Precious water

Dakar 2024 | Stage 7 | RIYADH > AL DUWADIMI
January 15 th 2024 - 07:00 [GMT + 3]

In the desert, water is as rare as it is precious. This year, Amaury Baratin has had bitter experience of this.

Having miraculously survived the first week of racing, the rider of KTM #79, who is taking part in his third Dakar, reached the finishing line of the seventh stage literally parched. “I rode 400 km without being able to swallow a drop because the hose on my Camelback was loose,” grumbled the biker. More seriously, the engine on his machine also overheated, forcing the man from the Ile de France region to ease up in the last part of the stage to preserve the workings of his bike: “I think I’m going to have to change the radiator when I get to the bivouac”. Since the beginning of the rally, Amaury has not stopped encountering problems. “The first day broke me,” he admits. “It was a very long stage, I fell and I hurt my knee”. Yet the worst was still to come. On 10th January, for the stage christened ‘48 HR Chrono’, the strapping young man jumped of the top of a dune during the neutralised section. “That was a big mistake,” he admitted. The outcome was an avulsion fracture on his right ankle and severe pain in his left shoulder. However, Amaury is the kind of rider who likes suffering. In 2021, on his first participation on the Dakar, he managed to finish 46th despite a broken thumb and several fractured ribs. “I finished in terrible pain,” he explained. The following year, a fractured leg stopped him on just the fourth stage. After being absent in 2023, the Frenchman enrolled in the Original by Motul category has promised himself that he will reach the finish this year, whatever the cost. As a result, when he found himself stuck just 6 km from the finish of the ’48 HR Chrono’ stage and it looked like he would have to drop out of the rally, Amaury Baratin saw red. “Because of my injuries on stage 5, I wasn't in the best shape when I set off into the dunes,” he explained. “I was riding badly and banging on the engine because it was difficult to put weight on my legs to get momentum in the dunes… I barely passed the 200-km mark before 4 pm when I should have done around one hundred more. From there on, I knew that I wouldn’t reach the 300 km bivouac before it got dark”. But there was no question of returning to the previous bivouac, as there would be too many kilometres to cover the next day. Flanked by Bruno Leblanc, the owner of the Horizon Moto 95 dealership therefore spent the night in the dunes and not around a bonfire like his fellow competitors. “A helicopter left us rations and a sleeping bag,” he pointed out. “But we didn’t have any water… In the end, we were so tired that we woke up at 6.30 am even though we’d planned to get going just after dawn. We still had to cover 350 km to finish the special”. Everything started to go pear-shaped fifty kilometres from the finishing line. “After banging against the engine all the time, it started to overheat. The cylinder head gasket started to wear out… I had to stop regularly to add water. Bruno sped off to finish before dark, and 6km from the end, I got lost. I kept going round in circles and eventually ran out of petrol”. Now he faced another night in the dunes, and this time without a sleeping bag. It wasn't until the early hours of the morning that an SSV dropped off a few litres of petrol for him to return to the bivouac. Amaury was then able to load his bike onto a lorry before flying to Riyadh for a day's rest. “It wasn’t a restful day at all,” he underlined. “I finished at 5 pm and prepared the engine that I was going to have to change when the bike arrived”. He had to wait until between 2 am and 5 am on the morning of stage 7, just before starting at 5.50 am, to carry out the repairs. “Since the start of the rally, I’ve hardly slept,” admitted Amaury yesterday before getting to grips with the hundred kilometres to be covered before reaching the bivouac in Al Duwadimi. “I’ve just spent two nights in the desert and another repairing my bike in Riyadh… I hope that this evening I’ll only have to change the radiator”. As a small consolation is that the Dakar Spirit Medal and a prize awarded by the Saudi federation were to be awarded to him for his courage and self-sacrifice… Provided he arrived at the bivouac on time!

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