService, Öhlns, MotoSpeed, Loctite, Art’n’Dito, HotSnacks, Shore AB, Coaltrane Products, Andres Åkare, Oljecenter i Vedum, MotoAventures, Endless Brakes, Prins Dirty Parts, EMX Racing, Arnalids Salong och Carrera Sunglasses.
And all my supporters, that bought Dakar-kilometers.
And my dear friends & family who are always supporting and helping..
Finally I am the winner of the “Feminine Trophy”. I’ve been trying so hard for many years, and always something happened. This year it was my lucky turn, despite a hole lot of drama. Not only did I win the Feminine Trophy, there was a prize check of 3.500 Euros! Will be needed to pay for some damages…
But I want to congratulate all women who finished, out of a total of 6 ladies (5 moto and 1 quad ladies), 5 reached the finish wich shows thes women are truly strong and determined. So big hand for Silvia Gianetti, Christina Meier, Tamsine Jones and quad Camelia Liparoti. You are all real heroes and role models for all women!
And I also want to greet a very strong, but this year unlucky, Mirjam Pol. I missed you after you had the crash, always good to race with you. Hope to see you next race!!
From Dakar.com web:
“Finally, congratulations to the little – but tough – Annie Seel who is the Best Woman in the Dakar and finishes 45th in the standings.”
Santa Rosa-Buenos Aires, Special 206 km
Flat sand, dusty, very fast.
Position stage 37, 01:47:56 (+0:21:08). Total 45. Winner of the Ladies class.
She did it!
Annie held the good and even speed through the whole stage, without taking any risks. Trying to gain a few minutes wouldn’t affect the total standig anyway. Today there’s nothing to win only everything to loose.
She made a short phone call home to friends just after finish:
“I am very happy with this result, considering all mishaps during the rally. Maybe it was not the perfect race I hoped for – but is that even possible, Dakar is unpredictable! I aimed at top 40, and I was very close to get there. It was that damned visit in the tomb and my thumb! My other aim was winning the ladies class – and this I acchieved by a wide margin. It feels so fantastic I can’t even describe it.”
Annie has already at the finish line told the big congrats to Pål-Anders for his wonderful second position.
And all the riders will celebrate together at the arrival in Buenos Aires.
Photo right: A happy Ullevålseter with his wife
A famous female
Late at night Annie sent a textmessage with some more details:
“I set off in good speed on dead straight pist, with lots of dust. Stayed behind the rider in front… no taking risks. Soon faster bikes caught up, and I let them pass, since I was already at max speed. Just waited to cross the finish line… making no mistakes.
And when I arrived at finish I was so happy that I finally made it: best woman and a good total, despite the dramas.
I’ve worked so hard for this, for many years. A big kiss and hug party with my team and rider friends, many interviews, photos. Got my t-shirt signed by all riders, also winner Despres – so fun!”
Images above right:
Annie with bike winner Despres and quad-rider Oldrich
Super Rocket gets a shine-on and a touch up on stickers.
… but everybody is busy with service and mechanic work at the vehicles. It’s been very tough for men and machines, so all need maintenance to cope with the coming challenges. We have still another week ahead.
So there’s not much time for rest anyway.
It felt really, really good to wake up in Antofagasta this morning, though yesterday had been so crazy… Well, I got over it, I am still in the race. And tomorrow is a new race day.
I had a hotel breakfast, and took all the juicy stuff. Did my laundry properly as well, all the racing clothing that already looks like they’ve been around for months, after only these few days.
I went down to the bivouac and started fixing on the bike, it really needed to be attended to. Made a decision to replace the engine with the spare one I have. I thought this over very thoroughly, concidering what happened yesterday, with the back wheel bouncing around, what serious damage could have been caused.
It’s like airplane crashes, they don’t come out of the blue (well, the flights do). There’s always a series of incidents eventually causing that last part to fail. So, if I did not change the engine and had to withdraw the rally due to engine failure, I know for sure it would be hard to get over.
In the bivouac I talked to David Casteu, who crashed in the race and hurt his groin. And I also saw Cyril Despres riding his excercise bike in his tent. He seems determined to win. We’ll see.
Then I heard I had got 2 hours penalty yesterday! So I spent some time at the headquarters to sort it out. It appeared that other riders had the same issue, penalty for missing some waypoint. But this was caused by an incorrect mark in the roadbook, and everybody got the penalties removed. Though in my case it required quite a meeting with the racing jury today to correct the error. But all’s well that ends well.
Now it’s time to prepare the roadbook for tomorrow, so I took a peep: first thing on the track is fesh-fesh… uuuh
And because of that stupid penalty trouble I will stand far back in line to start tomorrow as 76, getting all dust in my face. Too bad – but hey, it’s my race number anyway.
See you on the next stage!
Cordoba-La Rioja. Standing: in total 33, on Stage 2 special pos 37. Leading the ladies class.
“My Super Rocket runs just perfectly, it is light and easy to manoeuvre compared with with my other bikes. In the fast parts I may loose some speed, but in the technical sections it’s an advantage to ride an agile bike like this. This terrain has many parts like enduro. It’s better to ride safe than on maximum speed.
Well, I had a fall when riding after Arrendondo and veered after him off of the track. I broke the water tank and bent the handlebar, but I could ride on. But I’m used to this kind of conditions – rainy, muddy and slimy as it’s often in Sweden!
I also had an unexpected encountering – it was quite dusty and all of a sudden a cow appeared on the track! Oooops, that was close …
It feels good having progressed this much already in these two first stages – every gained minute is valuable. The credited time is needed on the difficult stages. Tomorrow will be tough with much compass navigation out on the white sand.”
Annie seems quite relaxed, now when the race is rolling. In advance while preparing and planning there is so much worrying. Now all the focus is on the tracks.
Image by Maindru Photo
Stage 1, Jan 2: Buenos Aires – Cordoba
#076 SEEL (SWE) KTM / Standing 45 / 02:09:17 +00:18:35
Annie was very happy after this stage. The special 150 km was a mix of very technical parts and fast gravel roads. The KTM 525 – “Super Rocket” – really rocks super. There is a lot of power in this engine. Also the size feels good, though the rear part is higher than usual because of the long shockabsorbers.
This day was kind of warming up. Annie took it the safe way, taking no risks in the dust. Relayed on her routine without getting too eager in the beginnig of the race. Almost the whole stage she kept company with #77 Hamard, a biker with dakar experience and good navigation skills.
The day started early and also the stage finished early, so there was plenty of time for a shower, eating and bike service.
Tomorrow Annie starting number is better, which means less overtaking and riding in her own tempo.
And some sorrow…
The rally also had a very sad beginning. A rally car veered off of the road and ran right into a group of spectators. Several people were badly hurt, and later a woman died of her injuries.