Tag Archive for: Saudi Arabia

Stage 12: Bisha to Jeddah

The 2022 Dakar Rally is over and Sam Sunderland (#3 – GasGas) has won for the second time, five years after he took his first title on a KTM.

The last day consisted of a 250 km liaison and then a short 163 km special stage, followed by a 280 km liaison back to the finish podium in Jeddah.

Despite being a short special, the final day has brought many rider’s dreams to an end in the past. Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM), sidelined with injuries since Stage 5, remembers: 

“The last day of the race – and this is when anything can happen. Last year I passed bikes that had failed and riders that had fallen. Their race had come to an end so close to the finish!”

It’s always an early start on the last day to give enough time for the podium presentation, and the first bikes were away at 4am.

Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM), riding for the Nomadas Adventure Coca-Cola team and his Nomadas teammate Vasileios Boudros (#147 – Husqvarna)  left just after 5am.

The Nomadas Adventure team set off not long after the riders this morning for the 500 km road trip to Jeddah, with a detour to the end of the special stage to watch the riders finish the race.

“We arrived only 5 minutes after Kevin Benavides & and Sam Sunderland crossed the line, followed by the other top riders”, reported Andrew Houlihan. “We waited in a sandstorm until Vasileios and Pablo came in safely.”

There were no dunes for the last stage which the boys were very happy about. They put in a steady and conservative day, making sure to there were no mistakes that could have ended their Dakar journey.

#147 Vasileios Boudros

Pablo now has his 2nd Dakar finish. He finished 76th overall and 54th in the Rally 2 group.

Vasileios was ranked 70th overall and 48th in Rally 2 at the end of his first Dakar Rally.

Sam Sunderland went into the final stage with a 6 minute 52 second lead over Pablo Quintanilla (#7 – Honda). All he needed to do was to stay out of trouble and maintain a steady pace to claim victory. Pablo did close the gap but that deficit was always going to be too hard to claw back.

Matthias Walkner (#52 – KTM) did the same to secure 3rd place. In fact the first 5 places didn’t change over the final stage.

Australian Toby Price (#18 – KTM) maintained his 10th overall.

After crossing the finish line the bikes had a 280 km ride back to Jeddah for the final podium presentation, and Andrew and the Nomadas Adventure team hit the road for the final run into Jeddah. 

Dakar is tough. It’s demanding. It’s cruel at times. No matter what the outcome, just getting to Dakar is an achievement. 

Not finishing is certainly disappointing for Andrew Houlihan, but against the odds he was there and gave it all he could. Now there’s the recovery and next year …… ???

Andrew’s final words from Saudi Arabia – “With the rally over and the podium done, it was COVID test time, unpack the vehicles and prepare for our flights home tomorrow. Thanks to everyone, my sponsors, my supporters and of course my family for the incredible support you give me. Thank you.”

Dakar 2022 is finished!

#7 Pablo Quintanilla, #3 Sam Sunderland, #52 Matthias Walkner (Photo credit: A.S.O./F.Gooden/DPPI)

Stage 11: Bisha to Bisha

Stage 11, the second last stage of this year’s Dakar, threw a lot of challenges at the riders. Once again the rankings at the head of the field were shuffled with a few surprises. And it now looks like it will come down to a contest between 3 riders on 3 different makes of bike on the final day.

Dunes, dunes and more dunes today! Big, small and then HUGE ones according to Vasileios Boudros (#147 – Husqvarna)!!!

“I didn’t think they would ever end”, he said when he got back to the bivouac. “I fell 3 or 4 times and it was a very hard day.”

Coming into the 2nd last stage it was important for the riders not to lose focus and make a race ending mistake. Both Pablo and Vasileios were up early and in good spirits despite knowing what lay ahead for the day.

The stage started off very fast and then turned a bit sandy.

Despite the difficult day the remaining Nomadas Adventure riders Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM) and Vasileios Boudros (#147 – Husqvarna) went very well.

In the Rally 2 group, Pablo came in 42nd today and is ranked 54th. Vasileios’ 51st place today moves him to 48th in the group.

In the general standings, which include all the riders, Pablo is sitting 76th and Vasileios is 70th.

#147 Vasileios Boudros, Stage 11 Dakar Rally 2022

Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM), who is supporting the team from the bivouac, said it was a long day. 

“We had a very long and boring day in the bivouac today, there’s not much to do now and it’s heating up quite a bit as we get closer to Jeddah.”

“But I got some great news today from Walter Roelant’s son Axel. Walter has had surgery in Belgium, he’s in a stable condition and is recovering.”

Toby Price (#18 – KTM) opened the stage but immediately started losing time. He finished 28th today and has dropped to 10th overall. 

Kevin Benavides (#1 – KTM), whilst officially out of contention, went out to help Red Bull teammate Matthias Walkner (#52 – KTM). Benavides took the the stage win, Walkner 4th.

Sam Sunderland (#3 – GasGas) had a excellent run finishing just 4 seconds slower than Benavides and that has moved him to 1st place overall. He is 6 minutes 52 seconds ahead of Pablo Quintanilla (#7 – Honda).

So the race to the finish looks like being between Sunderland, Quintanilla and Walkner.

Fourth place Adrien Van Beveren (#42 – Yamaha) is 15 minutes off the leader. He still has a chance, but a win will rely on the 3 leaders losing a lot of time over a relatively short special stage.

Unfortunately, Toby Price has no chance of making up enough time to score a podium finish.

There’s now one day to go and Dakar 2022 is done. 

Stage 12 has a liaison of 516 km and a relatively short special of just 164 km. No dunes, just sand and soil, and the promise of the final podium in Jeddah.

Stage 10: Wadi Ad Dawasir to Bisha

Today’s 760 km journey took the competitors to Bisha, the last stopover before the finish line in Jeddah.

The day started very early, the first bike left around 4am. The remaining Nomadas Adventure riders left just after 5am and said it was nice to not be freezing cold in the morning.

The special was a very fast 375 km section, only 2% dunes and the rest sand and soil. Nomadas Adventure rider Vasileios Boudros (#147 – Husqvarna) said “it was crazy fast today in the sand pistes, I had one crash today and the airbag vest deployed but I didn’t lose too much time”.

Vasileios and Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM) both had a great stage today coming 55th and 64th.

#35 Pablo Guillen, Stage 10, Dakar Rally 2022 (Photo credit: Frederic Le Floch/DPPI)

A flawless ride from Toby Price (#18 – KTM) has earned him a stage win and moved him up to 6th overall, but even he is saying he might be too far behind the leaders to claim a podium now. But this is Dakar!

Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM), travelling with Antonio Guillen (#111 – KTM) in the team vehicles, arrived in the Bisha bivouac around 11am.

“Although the competitors had 760 km to travel, our assistance route was only 300 km.”

“I’m really starting to miss being on the bike right now as we’re in the areas we rode at the start of last year’s Dakar and the terrain is spectacular. Fast deep sandy tracks that weave through beautiful rocky mountains and canyons.”

#147 Vasileios Boudros, Stage 10 Dakar Rally 2022

Misfortune and errors today have shaken up the overall rankings, and for the 4th day in row we have a different leader.

Kevin Benavides (#1 – KTM) has retired from the rally after his KTM failed about a third of the way into the special.

Sam Sunderland (#3 – GasGas), who held a commanding lead early in the rally, finished 17th today after stopping to help Mason Klein (#43 – KTM) and making a navigation error that sent him down the wrong canyon. And Matthias Walkner (#52 – KTM) dropped to 4th overall after a 26th place today.

That leaves Yamaha’s Adrien Van Beveren (#42 – Yamaha) at the top of the rankings and 5 minutes clear of Pablo Quintanilla (#7 – Honda) going into Stage 11.

Stage 11 is fairly short and loops back to Bisha but organisers are saying it’s the biggest technical challenge of the rally with some of the softest dunes on the desert.

With only 2 days to go, strategy and careful riding are now the keys to making it to the finish line in Jeddah.

Stage 9: Wadi Ad Dawasir to Wadi Ad Dawasir

Today’s stage was much shorter – a 490 km loop out and back to the bivouac in Wadi Ad Dawasir. The special stage was just 287 km, with about half of it sand, a third if it soil and the rest some small rock and dune sections.

A shorter day today meant a later start for Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM) and Vasileios Boudros (#147 – Husqvarna), they left just after 7am.

And as the teams head south the temperature is warming up and the morning stages aren’t so cold as well!

Both Pablo and Vasileios said today’s stage was exceptionally fast – maybe too fast with a couple of very bad accidents – and navigation was quite easy with many tracks to follow.

Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM) said “It was great to see them both come back early and both with smiles on their faces. They had a great day, missing 1 waypoint each like many of the other riders.

Pablo came in 58th and Vasileios 46th in Rally 2 today, so a really good day for both of them.

The stage win once again went to Nacho Cornejo (#11 – Honda) ahead of Kevin Benavides (#1 – KTM) and Ricky Brabec (#2 – Honda). 

At the head of the field the top 4 riders are now separated by under 5 minutes. Matthias Walkner (#52 – KTM) holds the overall lead going into Stage 10 from Sam Sunderland (#3 – GasGas). Adrien Van Beveren (#42 – Yamaha) is third and Pablo Quintanilla (#7 – Honda) fourth. 

With 3 stages to go there are 4 brands in strong contention, but this is the Dakar and anything can happen!

Toby Price (#18 – KTM) had dropped out of the top 10 but a penalty for Stefan Svitko (#142 – KTM)  brought him back up to 9th.

Andrew Houlihan has had some time today to catch up with some of the things going on in the bivouac.

“This morning after the bikes left Katie and I watched the trucks depart the bivouac. It still amazes me how they get these massive machines through the dunes and narrow rocky passes.”

Dmitry Sotnikov’s (#500) KAMAZ Model 43509 truck – 10 tonnes, 13 litre Diesel engine, 1150 bhp!

“Luckily, I have only had a couple of trucks go through the dunes with me, but the damage they do is crazy. They destroy everything and make the existing tracks unrideable, plus they don’t stop for anything. So if you hear the quick BEEP BEEP BEEP on your sentinel buzzer you get out of the road quickly.”

He also caught up with South African rider Ross Branch.

“I caught up with Yamaha rider Ross Branch this morning who is also out of the race injured. Ross had a huge crash a couple of days ago and then rejoined the race to attempt to continue but was in too much pain. After seeing the damage he has done to himself I would say he is almost as stupid as me for trying to continue.”

“I first met Ross in Merzouga in Morocco 3 years ago and he would have to be the nicest guy in the rally. Always makes time to come and say hi to us and always supportive of Pablo and I.”

And then there was time for some relaxation …

“Whilst we were waiting in the bivouac today we had a bit of spare time so Antonio, Katie and I relaxed and watched some Netflix and rested our broken ribs together.”

Stage 10 is a 384 km liaison and a 375 km special that takes the riders to Bisha. And it’s now a crucial time to be extra careful in the stages as we get closer to the finish in Jeddah.

Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM)

Stage 8: Al Dawadimi to Wadi Ad Dawasir

Stage 8 was the longest day of the 2022 Dakar Rally, 830 km in total with a 395 km special. The teams left Al Dawadimi and headed to Wadi Ad Dawasir where they will spend the next 2 nights.

Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM), now travelling in the team van, said they spent just over 8hrs traveling today along dodgy roads with high side winds which moved the van around all over the place. At least there were no breakdowns today in the van!

The landscape changed today, with a lot of rocky hills and plateaus among the sandy open plains.

For the riders there were a lot of dunes – big dunes – and the Nomadas Adventure Coca-Cola riders had a mixed day.

Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM) excelled today making no mistakes and cruising through the dunes with ease. He has great rhythm and speed in the dunes and this really showed with him finishing in 71st position.

Vasileios Boudros (#147 – Husqvarna) had a good day but got caught on a dune for a little while.

“The dunes were very large and soft today and they stretched for 126km. There were some very very steep dunes that I had to take a lot of care on today and I lost a little bit of time.” He finished in 97th position.

Toby Price (#18 – KTM), the only remaining Australian rider, also had a reasonable day finishing 6th in the stage. He admits he made some “small mistakes, it’s hard to not make any out there”.

Andrew Houlihan says he is getting stronger towards the end of the rally.

Price now sits 9th overall, 32 minutes behind overall leader Sam Sunderland (#3 – GasGas). Sunderland regained the overall lead after a blisteringly fast run in Stage 8.

Adrien Van Beveren (#42 – Yamaha) and last year’s winner Kevin Benavides (#1 – KTM), who were in the top 3 after Stage 7, both dropped significant amounts of time. 

Benavides had a problem with the fuel pump on his KTM and had to stop twice to pass fuel from the front tank to the rear.

Van Beveren had an issue with his roadbook. 

“The button on my roadbook broke in the first dunes, so I had to scroll it by hand. It wasn’t easy to ride like that. It was scary to be bounced around over the holes in the terrain with just one hand on the handlebars.” Adrien Van Beveren.

Stage 9 is a 491 km loop with a 287 km special mostly consisting of sand and dunes.

Andrew Houlihan is now based in the Al Dawadimi bivouac for the next 2 days.

“Our bivouac is in Al Dawadimi for the next 2 nights”, he says, “which will give me a good chance to rest and walk around, have good look at the bivouac and catch up with some friends.”

Stage 7: Riyadh to Al Dawadimi

Today’s stage was from Riyadh to Al Dawadimi, a total of 710 km with 401 km of special stage.

With Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM) out of the 2022 Dakar Rally, the Nomadas Adventure Coca-Cola team is now down to 2 riders – Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM) and Greek rider Vasileios Boudros (#147 – Husqvarna). Antonio Guillen  (#111 – KTM) crashed heavily on day 2 and was airlifted back to the bivouac with broken ribs.

It was a good day for both our remaining riders with Vasileios finishing in 48th position and Pablo in 73rd.

After an early start both riders left the bivouac just before 6am for the 210 km morning liaison. Pablo and Vasileios were both very tired at the end of the day – it was long and the stage was hard. There weren’t many dunes today, but plenty of rocks, stones and rutted sandy tracks.

Pablo lost his rear exhaust for the last 100 km which made the bike obnoxiously loud.

The teams packed up from the Riyadh bivouac today and began the long journey to Al Dawadimi.

Andrew Houlihan says the trip turned into an adventure in itself.

“We have our Nomadas Adventure Coca-Cola Racing truck and another Mercedes Sprinter that travel between the bivouacs. The Mercedes had some mechanical issues in Riyadh.”

“The first 75 km took us almost 4 hours with the van constantly stopping. Finding mechanical help in Saudi is not easy.”

Eventually, while the van was stopped on the side of the road, a young Saudi guy in a very expensive car stopped to assist the team, got the van going and told them to follow him to a workshop he had.

“We spent the next 4 hours at the Nofa Wildlife Safari park and Resort”, Andrew said. “It’s a massive unimaginable oasis in the middle of the dunes and perhaps the most luxurious resort I have seen anywhere in the world!”

“And while the van was being repaired we were given a tour of the resort and dined in the Italian restaurant.”

Meanwhile, out on the rally route …

Australian Daniel Sanders (#4 – GasGas) crashed on the liaison stage and was taken to hospital. Reposts are that he has broken his left wrist and elbow and he will definitely not take any further part of the rally. He was 3rd overall going into the stage.

Toby Price (#18 – KTM) took the early lead but slowed later in the special, finishing 9th.

It was Nacho Cornejo (#11 – Honda) who eventually took the stage win, and with Sam Sunderland (#3 – GasGas) and Matthias Walkner (#52 – KTM) both having days they’d probably not want to talk about, the overall leader is now Adrien Van Beveren (#42 – Yamaha).

Stage 8 begins shortly – an 830 km trek from Al Dawadimi to Wadi Ad Dawasir, with a 395 km special that will include over 200 km of continuous sand and dunes. It will be a complex and difficult stage.

Vasileios Boudros (#147) during Stage 7 of the 2022 Dakar Rally.

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!

Stage 5: Riyadh to Riyadh

Today’s post comes late – delayed while we worked through the implications of an incident Andrew was involved in during Stage 5. I think Andrew tells it best ….

“My Dakar came to an end today.”

“Not by my choice. The medical staff and officials will not let me continue due to my rib fractures.”

“Today’s stage started well and I was feeling really good, had perfect navigation, passed many bikes and had worked my way up in 62nd position. The track was very fast with some rocks and stones littered in the sand. I misjudged a small section with a deep hole. I hit it very hard at high speed but did not come off, just jarred my upper body really bad.”

“It was only 20km until the refuelling point so I rode in very slowly.”

“I asked the medical team for some pain medication and they wanted to know what I needed it for. I made the mistake of mentioning rib and chest pain. They then started feeling my rib area and poking to see were the pain was which didn’t go very well.”

“After a long discussion / argument I had to accept their decision to not allow me to continue in the race. I argued the point with them for quite a while but their decision was final and for good reasons.”

It’s a gut wrenching outcome, especially after the effort Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM) has put into his recovery from a crash in training last year, and then simply getting through the unfolding COVID issues around the world to be in Saudi Arabia.

“This Dakar was always going to be a big challenge for me but I was getting through the days without too much trouble taking my time and trying to enjoy it.”

“The terrain is so demanding you have to stay focused 100% for every second as the smallest mistake can have severe consequences and the speed you have to ride at is just crazy.”

“The sand and dunes are like nothing we have in Australia so to train and prepare for Dakar you need to be in the sand and dunes in Africa or Saudi Arabia, something I didn’t get the chance to do prior to this Dakar, although yesterday I had a great rhythm and flow through the larger dunes and really enjoyed them.”

Stage 5 was Andrew’s best day yet and it showed in how he moved up through the field before the incident. He was officially classified as 57th for Stage 5, and 76th overall in Rally 2.

Andrew’s Nomadas Adventure Coca-Cola teammate Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM) is now 66th in the Rally 2 group.

More unsettling news for Andrew today was that Walter Roelants (#67 – Husqvarna) who Andrew had met and rode most of the stages in Dakar 2021, crashed heavily yesterday. Walter is in intensive care at the Riyhad Military hospital after fracturing his spinal cord, neck, ribs and puncturing his lung in the crash. Another reminder of just how quickly things can go wrong at Dakar.

Stage 5 created dramas for many other riders as well. Skyler Howes (#5 – Husqvarna) is out, Joan Barreda (#88 – Honda) injured his shoulder but is determined not to fail again so is struggling on regardless, and Daniel Sanders (#4 – GasGas) dislocated his shoulder but managed to put it back in place and continued.

The stage was cut short because of a sand storm and the “great demand placed on the medical aircraft dedicated to the bike race and the Dakar Classic”.

And if that wasn’t enough – Toby Price (#18 – KTM) won the stage only to be penalised for speeding, handing  Danilo Petrucci (#90 – KTM) his first stage win.

Andrew Houlihan will now watch the rest of the 2022 Dakar Rally from the sidelines.

“Katie and I will continue on with our Nomadas Adventure team for the remainder of the Dakar, with Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM) and Vasileios Boudros (#147 – Husqvarna) our 2 riders still in the race.

“Let’s hope 2022 will be a year that I can fully recover and come back to Dakar 2023 injury free and 100% fit.”

Stage 4: Al Qaisumah to Riyadh

Stage 4 of the 2022 Dakar Rally was always going to be one of the longest and hardest days of the rally. A total of 707 km with a 465 km special. The route had a mix of sand, soil and dunes and a few rocks and stones towards the end.

Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM) says it was also the coldest morning so far.

“The 100 km liaison was bloody hard, not sure what the temperature was but it was freezing bloody cold.”

The opening section was very fast and not too rough. 

Andrew says “the sand section was very nice, the dunes were also good and we rode our first really big dunes today.”

Navigation though, was very tricky and many of the lead riders came undone. Australians Toby Price (#18 – KTM) and Daniel Sanders (#4 – GasGas) both dropped time against the leaders. Sanders finished 17th today, 17 minutes behind the stage winner  Joan Barreda Bort (#88 – Honda) but managed to hang on to 4th overall.

Price dropped even more time – some 26 minutes in fact – dropping him to 16th overall. He had been at the front of the pack for some time, leading through the difficult navigation and clearly made some serious that cost hime dearly.

Sam Sunderland (#3 – GasGas) still leads the rally.

Andrew Houlihan has had another consistent day and continues his steady climb up the rankings.

“I took my time again today and was happy to see the end of stage.”

He now sits 77th in the Rally 2 group after finishing 73rd today, and is 104th overall. Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM 450 Rally), Andrew’s Nomadas Adventure Coca-Cola teammate, is 67th in Rally 2. 

Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM 450 Rally), Dakar Rally 2022

Today’s stage also threw some unexpected challenges to the riders, with some really dangerous sections that weren’t marked in the roadbook.

There were a few bad bike accidents during the stage. Two riders crashed heavily within 100 metres of each other, both requiring a medical helicopter.

Andrew Houlihan is also reporting that a few of the top fast cars are not sounding their alarms before passing the bike riders. Riders will not be able to hear, and sometimes not see, the vehicles approaching from behind and sounding the alarm is a required safety procedure.

“Yesterday I was almost hit by a car in the dunes, and I had another close call with a car today. Two riders were hit yesterday, both by the same vehicle!”

Even Daniel Sanders had a close call today, hitting an unexpected pile of dirt as he crossed the top of a dune. He smacked his face on the navigation tower and arrived at the bivouac with a split and swollen lip. It brings back memories of his bee incident last year!

We’re in Riyadh now, and we’re here for 4 nights.

Stage 5 looks like being very different to what we’ve been riding through up until now. The first part of the stage will be dirt tracks with rocks before it opens up into a long section of dunes. It’s a much shorter liaison at 214 km, and the special is 346 km. And of course it’ll be cold!

Daniel Sanders (#4 – GasGas), Stage 4 Dakar Rally 2022

Stage 3: Al Qaisumah to Al Qaisumah

Stage 3 was modified due to the heavy rain that soaked a part of the region around Al Artawiyah. Organisers moved the start point of the special to where CP1 was to be situated, shortening the special by around one hundred kilometres.

The route then became a 214 km link section followed by a 255 km special, and then a 166 km liaison back to the  Al Qaysumah bivouac.

The rain packed the sand so that it was heavier, allowing the riders to travel faster and a bit easier.

The change was a blessing for Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM) who is still suffering from yesterday’s high speed crash in the sand.

“I’m happy to have made it to the end of Stage 3”, he said. 

“Once we got into the stage there were some very fast open sand tracks which made the day go quick. There was also a quite a few rocks hidden in the sand which you had to be super careful of.”

“There was nothing too difficult today. There were a lot of dunes and a few big ones but I was very careful and slow.”

“When I crashed yesterday I had to get assistance from another rider to get my bike back upright and I didn’t want to have to stop someone again if I fell today.”

Andrew finished 86th in the Rally 2 group today, which keeps him 85th in the group and 112th overall.

A strong ride and a 65th placing in the Rally 2 group today moved Andrew’s Nomadas Adventure Coca-Cola teammate Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM 450 Rally) up the rankings. He now sits 73rd in the group and 92nd overall. 

The third Nomadas Adventure Coca-Cola rider – Antonio Guillen Rivera (#111 – KTM 500 EXC-F) – is finding his first Dakar Rally challenging. After failing to finish Stage 2 his attempt at Stage 3 was also cut short. However, fellow Nomadas Adventure rider Vasileios Boudros (#147 – Husqvarna) is also going well in his first Dakar, sitting 60th in the Rally 2 group.

At the head of the field, Joaquim Rodrigues (#27 – Hero 450 Rally) took the stage win – the first for himself and for the Hero brand. It was an emotional moment for the Portuguese rider, who’s brother-in-law Paulo Gonçalves tragically died in the 2020 Dakar.

Sam Sunderland (#3 – GasGas) still holds 1st place – just! He is only 4 seconds clear of Adrien Van Beveren (#42 – Yamaha) and 1 minute 30 seconds ahead of Matthias Walkner (#52 – KTM).

Toby Price (#18 – KTM) regained some of the time he lost on Stage 1B with a 2nd place.  That has moved him up to 14th overall. And Daniel Sanders (#4 – GasGas) has picked up 2 places and now sits 5th. Don’t rule these guys out yet!

Stage 4 takes riders to Riyadh, where they will spend the next 4 nights. But it’s a long trip – in fact, the longest special of the entire rally at around 465 km. 

There are some very long sections of fast tracks to navigate, a section of dunes of various sizes, and we also expect the riders will start hitting rocky sections as well. Does that suggest the end of all the sand – no!