While Dakar 2018’s ninth racing stage to Salta was cancelled due to adverse weather and flooding in the Andes on Monday, the convoy crossed into Argentina to finally allow contact with the TreasuryOne team since they lost communication when the race left La Paz on Saturday. Family, friends and fans had been left in the dark since then, a situation complicated by Hennie de Klerk, Gerhard Schutte and the TreasuryOne Amarok quite literally disappearing from Dakar’s timing screens on Saturday evening.
They reappeared some 24 hours later when the crew showed up running 34th through Sunday’s first control. Dakar’s internet team had stopped updating the website and also failed to update the site again after that, probably also as a result of an almost total lack of communication up in the Andes, leaving Hennie and Gerhard’s re-appearance the next day as the first clue to their existence.
The TreasuryOne Amarok also re-appeared in 32nd in the overall rankings on Sunday evening, but the team was only able to communicate with followers back home once they had crossed into Argentina late on Monday SA time. The initial sketchy third-hand information received on Sunday was indeed accurate, as Hennie de Klerk explained shortly after crossing the border last night: “In a nutshell, we broke a lower control arm when I missed a corner — we had just been passed by a T4 truck and I misjudged the road ahead in the dust.
“It took us five hours to repair the TreasuryOne Amarok out on the stage — my intrepid navigator Gerhard Schutte had to work his magic, but our main problem was that the ball joint had ripped out of the upper control arm and we did not carry a spare. “In good Dakar spirit a family of locals showed up around 21h00 and one of them was a mechanic and he assisted Gerhard with the final assembly.
“To make matters worse we missed the eleven-hour allowed stage time of hours by just six minutes and took a 4 hour penalty on top of our 5 hours in delays, partially because we spent a little time to take a few selfies with the guys who helped us once we’d finished the repairs. Kudos to them though — their assistance helped us get going again so they really deserved that team shot!
“Being a marathon stage, we could not service the TreasuryOne Amarok overnight on Saturday and we had to rely on Gerhard and our new friends’ bush repairs, so we drove conservatively on Sunday as we were not sure if our repairs would last. “Sunday’s stage was the longest racing section so far with 495km of special and another 100 of liaison thereafter and luckily Gerhard’s handiwork lasted — we reached Tupiza around 17:00.
“The focus is to finish the Dakar, come hell or high water,” de Klerk concluded. “Like Para to Dakar legend Joey Evans said in his book, ‘we did not come this far to only come this far’!”
Monday’s stage being cancelled has allowed the team to regroup and spend some valuable time fettling the TreasuryOne Amarok for the final few stages home and besides rebuilding the damaged suspension, the team attended to several other issues including an alternator snag and a steering problem that appeared on Monday’s liaison run into Salta, but the race has been an emotional rollercoaster for the TreasuryOne team.
“Dakar is a true test of character — not just for the crew and the race car, but also for the rest of the team and everyone else involved,” team coordinator Roy Obery explained. “At first the big objective is to get to the rest day, which we were delighted to achieve. “Then the focus shifted to completing the marathon stage intact and as you know that was a complicated one, so there was a great celebration when the guys finally came in on Sunday evening after two nerve-wracking days.
“Now we’re concentrating on the ultimate goal — the finish at Cordoba on Saturday. “Make no mistake, there’s still a long way to go, but most importantly, we are still on course for Hennie, Gerhard and the team to get to the finish of our first Dakar to make this dream come true.”
Tuesday’s 800km tenth of 14 Dakar 2018 stages sees teams tackling a 375km racing section from Salta to Belén in Argentina with another tricky dune section vast sandy plateau early on. Follow it live on TreasuryOne’s Dakar Live Blog at www.motosportmedia.co.za