India’s C. S. Santosh crashed out in the fifth stage of the 41st edition of the Dakar Rally even as his Hero MotorSports team-mates Oriol Mena and Joaquim Rodrigues did well to reach the finishing line on an incident-filled day, here.
The fifth stage of Dakar 2019 turned out to be extremely tough and dangerous for the competitors, claiming its fair share of casualties on Friday.
Santosh suffered a nasty crash between the waypoint 4 and 5, scuttling his chances to pursue the stage further. The crash brought a premature end to Santosh’s attempt to conquer a record fifth Dakar by an Indian. According to last received reports, his condition is stable and he is currently being attended to by the medical team at a hospital in Tacna.
Besides Santosh, team-mates Mena and Rodrigues, too, had a rough outing. Both crashed once in the stage.
Mena’s crash was quite bad as he lost his bearings for some time after the crash, but miraculously made it to the finish line. Rodrigues, despite losing time due to the crash, gained some positions, finishing the stage in 18th place.
Mena, too, overcame the crash to finish the stage in the 16th place. Overall, after stage 5, Mena managed to retain his overnight 12th spot while Rodrigues climbed up three positions to be placed 28th in the overall rankings.
The fifth stage was quite fast with all the riders going flat out in waves of 10 in a motocross style start. The presence of fesh-fesh severely impaired the visibility for the riders coming at the back, and stones hidden away in the course of the route made it even more dangerous. The riders encountered insurmountable dunes in the latter part of the stage which compounded their difficulty levels.
The rally will now come to a halt for half a day, giving some respite to the competitors, teams and the organisation to replenish their energies and take a stock of their performances thus far.
The rally will hit the road again on Saturday evening for a semi-marathon stage where the riders will camp at a separate bivouac. From Saturday night onwards, the rally will start backtracking the route back to Lima with stage six taking the competitors back to the dusty San Juan De Marcona.
Mena said it was a difficult day for all the riders, and wished speedy recovery for his team-mate Santosh. “The beginning was really nice and easy with comfortable riding. But then at around 268km, I think I hit a stone and had a massive crash. But it’s the Dakar and these things happen,” the Spaniard said.
“[The] most important thing is that I am OK and happy to be back with the team. But [I’m] really sad to hear about Santosh crashing out. The important thing is that he is OK and I wish him a speedy recovery,” he added.
Rodrigues concurred with Mena. He said, “It was an extremely tough and dangerous stage today with a lot of fesh-fesh and hidden away stones. With everyone going full out all the time, it made visibility very poor for the guys riding at the back. The dunes were also very difficult to cross. One of them was so big that I had to go up and down a few times to gain enough momentum and even then I barely made it to the top.
“I also crashed twice and hurt my shoulder a bit but managed to pick my bike up and ride it to the finish line. It was a rough day but the good thing is that we are still in the race and that’s all that matters. I am really sorry about Santosh’s crash. I am glad to know that he is OK and wish him a fast recovery,” Rodrigues said.
Sherco TVS Racing’s K.P. Aravind finished the stage in the 53rd position and is now placed 54th in the overall standings.
“I am delighted to reach the halfway mark of Dakar 2019 but I need to keep the momentum going as there is long way to go to the finish line. This stage was the toughest but having cleared it, I feel more confident to take on the second half of Dakar 2019 and make my team proud,” he said.
TVS Racing's Lorenzo Santolino climbed to the third position in stage 5 and 11th position in the overall ranking.
"I began the race with the objective to stick with the fastest riders and everything began to fall in place on its own. I completed the stage in a very competitive timing and this has given me immense confidence to push myself and my bike to maintain the momentum for the rest of the Rally.
"I am thankful to my team to have given me such an excellent bike. I am happy to be able to use the learnings from the team everyday," Santolino said.