3.7 kilometres too many

Dakar 2024 | Stage 11 | ALULA > YANBU
January 17 th 2024 - 19:55 [GMT + 3]

Both the Lithuanian Antanas Kanopkinas and his quad from the Chinese maker CFMOTO —the sole non-Yamaha in the ten-strong field of the 46th edition— are making their Dakar debut. His big-framed 4×4 mount is a heavyweight in its class. Tipping the scales at 541 kg at the pre-race weighing, it is three times as massive as its competitors! However, a different figure will haunt Antanas for a long time: 3.7. The number of kilometres that will prevent him from becoming a finisher…

© Marcelo Machado de Melo

You do not need to be an expert to notice that the CFMOTO quad is in a different league compared to the Yamahas designed for motocross and other off-road endurance tests, but Antanas has quite some experience with it under his belt. Three riders have been tackling the premier European competitions with the maker's support for two years now. It all began at events relatively close to Lithuania, such as the Rally Albania and the Rallye Breslau, gruelling tests held in mud and steep forests which encouraged the team to look further afield. They signed up for the Fenix Rally in Africa, surfed dunes in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and, last October, had a shot at the Rallye du Maroc. "We've scored nine podium finishes in the last ten races. The Dakar wasn't on our original programme, but after all these results, we wanted to show the world how awesome CFMOTO is. What better venue than the toughest rally on Earth? It was the first time in the Dakar for both me and the maker, but we both had the same goal: to finish the race. But disaster struck in the 48 h chrono stage. I ran out of fuel with 3.7 km to go. The finish line was just one dune away. I was unable to get my hands on some petrol. I was unable to finish the stage. We remain in contention for the W2RC, but we won't be considered Dakar finishers. I don't think we got sloppy, we've always been fighting in the middle of the motorbike field…"

© Duda Bairros

The Lithuanian giant and his juggernaut have passed the litmus test. They look every bit as fresh as in the opening week and have nothing to be ashamed of. But the colour orange is making Antanas see red. The orange background of his quad no. 175 indicates that a rider is now continuing his adventure in Dakar Experience and no longer eligible for the standings. Antanas and his CFMOTO will not get to climb onto the finishers' podium even if they make it to Yanbu.  It is reserved for riders who have completed the entire course in the allotted time. The CFMOTO will have come up 3.7 kilometres short… out of roughly 8,000. That's basically like going to the corner shop. It feels like nothing at all, but it can make a world of difference in the Dakar.

© Marcelo Machado de Melo

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