Stage 6: Riyadh to Riyadh
“Thank you all so much for your kind words and support, I will be back stronger and in the best shape ever for Dakar 2023.”
With the disappointment of being forced out of the 2022 Dakar still raw, Andrew Houlihan sat on the sidelines today while those left in the event tackled a drama filled Stage 6.
Andrew’s upper body took a huge hit yesterday when he hit a deep hole in the track at high speed. Although he didn’t actually come off the bike, the impact did damage to the same area he injured in a crash in training last year.
Despite a drawn out “discussion” with officials it was decided – not by Andrew – that his rally was over for this year.
“I had to accept their decision to not allow me to continue in the race”, he said. I argued the point with them for quite a while but their decision was final and for good reasons. Although I’m not happy with the outcome, I have to respect it.
“Yesterday was my best day yet, I was finally in a good flow, enjoying myself and gaining places.”
Such is the gruelling and sometimes unfair nature of the Dakar, and why it’s considered the toughest motorsport event in the world.
Unfortunately, Andrew’s preparation had been less than perfect. Many events on Andrew’s 2021 race calendar were cancelled due to COVID restrictions, and the injuries from his crash on a training ride earlier in the year were taking to to heal.
“I went into the race knowing the full extent of the fractures and am just thankful that I did not have an accident that could have had dire consequences. It may not have been the right decision to even start the race but I have no regrets and enjoyed the first 5 days of this torturous race and pushed myself as hard as possible.”
Andrew and his wife Katie will stay with the Nomadas Adventure team for the remainder of the rally, giving what support he can to the two remaining Nomadas riders – Coca-Cola sponsored Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM) and Greek rider Vasileios Boudros (#147 – Husqvarna).
“Katie and I will be travelling with our team for the next 7 days and will be able to provide some great info on how the Dakar Rally operates.”
Both riders stayed away from the drama that unfolded again in Stage 6. Pablo finished the stage 47th and is now 64th in Rally 2. Vasileios finished 37th, enough to put him 58th in the group.
The bike and quad special was halted again, this time at the first neutralisation area after 101 km.
The deterioration of the tracks caused by the cars and trucks yesterday, combined with recent heavy rain, made the route is impassable. It might not be the smartest thing to send cars over a track before the bikes!
The classification for stage 6 was then thrown into question, and to be fair officials decided to call the stage at the 101 km mark.
That gave Daniel Sanders (#4 – GasGas) another stage win, with both Sam Sunderland (#3 – GasGas) and Matthias Walkner (#52 – KTM) less than 3 seconds behind in 2nd and 3rd. Overall Sunderland still leads from Walkner, but Sanders is now back within striking distance in 3rd, just five and a half minutes behind.
Toby Price (#18 – KTM) is back in 12th overall despite finishing just over 4 minutes behind stage winner Sanders.
We’re halfway through the 2022 Dakar Rally and it’s now time for a rest! Competition stops for a day to give every one a chance to catch up and refresh just little before being thrown back into it for Stage 7.
But a rest day in the Dakar is certainly not a day off for the teams – there’s plenty of maintenance and preparation to be done!