Dakar 2024: Punctured tyres saw Aleš Loprais dropping to third place
For Aleš Loprais and his crew, the eighth stage of Dakar Rally 2024 had a similar story to the one from a day before: a good run slowed down by two punctures.
On January 14, the Dakar Rally returned to Al Duwadimi. The competitors already knew the place from before, as they spent a night there between the second and third stages. Today, it served as the finishing point for Stage Seven, starting the second half of the event. It was quite long with 882 kilometres in total, and its selective section was actually the second longest in the whole rally, spanning 482 kilometres.
After a rest day, which took place on Saturday in Riyadh, the Dakar Rally 2024 returned to a full and unforgiving pace. Stage Seven began with a 50-kilometre-long section in narrow canyons with vegetation, stir dust and difficult navigation. After that, it got much faster as the crews reached dunes and quicker sections with sandy terrain and tricky rocks. Thus, the navigators had no time to rest from the beginning to the end.
For a long time, Aleš Loprais with Jaroslav Valtr Jr. and Jiří Stross were close to Martin Macík Jr. and Mitchel van den Brink, as all three trucks are fighting for a podium in the overall standings. On kilometre 311, they were less than 90 seconds apart, but then bad luck struck the Instaforex Loprais Praga Team.
“I’m glad we’re at the finish because we really had bad luck today. We had a good run in the first part of the stage and fought for the lead with Mitchel van de Brink. Every second mattered. And there was also Martin Macík in the mix. It was nice, though pretty dusty,” recaps Aleš Loprais after making it to the bivouac.
“But then came a dune section, and we felt like we were back at home at Frenštát pod Radhoštěm in Czechia, but on New Year’s Eve night. One loud bang, followed by another, as we lost both rear tyres. We had to change them, and as it was in the sand, we had to dig underneath it. Unfortunately, we were also slightly tilted. But we couldn’t stop any better. We lost some time there. We were finishing in the dark, and I had to slow down a bit as we had no spare tyres left.”
The #602 Praga V4S DKR crossed the finish line in third place, 19 minutes behind the winner. Yet, Loprais and his crew remained in second place in the overall standings – one hour and 36 minutes behind Macík, the leader of the truck category, and 14 and half minutes ahead of a Dutch driver Mitchel van den Brink in third position.
On Monday, January 15, the Dakar Rally continued from Al Duwadimi to Ha’il. Stage Eight was 678 kilometres long, with a 458-kilometre selective section. Once again, it offered dunes, sand, and gravel. For the Instaforex Loprais Team, the stony second part of the stage was key.
“It was like yesterday. As the first three trucks, we ran close to each other, but then in the second half, we had two punctures. We had to slow down a bit after that, as the final section was full of stones. And without a spare tyre, we couldn’t afford any more punctures,” describes navigator Jaroslav Valtr Jr.
“The first section was great. We were just a few seconds apart with Mitchel van den Brink, who was in charge of the pace. And after the transfer, in the second part, we were in the dust behind Martin Macík. Later, in a stony section, we caught up with a vehicle we couldn’t pass. As I was trying to get ahead, I had to cut the track through bigger stones and that was a mistake. It cost us two punctures on the left side. Sometimes, less is more. It was my mistake. We lost a solid position, but we keep going,” shared some more details Aleš Loprais.
After changing both tyres, Aleš Loprais, Jaroslav Valtr Jr. and Jiří Stross finished the stage in third place, 13 minutes and 45 seconds behind its winner Mitchel van den Brink. For the Dutch driver, it was enough to jump ahead of the #602 Praga V4S DKR truck to second position in the overall standings. However, both crews are just two minutes and 17 seconds apart with still four stages to go.
On Tuesday, January 16, the Dakar Rally 2024 continues from Ha’il to Al Ula. The ninth stage of the famous rally raid marathon will be 661 kilometres long, with a 417kilometre special stage. Most of it will lead through sand and dunes, but the crews must also be ready for rocky sections and gravel parts.