Tag Archive for: Saudi Arabia

A total of 93 bikes will start Stage 5 of the 2021 Dakar rally today.

The stage consists of a short 72km liaison, 456km special with five checkpoints and a 268km liaison to wrap up the day and get the riders into the bivouac at Al Qaisumah.

The first refuelling point is after 193km at CP3, it’s a further 209km to the next fuel stop at CP5 and the third refuelling stop is just 126km later at the end of the special.

The riders briefing suggests that today could be the toughest stage of the rally with a mixture of sand, dunes, soil and rock to deal with. There are some tough dunes in the middle of the stage and a number of rocky sections that will lower the average speed.

The briefing also suggested that competitors will need to be patient, and that “competitors who fail to control their nerves are in for a bad day”.

Exactly what that means … well I guess we’ll find out.

The Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure teammates will be starting further apart today.

Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM 450RFR) will leave the bivouac at 6:39 am and start the special at 8:14 am.

Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM 450RFR) will head out at 6:48 am for an 8:23 am start at the special.

You can follow the live timing here.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – 06/01/2021

Stage 4 was the longest stage of the rally with a 266km liaison, 337km special and a further 253km liaison into Riyadh – a total of around 850km.

Although it was the longest stage in the rally, it probably wasn’t the toughest on the competitors. There was less sand, less big dunes but plenty of fast winding tracks.

Andrew and his Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure teammate Pablo Guillen started just 30 seconds apart today and tracked together for most of the early parts of the day.

While plenty of the top riders are bouncing up and down in the placings each day, Andrew and Pablo are maintaining a consistent pace.

Their goal is to ensure they finish in their rookie year at the Dakar Rally.

Andrew had a really good day until about 40km before the end of the special, when the mousse in his rear tyre blew.

The tyre mousse is a ring of flexible foam (no, not a fluffy chocolate dessert) that is placed inside a tyre before it is fitted on the rim.

In the event of an air leak and loss of pressure, the mousse expands to fill the void, giving a pressure almost equal to that of a properly inflated tyre.

He managed to limp into the final checkpoint to finish the day in 70th position, but that was enough to bump him up 2 places in the overall standings to 67th.

Pablo finished the stage in 58th which also moved him up 2 places overall to 65th.

With the timed section completed successfully, Andrew headed into the final liaison into Riyadh knowing that the rear tyre was at risk.

It finally shredded itself, and now with a fully deflated rear tyre the bike was becoming much more difficult to keep straight.

Andrew made it safely into the bivouac at around 7:15 pm, after dealing with the chaotic traffic of Riyadh and having a close call with a truck.

“It was a very fast day with about 30kms of big steep dunes”, Andrew says. “I had a really good run until the tyre issue which cost me a lot of time.”

“I also had a rider crash right in front of me! He didn’t notice the triple caution, hit a hole and went flying.”

Michael Burgess also reported coming across a crashed rider today.

He said in Facebook post that he had chatted to the rider at a refuelling stop.

“He came over and said ‘be safe’, we punched fist and off he went.”

“Then 10km in I came around the corner to a scene no one wants to see.”

Fortunately both riders were okay.

Burgess finished today in 34th place, and now holds down 38th overall.

Toby Price led the field of 96 riders out today and at the second timing point still had the lead.

But a navigation error soon after that cost him just over five minutes and dropped him 20 places.

Although he lost more time relative to the leaders during the rest of the stage, he maintained his place and finished today in 21st position, dropping him to 8th overall.

Daniel Sanders continues to show why KTM recruited him late last year. Another steady run today had him across the line in 2nd place, just six minutes and nine seconds behind stage winner Joan Barreda. He’s now 14th overall.

Stage 5 is reportedly a tough one – a total of 795km with a 456km special – and a mixture of sand, dunes, soil and rock.

Organisers are saying that tough dunes in the middle of the stage and numerous rocks will bring down the average speed, and that “competitors who fail to control their nerves are in for a bad day”.

We’ll bring you a stage preview later in the day.

Today’s stage begins with a 266km liaison to the start of the special. The special is 337km long with three checkpoints, and is followed by a further 253km liaison to tonight’s bivouac in Riyadh.

This is the longest stage of the rally, and the riders will cover around 850 km.

There are fuel stops at the beginning of the special, the first checkpoint 125km in and at the end of the special. That means the riders will have to travel the final 212km of the special without refuelling.

The special stage is unlikely to push competitors to their limit, in fact rally organisers have said that riders should enjoy the fast winding tracks.

There will be less sand and big dunes today, but the high winds of the last few days could make some of the tracks hard to identify.

In the bike category, 96 riders are expected to start today.

Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM 450RFR) will leave on the first liaison at 6:38:30 am and and the special at 10:33:30 am.

Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure teammate Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM 450RFR) will leave just 30 seconds behind him, so it is quite likely they will spend time riding together again today.

You can follow the live timing here.

Wadi Ad-Dawasir, Saudi Arabia – 05/01/2021

Stage 3 of the 2021 Dakar Rally was a 530km loop – 112km liaison, 403km special stage and another 115km liaison – starting and finishing at Wadi Ad-Dawasir.

About 90% of the stage was sand, and the dunes on today’s stage were much larger than the riders experienced yesterday.

Andrew said the dunes were much more enjoyable to ride and negotiate – until you got stuck!

He found himself bogged in the sand on one of the early dunes after a spray of sand from the rider in front of him caused him to lose momentum.

Getting the bike out turned into a real workout with Andrew having to pull the bike 20m down the sand one wheel at a time.

He said it tired him and it took a little while to recover, but teammate Pablo Guillen was waiting at the top of the dune to make sure he got through okay.

The two Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure teammates were able to ride together for some time today, arriving at the end of the special together.

Their times initially placed them 68th and 69th, but both riders had missed a waypoint along the way.

“I spent 15 minutes returning and trying to find it, but had to give up so I’ll get another penalty”, Andrew conceded at the end of the stage.

“Thinking about it later I probably would have been better to just to continue and take the penalty than waste the 15 minutes as well, but you don’t know that at the time.”

Both riders scored a 20 minute penalty pushing them a few places down the stage results. Andrew finished 72nd in the stage, Pablo 73rd.

Whilst adding to their consolidated times, the penalties actually had very little – if any – affect on their overall placings.

Pablo is now 67th outright, and Andrew 69th.

One of the changes for the 2021 Dakar is that the road book is only handed to the teams 15 minutes before the stage begins instead of the night before.

This is limiting the amount of time riders have to analyse the route before starting and making the navigation far more challenging. It’s one of the ways the organisers are trying to even the playing field out for all competitors.

And it seems to be creating chaos for the lead riders.

For two days in a row now the lead riders have found “opening the road” very challenging, and consequently they are dropping down the order the very day after they’ve made it to the top of the leaderboard.

Joan Barreda, Ricky Brabec and Ross Branch, who were the top three at the end of the second stage, all lost significant amounts of time yesterday. That allowed Toby Price to work his way through the field and claim another stage win.

Daniel Sanders is the best placed of the other Australians in the event. The KTM factory rider is currently sitting 16th overall.

And Michael Burgess has finished Stage 3 with another consistent result that’s moved him up to 42nd.

Michael operates Destination Dakar Roadbook Adventures a rally navigation training and tour company in Bendigo.

Prior to leaving Australia for Saudi Arabia, Andrew and Michael had been working on roadbook training together and clearly it’s working.

Something else that’s working very well are the team’s KTM 450RFR bikes.

Nomadas Adventure team owner and manager, Hernan Samaniego, along with Jakob – the team’s young Swiss KTM mechanic – are doing a fine job in preparing and maintaining the race bikes. Once again today neither rider had any mechanical issues.

Stage 4 will entail 850km of riding with a 337km special. Andrew starts at 6:39 am local time with Pablo one minute later.

Stage 3 takes riders on a loop starting and finishing at Wadi Ad-Dawasir. At least the teams don’t have to pack up and move today!

The stage is made up of a 112 km liaison, 403km special stage with three checkpoints and a 115km liaison back to the bivouac.

Fuel is available at the 98 km mark, checkpoint 1 and at the end of the special stage.

Parts of the stage look to be highly technical. Very early in the stage is a small canyon with large rocks and what organisers are referring to as a complex trial section.

Of course there’s sand, and apparently lots of it. Around 90% of today’s riding will be on sand, including around 10% on dunes. Those dunes are expected to be a lot larger than what the riders experienced yesterday.

The end of today’s stage will be very similar to the end of yesterday’s.

Once again there is a warning about high wind making tracks difficult to find and navigation challenging.

The Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure team of Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM 450RFR) and Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM 450RFR) will start today one minute apart. They leave on the liaison at 5:53 am and 5:54 am, and on special stage at 8:08 am and 8:09 am (local time).

Only 91 riders are showing as still competing.

Some, like French woman Sara Jugla and Spaniard Alexandre Bispo are showing amazing tenacity.

They managed to reach the finishing line for Stage 1 in Bisha late on Sunday evening, about 21 hours after Toby Price, and then fronted up to start Stage 2 only hours later.

They both managed to complete Stage 2 yesterday but they may not make the start line today.

You can follow the live timing here.

Wadi Ad-Dawasir, Saudi Arabia – 04/01/2021

It was an early start for the Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure team this morning with a wake up call at 4:30 am. But that becomes pretty normal during a Dakar – Andrew had a start time of 6:05 am.

Rally organisers had said that riders would spend most of their time in sand today and have their first encounter with the famous Saudi Arabian dunes.

So it wasn’t surprising that riders were straight into dunes about 100m high just 5 km into the special stage. Andrew found himself stuck twice on the top of a dune but was able to push over the top and only lost about 30 seconds on each.

“The second lot of dunes later in the day were bigger but I seemed to glide over them without much trouble”, Andrew said at the end of the day. 

The sand was endless all through the special, and if it wasn’t dunes it was soft spongy flat sand that wouldn’t allow the bike to get over 140km/h.

He managed to maintain a consistent pace throughout the day, finishing the stage and 67th position.

However he missed a waypoint before CP3.

“I realised about a kilometre on and wanted to back track. It was a narrow track and officials said it was too dangerous as trucks were starting to come through”, Andrew told the team. 

“Do you want the time or death”, they said to me.

“Thinking back to the crash in Hellas 2018 I decided taking on a truck was not worth the risk.”

“I’m here to finish, not break records or bones.”

Andrew received a five minute penalty as a result of missing the waypoint.

He now sits in 68th position overall.

Andrew said his KTM 450RFR didn’t miss a beat all day, and seem to have less issues dealing with other competitors.

“Only about 10 cars and 4 trucks passed me all day but they sure left their mark, I have a nice bruise on my right arm from a rock!”

Andrew’s teammate Pablo Guillen also had a good day.

Despite dropping some time early in the stage, Pablo worked his way back to finish 63rd in the stage.

In terms of overall standings, Pablo is sitting 63rd. Yes, that does just happen to match with his position at the end of the second stage!

After a long day in the sand Andrew arrived at the bivouac at about 4:30 pm feeling remarkably fresh. The temperatures have been kind to the competitors so far, minimums of 10° and highs of around 25°.

Andrew’s fellow Australian competitors had mixed days.

Red Bull KTM rider Toby Price finished the day 32 minutes behind stage winner and now overall leader Joan Barreda after having fuel issues. He is now down in 15th position overall but says he isn’t too concerned by that at this stage of the event.

KTM factory rider Daniel Sanders is sitting in 18th position just 21 minutes and 11 seconds down.

And in his first ever Dakar Rally, Michael Burgess is sitting in 42nd position.

Stage 3 takes riders on a loop starting and finishing in Wadi Ad-Dawasir, with a 403km special stage.

Riders leave Bisha today heading to Wadi Ad-Dawasir, a town in the Dawasir valley and the homeland of the tribe of Al-Dawasir. It has a population of around 120,000 people.

Today’s riding consists of a 135km liaison followed by a 457km special stage with four checkpoints, and finally a 93km final liaison segment into Wadi Ad-Dawasir.

Fuel stops are positioned at checkpoints 1 and 2, and at the end of the special stage.

Rally organisers have told the riders that around 80% of today’s stage is sand, and to expect strong winds from CP1 to the end of the special stage. The wind is expected to make the sandy sections softer and the tracks less visible.

Competitors will also experience the famous Saudi Arabian sand dunes for the first time this year. Around 15% of the special stage is sand dunes, not the biggest they will encounter but still of a reasonable height.

Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure rider Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM 450RFR) received a one minute penalty yesterday for exceeding the speed limit in the liaison stage, but it didn’t have a serious impact on his positioning in the field. His start time today is 6:03:30 am.

Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM 450RFR) starts today at 6:05 am.

There has already been at least 5 retirements from the rally and 96 riders are expected to start today stage.

French rider Erick Blandin has had to retire from his maiden Dakar after a nasty crash 204km into yesterday’s first stage.

Willy Jobard, who was racing on a hybrid hydrogen-powered motorbike, hurt his left hip in a crash after 93km. Sadly the veteran biker has had to withdraw from the Dakar for the fifth year in a row.

And Colombian rider Jhon Trejos withdrew after hurting his right wrist in a crash at the 98km mark.

Frenchman Xavier Flick (Husqvarna), who crashed and hurt his leg yesterday has been able to continue in the rally.

You can follow Andrew and Pablo’s progress live here (https://gaps.dakar.com/2021/dakar/aso/ukie).

Bisha, Saudi Arabia – 03/01/2021

Andrew Houlihan has bounced back from yesterday’s issues to finish Stage 1 of the 2021 Dakar Rally in 68th place overall.

The electrical glitch that shut down power to the navigation and tracking systems on Andrew’s Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure KTM 450RFR yesterday scored him a five minute penalty, meaning that he started today’s stage from 97th position.

But with a steady pace and clean navigation, Andrew was able to work his way up through the field, picking up almost 30 places by the end of the special stage.

With yesterday’s electrical issues resolved, the bike ran very well today without fault.

The 311km of liaison was all bitumen, a bit fresh at the start but basically easy-going.Once the riders were into the special stage they encountered some very heavy rocky sections.

In the stage briefing, riders were told that only about 3% of the special stage was rocky sections.

But Andrew reckons they put the decimal point in the wrong place – he says it felt more like about 30% of extreme rocks!

“At some points I could only go walking speed and when the cars started flying past the shower of rocks and dust was insane”, Andrew said.

“And passing quad bikes is also difficult because they spit out a phenomenal amount of dust and rocks.”

Andrew’s approach has been ‘safety first’, choosing to stop and wait when the dust got too bad.

He said he only had one small off for the day with no damage to himself for the bike, and one small navigation error when he went against his own rule of not following others.

“I was in thick dust and couldn’t see, and then a Red Bull car went roaring past me down this river bed.”

“So I thought, ‘the Red Bull guys must know where they’re going’. But no!”

“The next thing I saw was the Red Bull car coming back at me, so I headed for the bushes!”

The biggest damage from the day seems to be his pristine Coca-Cola/Nomadas Adventure jersey which ended up ripped to shreds from the sharp prickles.

After a long, dusty and rocky day with over 10 hours in the saddle, Andrew at first felt he’d a rough day until the team told him he picked up nearly 30 places.

So maybe not a bad day after all!

Andrew’s teammate Pablo Guillen also had a good day completing Stage 1 in 65th position.

The other Australians in the rally have had a mixed day.

Toby Price has taken the stage win and the overall lead in the rally.

Despite picking up at seven minute penalty for apparently speeding in a controlled zone, Daniel Sanders is 25th overall.

And Michael Burgess, who also scored himself a five minute penalty, is currently in 35th place.

Stage 2 has a 228km liaison and 457km special stage ending in Wadi Ad-Dawasir, and riders will experience the famous Saudi Arabian sand dunes for the first time.

The briefing said the special stage is 80% sand, but based on yesterday does that mean only 8%?

Stage 1 of the 2021 Dakar Rally will take riders from Jeddah to Bisha.

There is a 311km liaison, 276km special stage with 3 checkpoints, and finally a 35km trip into the bivouac.

Riders can expect a varied stage, that is demanding in both navigation and riding.

The special stage will be held entirely on tracks of sand and soil, but the riders briefing suggested there will be small sections (around 3%) of stoney surface. Competitors have been warned of the risk of punctures in the stoney sections and to stay on the centre of tracks  because of heavy ruts on the edges.

The main navigation challenge lies in the numerous intersections riders will face and the risk of choosing the wrong track.

Riders will be able to refuel at the beginning of the special stage and again at checkpoint 3, 177km into the special stage.

101 bikes are expected to start Stage 1.

After yesterday’s Prologue, Coca-Cola Nomadas rider Andrew Houlihan (#62 – KTM 450 RFR) will start from 97th position at 5:52am local time (1:58pm AEDT).

His team mate Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM 450 RFR) will start 14 minutes earlier at 5.38am.

You can follow Andrew and Pablo’s progress live here.

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – 02/01/2021

An electrical glitch on Andrew’s KTM 450RFR has caused him to miss registering 2 waypoints during the prologue stage (Stage 0) of the 2021 Dakar Rally, and the resulting penalty has dropped him down the results.

Andrew went into the prologue feeling confident after a reasonable run in the shakedown the day before, but on the start line the power supply to the navigation and tracking systems failed for a second and then came good again.

He started the stage but the power failed again, however this time it didn’t return. He stopped briefly to check and decided to continue without the navigation systems since the special stage was only 11km long and the track seemed easy to follow.

He came in 74th in the initial results.

But Andrew had failed to register 2 waypoints because of the power failure to the tracking device, and received a penalty that dropped him to 97th place.

Despite it being a disappointing start to the event, finding the issue in the short prologue was far better than it occurring in tomorrow’s much longer and tougher stage.

“We didn’t get a chance to have a decent shakedown and test the bike thoroughly, but we’d found a few small issues and Jakob, my Swiss KTM mechanic, had done a great job setting the bike up last night.We just didn’t know about this one!””

“So today was good to sort out the problems.”

Andrew says he is feeling more positive now the ERTF is wired correctly and working.

With over 4,800 km of special stages to come over 12 days of competition, placings are not a major concern at this stage. What the prologue did show is that Andrew has good pace.

Andrew was very surprised by the deepness of the sand around Jeddah, and said that so far it was very similar riding conditions to what he has experienced in Australia.

Stage 1 will take the riders from Jeddah to Bisha. There is a 311km liaison, 276km special stage with 3 checkpoints, and finally a 35km trip into the bivouac.