Dakar 2024: Aleš Loprais stays second despite puncture
Another dusty stage with gravel tracks filled with stones – that is an accurate description of Stage Ten of the Dakar Rally 2024. While it did not begin very well for Aleš Loprais and his crew, in the end, it brought a good result for the Instaforex Loprais Praga Team with a gap increase to its competitors. The red and black Praga truck continues its journey in a battle for second place in the truck overall standings.
The next steps of Dakar Rally 2024 led from Ha’il to Al Ula in the ninth stage with 661 kilometres total. Tuesday’s selective section was 436 kilometres long, and crews faced pretty much everything that Saudi Arabia has to offer in cross-country rallying. The route consisted of dunes, fast tracks, and even more technical parts, with dangerous stones and a large portion of broken sections. With confusing lines leading through plateaus, this is when navigators show their talent. And the roadbook makers did put their skills to really challenging tests.
“Today’s stage was really ridiculous. It was extremely difficult,” shared his initial thoughts Jaroslav Valtr Jr., crew’s navigator, right after finishing the stage.
“We really have had enough. Physically, it was the most demanding stage so far. It was very difficult, but also nice, in the end,” said Aleš Loprais, who seemed to be a bit more forgiving, but he shared his comments after some time already passed.
“I’m glad that we’ve made it, and big thanks to the guys in our team for putting together this truck for us. And big thanks to the Lady for carrying us to the finish line.”
From the start, the red and black #602 Praga V4S DKR fought at the very top of the truck category. The Czech crew even led for a long time. However, one-third before the end, the crew lost 10 minutes looking for the right track to the next waypoint.
“I enjoyed the opening part in the dunes, which was fun. There, we were leading the truck category. The second part had an extreme amount of stones, with broken roads and lots of dust. As we were leading, we were the first truck to enter one difficult section, where it took us a while to find a waypoint. That is where we lost the lead in today’s stage because Gert Huzink and Martin Macík were able to catch us. They were luckier and found that point a bit earlier,” explains the Czech driver after finishing in third place today, four and half minutes behind the winning Dutch driver Huzink.
However, Aleš Loprais managed to be almost 20 minutes faster than Dutch youngster Mitchel van den Brink, which allowed the Instaforex Loprais Praga Team to retake the second position in the truck overall standings. They were still an hour and 54 minutes behind the category leader Martin Macík Jr. but over 17 minutes ahead of van den Brink in third place.
After three-quarters of the Dakar Rally 2024, trucks have already done over 3,500 kilometres of special stages. But there is still a long way to go before reaching the finish line at Yanbu. Over the next three days, they will face over 1,500 kilometres, out of which over 1,000 kilometres will count as special stages.
The tenth stage of the Dakar Rally 2024 saw a loop around Al Ula; 614 kilometres in total with 371 timed kilometres. While at yesterday’s briefing the organisers were promising a bit of an easier stage for the day, the crews did not see much difference. Once again, they faced many broken sections, dust, stones, and challenging navigation.
“We lost a few minutes at the start, as we had a puncture and had to change the wheel. But other than that, it was a relatively fast stage. But tomorrow it’s going to be a very different story,” summarized the day Jaroslav Valtr Jr., the team’s navigator.
The #602 Praga V4S DKR finished the stage in fourth place, 12 and half minutes behind its winner Gert Huzink.
“Another challenging stage. The leading trucks started 30 seconds apart, so we headed into the opening stony section in dust from Martin Macík and Gert Huzink. I don’t know why the organisers do that, but it doesn’t make sense,” says Aleš Loprais.
“In the dust, we had a left rear puncture and changing the wheel was a little more complicated because we struggled with air. So, I’d like to thank Jaroslav Valtr Sr. and Kilián’s boys for stopping by and helping us. Meanwhile, we lost our track position to plenty of buggies and cars, which we had to pass again later. And in the dust. As some were not too willing to let us pass, we had to risk from time to time. But it worked out. We’re at the finish line, and we keep going. There are still two difficult stages to go, so let’s wait and see what they bring to us. I still believe,” adds the Czech driver from Frenštát pod Radhoštěm.
Despite losing several minutes in the tenth stage, Aleš Loprais, Jaroslav Valtr Jr. and Jiří Stross have strengthened their second place in the truck overall standings. They managed to increase their gap to Mitchel van den Brink in third position from 17 minutes to almost one and a half hours as the Dutch driver faced technical issues and had to stop for a lengthy repair. The Instaforex Loprais Praga Team is two hours and six minutes behind leading Martin Macík Jr.
On Thursday, January 18, the Dakar Rally 2024 returns to the shores of the Red Sea, where this year’s famous rally raid marathon began two weeks ago. However, the forty-sixth edition of the event is still far from the end. The penultimate stage from Al Ula to Yanbu will be 529 kilometres long. The organisers are warning about its special stage (420 kilometres), which is set to be very challenging, and there might be significant changes in the standings across all categories.
Thursday’s menu might be only for hardened ‘gourmets’. Rough and broken terrain, with plenty of holes, bumps and stones of various sizes and shapes. That will be a big challenge to the crews and vehicles, who have gone through a lot over the past two weeks of rallying. Tyre punctures can happen anywhere. There will also be a short but difficult section in dangerously broken dunes.