The Dakar 2014 starting podium in Rosario Argentina

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On Saturday we take off!
We are buggy #366.


Stage 7. Broken rear wheel

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Stage 7. Iquique-Antofagasta, Special 600 km
Stage pos 63 09:44:25 (+03:10:11). Total pos 44.

Broken wheel bearingThe first half of the stage went very steady, Annie keeping her position around 30-35.

But entering the rocky areas it got tough. Not for Annie but the bike! The ballbearing broke after one third in to the course. That severly slowened the speed. And it also could have been fatal!!!

“I was riding within top 30 and felt really good. Then at km 200 something I noticed that the rear wheel started to shake. It was the ceasing ballbearing and I had 400km ahead to ride to the finish, very slowly. Also ran out of fuel 50km from second refuel, because the bike wouldn’t roll with broken wheel, so the fuel consumption doubled. I waited a long time for help – thanks all guys who gave me fuel! I’m glad that not the whole wheel hub and axle didn’t break. That would been the end of this race. This hurts, but I can cope and go on…”

At the maintenance of the bike yesterday Annie’s friends in the Aussie team (Mange & co) noticed that the bearing was a little loose. They told her mechanics to fix it! Did they miss it?

Over high dunes
Photo by Maindru

Steep incline in the mountains
Photo by Maindru

This was the longest rally stage with various terrain – sand, salt blocks and rocky mountains. Very fast sections but also very very slow (I sure know!!!) …
On this stage the the maximum time limit was extended – it was even allowed to stay overnight on the track and arrive the next day.

But I made the stage in time, and could rest at the hotel. Starting to relax with a long nice bath – so relaxing that I actually fell a sleep in the tub!

Stage 6. Got in the flow again

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Antofagasta – Iquique , Special 418 km
Stage pos 31, 06:02:56 (+01:15:57). Total standing 40.

We had a fear of engine problems when the bike didn’t start. My mechanic checked all details: adjusted valves, new sparkplug, cleaned carb and made it leaner, cleaned fueltanks. All was okay, no need to change the engine. The problem is the airfilter. I run two, but now we put a wettex cloth between the two filters and I had a spare set in my riding jacket, in case. Hoped we thought of everything now.
I decided to take no risks today.

Started like a Super Rocket. I was flying! And today i could use thumb a little. Nice fast and sooth track, but with dangerous washouts and cracks. I had one focus – stay out of dust – the engine barely made it yesterday. Strategy in off pist: I cut across everywhere I could only using compass and dust clouds. But my navigation and tactic worked and I passed many riders. At cp1 I was 15th general. I heard many got lost just before, but my navigation was accurate. Until 2/3 of the stage my position was between 15-19! Before cp2-refuel the engine started suffering, and at the refuel I changed the filter. Then the bike was happy again.

Stage 6 crossing a river
Photo by Maindru

Approaching finish I paced down a bit to save energy for the next stage 7 (tomorrow) 600 km, letting some bikers had a chance to overtake – but the time differencies were very small. All afternoon I could ride alone in no dust. enjoyed fantastic scenery, arid plateaus, mountains, dunes… like fom another planet. At the finish we had a 3 km descent from the mountain down to the sea. Breathtaking view! Biggest downhill I ever rode.

Annie gives interviews in the shadow under a truck
Cool place for giving interviews: in the shadow under a truck.

I feel just great! My thumb is still swollen but not hurting too much, and I could get good grip of the handlebar. So riding was all right, as there was no more terrible pain disturbing. But every night the thumb gets electro treatment and new supportive bandage.
Quite a race!

Luca Manca to hospital Jan 7At finish I was very sad to hear that my friend Luca Manca, with whom I had breakfast this morning, had a bad crash only after 10 km. He got severe head injuries.

Buenos aires – Dakar chaos…

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Alternating weather today, in the morning nice and sunny, during the day the clouds are piling up and the rain pours heavily. Here’s the view from my hotel window on 10th floor.

Buenos Aires, view from hotel window

The traffic is chaotic. Avenida-9-Juli is crowded day and night, 5-6 lanes in both directions. The start podium will be situated on this street next to the big obelisk monument. From today all traffic is prohibited until the start on Jan 1st. You can imagine the chaos!

Traffic jam Buenos aires

The newspapers have great headlines about this: Dakar rally and info about the traffic restrictions.
Newspaper about traffic chaos

Note the white christmas tree next to the obelisk. Just like the one I have at home!
Newspaper about Dakar rally