The practice sessions on sand in Europe a couple of months back seem to have helped India’s CS Santosh. This was evident as the Dakar 2017 entered Bolivia during the 416-km fourth competitive stage, which ran from San Salvador Jujoy in Argentina to Tupiza.
The first part of the special, with a mixture of very soft sand and a deep layer of fine dust, made riding a test of skill and mental fortitude. What made conditions tougher for the riders was the altitude, but both the Hero MotoSports Team Rally riders --- Santosh and Joaquim Rodrigues of Portugal, did well to not only emerge unscathed from the stage but showed grit and skill to improve on their overnight positions.
Santosh, who had to endure a one-hour time penalty for missing a waypoint in the third stage, and was relegated to 104th position in the starting order, held steady and gained 33 spots to finish 71st.
After a forgettable third stage, he had to fight his way back. His effort was more commendable as he had to brave the blinding dust kicked up by riders ahead of him. The extremely soft sandy sections in the first part of the special didn’t make things easier, but he held his ride together with patience and persistence and completed the timed section in 6 hours 41 minute 43 seconds.
“In the first bit, there was a lot of navigation and dunes. As I came up to this point, it was incredibly hard. I also got lost, and it took a while to find the track but I made sure that I collected all the waypoints today, unlike yesterday. I also crashed a few times, and it took a lot of effort to pick up the bike because I was going out of breath at this height. I am happy with my ride today and hope to continue with the good job tomorrow,” said Santosh at the end of the day.
Rodrigues displayed exemplary sportsmanship when he stopped twice to call in the medical evacuation helicopter to rescue two crashed riders. Though it affected his rhythm and cost him time, Rodrigues managed to complete the stage in 5:37:48 that put him in 32th place for the day and 18th in the provisional overall general classification.
The fifth stage from Tupiza to Oruro will take the participants on a run of 692 km, out of which the timed section of 447 km will test them with a wide variety of terrain and more than a handful of navigational challenges.
Provisional Stage 4 General Classification
1. Matthias Walkner, Red Bull KTM, 4:57:22
2. Joan Barreda Bort, Monster Energy Honda Team, 4:59:24
3. Michael Metge, Monster Energy Honda Team, 5:0040
32. J Rodrigues, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, 5:37:48
71. CS Santosh, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, 6:41:43
Provisional Overall General Classification
1 Joan Barreda Bort, Monster Energy Honda Team, 12:35:43
2. Pablo Quintanilla, Husqvarna Factory Rally, 12:54:02
3. Matthias Walkner, Red Bull KTM, 12:56:01
18. J Rodrigues, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, 13:58:55
79. CS Santosh, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, 17:41:20