Stage 11 : Dakar Rally 2020 Set for a Thrilling Conclusion after Thursday’s Penultimate Stage 

Stuart Gregory On Stage 11

The winds that made the race so difficult on Wednesday largely died down for yesterday’s race, and increased humidity levels meant that the sand was slightly less treacherous on Stage 11. This no doubt came as a relief to all the competitors left in this year’s Dakar, as they dared to dream of finishing the event. 

Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter contains many notorious dune fields, but yesterday they seemed to loosen their grip a little, allowing competitors to push harder on the return trip to Haradh from Shubaytah. 

Stuart Gregory (#100) took advantage of yesterday’s faster speeds to edge closer to a Top Ten finish in the Original by Motul Category. Although he finished in a relatively modest 16th, he started today in 11th position in the General Classification. As an indication of how difficult the Dakar can be, only 27 Original by Motul Category riders remain in the event (a little over half the number who started) after Thursday’s epic total distance of 744km. 

“To have completed 11 Stages of the Dakar is undoubtedly an immense achievement. Motul is extremely proud of all the competitors in this year’s Dakar – particularly the riders and drivers from Southern Africa,” commented Mercia Jansen, Motul Area Manager for Southern and Eastern Africa. “We know as well as anyone that the Dakar isn’t over until it’s over, and we wish everyone all the best for today’s final Stage,” she added. 

Consistency has proved to be the calling card of the Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined team’s Nissan Navara (#342), with another Top Thirty finish yesterday. As the team start the final Stage to Qiddiyah, they are in 36th place in the General Classification, having made up one place.

“After sleeping in a remote location in the desert on Wednesday evening, the guys moved into Stage 11’s complicated dunes. Despite the distance, they had no major issues,” reported Terence Marsh, CEO of Motul-backed Red-Lined Motoring Adventures. “Everything is on course for the final stage today but there are no guarantees – we know the Dakar can bite, and bite hard when it does! Hopefully the team get to finish what’s been a difficult and gruelling 2020 Dakar,” he added. 

Now that the end is almost in sight – today’s Stage is a relatively modest 447km – attention is naturally turning to who this year’s winners will be. In both the Car and Bike Categories, it would seem that the leaders have at least one hand on the coveted trophy – although as a veteran Dakar driver, Carlos Sainz (#305) knows better than to make any assumptions until he has crossed the finish line. 

Sainz’s third place on Stage 11 was enough to give him a 10-minute margin of error over defending champion Nasser Al Attiyah (#300). Barring disaster, these two will be joined on the podium in Qiddiyah by Stéphane Peterhansel (#302) who today reached a peerless total of 80 Dakar Stage Wins. 

With so much at stake this late in the Dakar, tactics have been just as important as strength and speed. Leading the Bike General Classification, Ricky Brabec (Motul-backed Monster Energy Honda) rode at only around 70% on Stage 11, by his own admission. His cautious approach saw him surrender around half of his accumulated lead, but more importantly, meant that he avoided any eleventh-hour disasters. 

The consensus is that – after a superb Dakar – Brabec is now very close to his first overall win. Crucially, by not winning yesterday’s Stage, he has ensured he was not the first rider to start on the final Stage. Pablo Quintanilla (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna) was first out the gate this morning but at time of publishing Brabec was leading the final stage and set to win.

For both Stuart Gregory and the team of Thomas Bell and Patrick McMurren, just under 500km of Saudi Arabian desert separate them from their goal of finishing the Dakar Rally 2020  today. 

Given how many competitors have withdrawn from this year’s Dakar (including two Cars and a Bike on Stage 11), they have every reason to be immensely proud of what they and their teams have achieved.

Stage 10 : More Sand than Rocks, but Plenty of Rolls on Stage 10 of the Dakar

Stuart Gregory On Stage 9

Stage 10 of the Dakar Rally 2020 not only tested the competitors, but also the organisers. As more and more accidents befell the participants, the safety helicopter resources were stretched to the point where the Stage had to be curtailed after 345km. The rest of the route to the Bivouac in Shubaytah was then run as Liaison for all categories. 

The day began with extremely fresh temperatures at Haradh in the Saudi Arabian desert, but with only 3 stages remaining in the Rally, the race was on to make up both times and positions in the General Classification. 

Inevitably, this led to riders and drivers cutting things a little fine, with some unintended consequences. One of the most spectacular moments involved fan favourite Fernando Alonso (#310) in his Toyota Gazoo Racing Hilux, who happily escaped uninjured (and was able to continue) after a dramatic roll down the back face of a dune. 

To make the helicopter pilots’ day even more challenging, heavy winds limited their flying window. Conditions at ground level (for those competitors who didn’t crash) weren’t any easier, and Stuart Gregory (#100) stated that he had had a very nerve-wracking day, with the limited visibility throwing up multiple surprises as natural obstacles appeared with very little warning. 

“It was super windy today, but a lucky break with the navigation let me overtake a few other Bikes,” said Gregory, once he was safely back in the Bivouac. The Marathon rules were applied again today, meaning that the permitted maintenance time was strictly limited.  

Gregory chalked up another commendable result, finishing 11th in his Category to remain in 12th place in the General Classification for the Original by Motul Category. After ten Stages, Gregory is closing in on his goal of finishing the Dakar and is a mere 40 minutes outside of the Top Ten in his Category. He has already successfully completed more Stages than he did last year but confessed to some nerves today due to the tough conditions. 

Terence Marsh, CEO of Motul-backed Red-Lined Motoring Adventures, also emphasised the role that the weather had played during Wednesday’s Stage 10. “It was a really difficult day in the dunes, with limited visibility caused by the wind blowing sand off the top of them,” he reported. “With ten Stages down, we’re getting close now – but also nervous at the same time,” he admitted. 

The Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined team’s Nissan Navara (#342) avoided any major issues on Stage 10, other than those caused by the ever-present winds. Finishing in 31st position was another extremely creditable performance but results elsewhere meant that they actually slipped back to 37th place in the General Classification. 

Although there are now only two Stages remaining in this year’s Dakar, it is still impossible to predict the final results with any real certainty. Unexpected events like today’s strong winds can cause competitors to lose significant amounts of time and can really shake up the General Classification. Stage 10 saw some movement at the top: American Ricky Brabec (#9) on the Motul-supported Monster Energy Honda extended his lead in the Bike Category General Classification by 5 minutes to a healthy 25 minutes after coming second in today’s Stage.  Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz (#305) is looking to nail down his third Dakar triumph (after victories in 2010 and 2018) after winning the shortened Stage 10. 

Stage 9 : Stuart Gregory and Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined Consolidate their Positions on Stage 9

Stuart Gregory On Stage 9

After the cancellation of Monday’s Stage 8 for Bikes and Quads (out of respect for the passing of Paulo Gonçalves), the full field of Dakar Rally 2020 entrants were back in action today, Tuesday 14 January. 

Stuart Gregory (#100) made the most of the unscheduled day off to catch up on some rest and relaxation, and carefully planning his oil and tyre changes around the next Marathon stage (when maintenance time will be strictly limited). He was also able to get to the bottom of a mystery that had been puzzling him for days: 

“I found out why I was struggling in the first week – the pin inside my steering damper had rusted solid. That’s why I was finding it so hard to turn around the rocks and my arms were getting surprisingly tired,” he revealed. “Now the bike feels much better and I can push a lot harder,” he added. 

Stage 8 was still run for the Cars and other Categories as a loop Stage, starting and finishing in Wadi Al Dawasir. “Wadi” means valley, and there were plenty of those (all filled with different colours of sand) to contend with – despite some navigational challenges experienced by the top drivers, there was no change at the top of the General Classification for the Cars. The big news of the day was a second place for ex-Formula One driver Fernando Alonso (#310) – his best showing yet on his maiden Dakar. 

Terence Marsh, CEO of Motul-backed Red-Lined Motoring Adventures, explained that the Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined team’s Nissan Navara had had another “adventurous” day, but finished in 34th place to gain one position on the General Classification. 

“Monday was another good day – the guys got stuck in dunes a couple of times but no major issues,” reported Marsh. “With 8 Stages down and 4 to go, the end is in sight – but on the Dakar, you never know what tomorrow can bring,” he cautioned. 

Tuesday’s Stage 9 took competitors north-east to Haradh, a small settlement in the heart of Saudi Arabia’s famous oil and gas fields. Stuart Gregory had another very solid day in the saddle and was the 15th Original by Motul rider to finish the Stage. In the General Classification, he’s still just outside the Top Ten, in 12th position. American Ricky Brabec (#9) still leads the Bike Category, with defending champion Toby Price (#1) in 3rd position.  

The cream rose to the top in the Car Category with Stéphane Peterhansel (#302) taking the Stage win, although the Top Three in the General Classification remains the same. Leading competitors today had to avoid a lively herd of camels, which were dispersed by helicopter for safety reasons. 

The Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined team’s Nissan Navara crossed the line in Haradh in 32nd position, enabling them to consolidate their Top Forty position in the General Classification. Their stated goal may be nothing more than to finish the Dakar Rally 2020 (itself an achievement not to be underestimated) but they are on course to do so in some style. 

Stage 6 & 7 : Dakar Rally Competitors Crank Up the Pace Despite a Gruelling Stage 7 

Stuart Gregory On Stage 6

Stage 7 of the 2020 Dakar Rally, on Sunday 12 January, was the longest and most varied Stage of this year’s Dakar. In both the Car and Original by Motul Categories, competitors backed by Motul have managed to stay the course despite the fact that almost a quarter of all competitors had withdrawn by the end of Friday’s Stage 6. In the Original by Motul category, a third of all starters had withdrawn by the time of the rest day in Riyadh (the Saudi Arabian capital) on Saturday. 

After achieving a 33rd position on Stage 6, the Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined team’s Nissan Navara finished in 36th position on Sunday, and the team have clawed their way back up to 40th position in the General Classification. 

“The guys had a couple of minor technical issues today, which cost them a little time,” reported Terence Marsh, CEO of Motul-backed Red-Lined Motoring Adventures. “We made good use of yesterday’s rest day, having all our gearbox, diff and engine oils checked at the Motul Lab. Having access to this free testing service and technical advice has been a great help throughout the Dakar. Although the Motul experts found no issues at all, we replaced all the oils in preparation for today’s epic but fast Stage,” he added. 

Stuart Gregory also discovered that he could build up a good head of steam on Sunday as the Dakar entered Saudi Arabia’s notorious Empty Quarter. Although the route was punctuated by dunes, he found that he was able to ride flat out for long stretches at a time. “It was a good day for me personally, with a very fast Stage,” commented Gregory once he had arrived safely in Wadi Al Dawasir. 

After finishing 17th in the Original by Motul Category on Friday, and 13th in Stage 7, Gregory has consolidated his 12th place in the General Classification. Although a top-10 finish now seems attainable, he maintains that that is not his goal. 

“My goal is simply to finish,” Stuart insisted. “I’m not really thinking about positions at this stage, as things can change so quickly in the Dakar,” he added. 

His sentiments were echoed by Terence Marsh, who explained that “positions are secondary – finishing is everything”.  

Saturday’s rest day was an opportunity for all the competitors to regroup and reflect on their experiences of the first week of the Dakar Rally 2020. With this being the first year that the Dakar has taken place in Saudi Arabia, spectator interest has been gearing up as the event has progressed. Both Stuart Gregory and Terence Marsh commented on the warm welcome they’d received from the Saudi people and commended the organisers’ decision to relocate the Dakar to the Middle East. Gregory also took advantage of the chance to spend a night in a hotel in Riyadh and enjoy his first hot shower of the event! 

Rivalries were resumed in Sunday’s Stage 7, with Carlos Sainz (#305) notching up another Stage win in the Car Category. The two-time Dakar winner continues to lead what has become a fascinating three-way tussle of the champions with Peterhansel (#302) and Al-Attiyah (#300). Meanwhile, despite only finishing 5th on Sunday, Ricky Brabec (#9) is still sitting pretty at the top of the rankings in the Bike Category. If he can hold onto that position, he’ll become the first-ever American winner of the Dakar, and he will end Honda’s 30-year wait for a win. 

Events on Stage 7 tragically demonstrated that finishing the Dakar is an immense achievement in itself. Paulo Gonçalves (#8) – a previous runner-up and true Dakar legend – passed away following a heavy fall. Monday’s Stage 8 has been cancelled for Bikes and Quads as a mark of respect for Gonçalves, and to allow riders time to mourn their friend and fellow competitor.   

Stage 5 : Mixed Fortunes for Previous Champions on Stage 5 of the Dakar Rally 2020

Stuart Gregory On Stage 5

Past winners and Dakar Legends Toby Price and Carlos Sainz took the Stage 5 wins in their respective Categories. In the process, Sainz (#305) strengthened his grip on the overall first place in the Car category, although Price (#1) is only in second place in the General Classification for the Bike Category despite notching up his second Stage win of 2020. 

Another former winner of the Dakar, Sam Sunderland (#3), suffered a serious crash and picked up injuries that have ruled him out of the rest of this year’s Dakar. This was his 5th withdrawal in 7 attempts at the world’s toughest Rally-Raid event, including crashes in 2015 and 2018.  

Surviving competitors had to take on the climb up to the plateau of Jabal Sammar before arriving in the Bivouac, which – appropriately enough – was in the traditional home of Saudi Arabian rally driving. Ha’il hosts an annual rally event supported by Saudi motorsports fans. 

Today’s Stage from historic Al-`Ula to Ha’il comprised some 211km of Liaison and 353km of Special. Long stretches of sand were punctuated by demanding rocky sections. Rocks had already caused issues yesterday, so competitors were certainly aware of the dangers they could pose.  

After being hit by a rock thrown up by a T5 Truck on stage 4, the Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined team’s Nissan Navara needed a new windscreen – which was fitted in the middle of the night as temperatures were nudging zero and tiredness was taking its toll. Fatigue has started to become a serious factor for competitors across all categories in this year’s Dakar, but the spirit of the Dakar always finds a way to overcome tired muscles and minds. As driver Thomas Bell stated, “As the Dakar gets tougher, you have to get tougher!” 

After being pushed to the limit on Stage 4, the Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined team’s Nissan Navara (#342) had a really good day yesterday, according to Terence Marsh, CEO of Motul-backed Red-Lined Motoring Adventures. “The car is home safely – with no punctures,” reported Marsh. “After starting as car number 62, right at the back of the pack, they fought back brilliantly and worked their way through the field to finish the Stage in 33rd position,” he added.  

The fact that Stage 5 comprised more than 40% dunes meant that the Dubai-based team were on more familiar ground, and it showed in their results. They were able to undo some of the damage done to their prospects on Stage 4, and started in 55th position today in the General Classification. 

In the Original by Motul Category, Stuart Gregory (#100) finished the Stage in 18th place – consistent with his 17th place after stage 4. He has slipped back two places in the General Classification but is still in a very creditable 13th position as the riders approach the halfway point of this year’s Dakar. 

“I felt better on the bike yesterday. Even with 200km of tough dunes, overall for me it was not a bad day,” explained Gregory. “At one point, I came in a bit hot on a section like a rollercoaster: a steep downhill followed by a dune top, which meant that I went airborne, which was perhaps a bit too exciting!” he admitted. 

Today’s Stage 6 will end in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, which will be the venue for the only rest day on this year’s Dakar: on Saturday, competitors can enjoy the luxury of not riding or driving anywhere! 

Stage 4 : Ross Branch Shows His Mettle While Stuart Gregory Gains Ground

Stuart Gregory On Stage 4

Stage 4 of the Dakar Rally 2020 was considerably longer than the previous day’s Stage, which meant more time in the saddle for all competitors in the Bike Category. Botswana’s Ross Branch (Bas Dakar KTM Racing Team) followed up his win on Stage 2 with a 3rd place today – despite riding with a separated shoulder and starting in dead-last place. 

In the Original by Motul Category, Stuart Gregory (who yesterday stopped twice to help injured riders) found today harder going. He ultimately finished Stage 4 in 17th place in his Category, just over an hour after the day’s Category winner. 

Like many of his fellow competitors, Gregory was taken aback at just how stony much of the Stage 4 terrain proved to be. “Today was a super-tough day – it was the day that this year’s Dakar really started,” commented Stuart. “There were 50km of black rocks with no path, and lots of stones being flung up by passing cars to add to the challenge. I’m a bit tired after such a long day but still going and still positive,” he added.  

Despite the challenges of the day, Gregory is now up to 11th place in his Category – an achievement that is all the more impressive given that only 26 Original by Motul Category riders remain in the race. 

The scenery on Stage 4 was dominated by massive rock formations, glowing golden in the desert light and smoothed into strange shapes by wind-blown grains of sand. Even “Mister Dakar” himself, Stéphane Peterhansel, commented that the rocky sections towards the end of today’s Stage made it especially challenging. That didn’t stop him taking the Stage win in the Car Category, however, to add still more gloss to his Dakar palmarès. 

At time of publishing, Terence Marsh, CEO of Motul-backed Red-Lined Motoring Adventures, reported that the Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined team’s Nissan Navara had just completed the stage. “It’s just gone 10pm local time and the guys have just finished the stage,” he explained. “They did not have any mechanical issues, but the team had to borrow wheels from other competitors and then had to wait for the T4 assistance truck with extra tyres due to the number of punctures they’ve experienced. The guys are exhausted and hoping for some rest before going out there again tomorrow,” he added.  

Having to race at night of course only adds to the challenge of the Dakar and underlines how even the best-prepared teams have to be able to adapt when things don’t go quite according to plan. 

Stage 3 : Back to the Future: The First Loop Stage of The Dakar Rally 2020 Throws Down the Gauntlet 

Stuart Gregory trying to hold onto his position before stopping to help a fellow competitor who had crashed taken by Edouardo Bauer

The end of Day 3 at the Dakar Rally 2020 means that surviving competitors have now completed one quarter of the ultimate Rally-Raid Event. Although that is of course an achievement in itself, today the Dakar showed its teeth with more competitors being forced to retire through either injury or mechanical issues. 

The Dakar has a way of constantly throwing up surprises – which is what makes it such a compelling event to participate in and to follow. Today, some of the leading contenders in each category lost significant chunks of time due to having to correct navigational errors. Given that Stage 3 both began and ended in the same city – Neom (or “new future”) – it might be expected that navigation would be simpler – but the Dakar did not become legendary by being easy to complete. 

Neom is a brand-new, $500 billion project to create a city of the future on the Red Sea coast. For some competitors, sadly, the future is looking a little bleaker after their withdrawal during an exhilarating Stage that caused competitors to expect the unexpected. The leads in the Bike, Car and SSV Categories all changed hands as some competitors failed to master the sand and rocks. 

Terence Marsh, CEO of Motul-backed Red-Lined Motoring Adventures, professed that he was satisfied after another very solid Stage from his team. “Thomas and Patrick completed today’s Stage in a little under five hours, meaning that they came home in 40th position in the Car Category,” he explained. “That has lifted us 6 places in the General Classification, to 44th position overall,” added Marsh. 

Day 3 involved 77km of liaison and some 427km of special, with competitors following an anticlockwise loop away from the Red Sea and into the northern Saudi Arabian desert, before heading back to the coast. The scenery alone made this Stage worth the detour: rolling red dunes and towering cliffs of rock forming narrow valleys. 

Perhaps the distracting beauty of the scenery accounted for some of the navigational errors that happened during the Day, with even experienced Dakar Legends falling prey to the alluring mysteries of the desert. Even the organisers were not immune to glitches today: a technical problem affected GPS units in the Bike Category, leading to a revision to the results. 

Rather than use the finish line times for riders, the organisers have instead decided to take the times from waypoint 53, after 389km of the Stage. Original by Motul competitor Stuart Gregory (100) lost time today for a different reason: “I stopped to help a fellow rider who was injured and waiting with him for the medical helicopter cost me about 15 minutes,” he explained, with characteristic modesty. “Otherwise, all is going strong on my side,” he added. 

After stopping to help a second injured rider towards the end of the Stage, Gregory was “given back” the total of 32 minutes he had sacrificed. Under the rules of the Dakar – which place an emphasis on sportsmanship and camaraderie, time lost by “Good Samaritans” is always adjusted for. 

This meant that Gregory actually came 13th in the Original by Motul Category on Stage 3, an excellent result that saw him leap up the General Classification to 15th place – ahead of 3 of the 4 Dakar Legends in the Original by Motul Category. 

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Stage 2 : A Great Day for Southern Africans at the Dakar Rally 2020 – but Heartbreak for Bosman

Day 2 of the Dakar Rally 2020, Mon 6 Jan, saw competitors from southern Africa experience both triumph and disaster on the stage from Al Wajh to Neom. In the Motorbike Category, Botswana rider Ross Branch came in first while some of the leading contenders struggled in his wake. This represented the first time that a competitor from this gemstone-rich country had shone as a diamond in the rough at the Dakar. Yesterday’s result took Branch up to sixth place overall.
 
Wessel Bosman (123) had to take evasive action to avoid a truck, but in doing so, he was forced to jump a large hole in the sand. A hard landing resulted in him breaking his ankle. Agonisingly for Bosman, this was the fourth time that he has had to withdraw from the Dakar. 

Stuart Gregory (100) had a better time of Stage 2, which he described as really quick. He came 18th in the Original by Motul category, finishing less than an hour after the fastest Original by Motul rider. With two stages of the Dakar Rally 2020 under his belt, Gregory has consolidated his position, climbing two places within his category. 

“One of the biggest challenges today was the dust kicked up by the cars and then the trucks as they passed us,” reported Gregory. “In this fast stage, the first car passed me after around 120km, and each time I was overtaken, it caused near white-out conditions which meant I had to slow down repeatedly. I probably saw half the field come past me today!” 

Many participants found the navigation on Stage 2 challenging and in an event as competitive as the Dakar, even a few minutes’ doubt can result in lost places. With just 4km remaining before the Stage 2 finish line in Neom, Gregory trusted his gut instinct rather than following the rest of the field and hit a good line that helped him claw back precious minutes. 

He was particularly happy that he arrived at the Bivouac in time to benefit from the skills of the massage team on the Motul stand who were able to help him deal with his slightly tight back and neck muscles.
 
The Car Category also saw a southern African stage winner, with Dakar Legend Giniel de Villiers coming home in first place. The all-British crew of the Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined Nissan Navara put their desert training (the team is based in Dubai) to good use, finishing Stage 2 in 50th place. After 2 of the 12 stages of this year’s Dakar, they lie in 47th place overall. 

“We had no mechanical issues, but a couple more punctures due to rocks being thrown up when the SSVs, trucks and cars all became bunched together,” commented Terence Marsh, CEO of Motul-backed Red-Lined Motoring Adventures, as he looked back on what he also described as a really fast Stage. “It was very rapid terrain, including mountain canyons and riverbeds, with some really tough navigational issues at the end of the Stage,” he added.
 
In addition to the varied terrain, competitors also had to contend with herds of wild camels end route. All in all, it was a day of mixed fortunes – most of them positive – for the southern African contingent on a Stage where much of the terrain recalled the African origins of the Dakar. 
Taking on the dunes for Dakar 2020 Stuart Gregory

Stage 1 : A Cautious start for Gregory, Bosman and Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined 

Taking on the dunes for Dakar 2020 Stuart Gregory

Day 1 of the Dakar Rally 2020 (Sun 5 Jan), saw the opening of the third chapter in the history of the ultimate rally-raid event, with competitors roaring off into the Saudi Arabian desert. The largely coastal stage served as the ideal curtain-raiser for this year’s Dakar by giving participants a sample of every kind of terrain they’re likely to face. This included rocky stretches towards the end of the stage that caused numerous punctures. 

For Stuart Gregory (100), his initially cautious approach paid dividends. He reported that after finding his feet for the first hour or so (in very rocky terrain, where a fall could have spelled an early end to his Dakar), he was able to take advantage of some much faster sections and go flat out. He also had a different kind of close escape. 

“Riding through one town with my music turned up loud, I was doing around 120km/h and didn’t hear the “screamer” alerting me to a change in the speed limit. In the same 50km/h section, I picked up nine speeding fines,” Gregory confessed. “Fortunately, as this was the first day, we were all let off with a warning – from now on I’ll just be using one earpiece!” 

Gregory came in 87th overall and lies in 19th position in the challenging Original by Motul category – a very solid start indeed. He spent the evening in the Bivouac, making minor adjustments to his new KTM 450 Rally Replica. Following his heart-breaking exit last year due to an engine failure, Gregory has done all he can to prepare and has high hopes to finish this year’s event. 

Like Stuart Gregory, Wessel Bosman (123) also played it safe on Day 1 of the Dakar 2020. He finished some two hours behind Stuart Gregory to sit in 37th place in the Original by Motul category (135th position overall). He also found this to be a long day, having ridden almost 800km (including the liaison section). 

In the cars category, the Sabertooth Motoring Adventure/Red-Lined Nissan Navara (342) sponsored by Motul, was one of many vehicles to suffer a puncture on the rocks. Terence Marsh, Red-Lined Motoring Adventures CEO, reported that while this lost the team of Thomas Bell and Patrick McMurren a few minutes, there were no major issues. 

“It was a nice clean stage despite the tough terrain and navigation,” commented Marsh. “I’m happy to be able to say that at the end of Day One of the Dakar 2020, in 50th place in the cars category, life is pretty good for now,” he added. 

Of course, that can all change in an instant: Day 2 of this year’s Dakar will see competitors head further along the Red Sea coast to the futuristic city of Neom. It will be a significantly shorter stage, where the challenges are expected to come more from the navigation than the terrain. 

For Stuart Gregory, Wessel Bosman and their fellow motorbike and quad riders, Day 2 also sees the start of the “super marathon” component of this year’s Dakar. This will restrict riders to just 10 minutes of maintenance time per day, adding a new twist to the challenge of completing the Dakar. 

For live interviews, daily updates, great photos and videos from the Dakar 2020, including the Epic Story by Motul category, follow the official Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/motulza/ or the official Instagram account here: https://www.instagram.com/motul_south_africa/?hl=en