Storms and rain force cancellation of Dakar Rally stage one

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Rain and thunderstorms in Argentina, particularly in the area where the timed special of the first stage of the 2016 Dakar Rally was planned on Sunday resulted in the cancelation of the first real day of competition for this epic, 9,000km long offroad event.

About 90 minutes after the scheduled start, race director Étienne Lavigne confirmed that the weather conditions prevented helicopters from flying and this meant that the safety of competitors could not be guaranteed. The stage was to be 637km, including a 227km timed special, from Rosario to Villa Carlos Paz.

Red Bull KTM Factory Team Manager Alex Doringer said it had not been an easy day: “We already travelled 1000kms and we raced just 10 out of these, so of course we’re not happy about this. But we can’t change the weather. We have to deal with the situation and we have to prepare for tomorrow.”

When asked if the team’s two riders, Antoine Meo and Laia Sanz, who had lost some minutes during a difficult river crossing in Saturday’s prologue had lost an opportunity to gain it back, Doringer said: “Maybe if today had been a normal day they could have got some time back, but it is what it is, and tomorrow they will do the best they can.”

“I think the next days we have to expect the same weather conditions like today but it’s the same for everybody and we have to work day by day. We have to be tricky and smart with the modifications. We have to understand them quickly and we have to brief our riders in the best way. Then we’ll see what happens. We have a good lineup of experience, and young riders and newcomers, and I think everybody is still excited, because the race has not yet started,” he added.

Assuming that the rally is able to continue on Monday, riders can expect another long day in the saddle. The journey from Villa Carlos Paz to Termas de Río Hondo is some 786km including a long timed special of 450km. The terrain should present no particular difficulties according to the organizers, who say it should favor those who love riding in the hills at high speed. But there are some river crossing that may have been affected by the bad weather conditions.

Following Saturday’s prologue, a first for the Dakar Rally, team veteran Jordi Viladoms is just 13 seconds off the fastest time. Matthias Walkner of Austria and Australia’s Toby Price are just 17 and 18 seconds off the pace while Meo and Sanz will be doing their best to make up the minutes they lost in the river crossing.

Photo: Bauer E./RallyZone