Dakar drops ‘marathon’ stage rule after heavy rain

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Following Saturday’s Prologue and the first full stage of the rally raid in Ha’il on Sunday, the competitors were scheduled to face two days of Marathon during which they would not have been able to receive outside assistance from their teams.

But heavy downpour that began on Saturday afternoon in Ha’il and throughout the northern region of the country has flooded the Al Artawiyah bivouac, where the competitors were supposed to sleep in tents without their mechanics and equipment on Monday night.

As a result, rally organiser ASO has decided to turn stages 2 and 3 into normal days, with external assistance now allowed at the end of each stage.

The only change to the route is the second liaison section, which instead of finishing at Al Artawiyah will now finish at the Al Qaisumah bivouac, located 100km away from Kuwait. ASO is still working on this new link section and the necessary modifications required for Stage 3 on Tuesday. 

Stage 2 will feature the first major chain of dunes and includes a 338km timed section and 230km of liaison. But the transport section will be modified in order to allow competitors to head to the second bivouac of the rally.

Coming into the rally, some of the older competitors and car manufacturers had complained bitterly about the early positioning of the Marathon – where the vehicles can only assist each other and have to carry more spare parts and tyres to survive the two stages – something that has never happened before in the history of the Dakar.

In the days leading up to the events, ASO chief David Castera explained the scheduling of the marathon to “The marathon is coming so early purely for logistical reasons.

“I didn’t want to go straight to Al Qaisumah, and we found an intermediate option, but we couldn’t go with the whole rally there.

“That’s why we decided to do a Marathon and that’s why we had it there, otherwise we wouldn’t have had any Marathon this year, because it didn’t fit into any of the other stages.

“The logistical issue is key in an event like this and it conditions the sporting part. We had no other option.”

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