Stage 2: Ha’il to Al Qaisumah
“We’re in a desert and it seems to rain every night!”
It was another early start in the freezing cold, it had rained during the night and there was cloud cover all day.
“It seemed like nothing but sand and dunes and more sand today”, said Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM). “We were lucky the dunes were still damp from last night’s rain when we got to them.”
The route for Stage 2 of the 2022 Dakar Rally was changed because of flooding in the Al Artawiya bivouac, and the competitors headed straight to Al Qaisumah instead. That meant the cancellation of today’s marathon stage.
The morning threw up a decent serving of very fast and deep sandy tracks, and after refuelling an endless stretch of big dunes – a total of 780 km and 340 km of it was sand and dunes.
Navigation was fairly easy as there were tracks to follow.
“I was having a great ride until about 140 km into the stage when I went down hard in the sand at a high speed”, Andrew told us. “My airbag vest deployed and saved me from any serious injury.”
The fall delayed him for around 30 minutes while he fitted a new cylinder to the vest and regained his composure. Another rider then helped get the bike out of the sand.
Despite the fall he managed to pick up a few places today and now sits 112th overall and 83rd in the Rally 2 group.
Nomadas Adventure Coca-Cola teammate Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM 450 Rally) had a good day and finished ahead of Andrew. He now sits 102nd overall.
It has been said that you can never make up time in the Dakar you can only lose it. You have to play it smart and wait for the rest of the field to come back to you. And if you’re consistent then you can almost guarantee the guys on front will eventually make a mistake and lose time.
And that’s exactly what happened to Daniel Sanders (#4 GasGas) today. After having dominated Stages 1A and 1B, a series of mistakes cost the Australian a massive amount of time and he finished the stage 38 minutes behind stage winner Joan Barreda Bort (#88 – Honda). He now sits 7th overall.
Fan favourite Danilo Petrucci (#90 – KTM) had the worst day you can imagine and is out of the rally. He had a mechanical failure on the KTM 115 km into the special and needed to be retrieved by the rally organisers.
And after all was sorted at the end of the stage, it was Sam Sunderland (#3 – GasGas) who came out on top. The GasGas rider now leads the rally from Adrien Van Beveren (#42 – Yamaha).
Stage 3 is now a loop from Al Qaisumah and back, a 381 km liaison and 255 km special. The rain will have helped to pack the sand down, but the tracks will be less visible. It should be an interesting challenge!