Shameer, Zaheer ready to race to finish
South Africa’s Dakar Rally rookie heroes Shameer Variawa and Zaheer Bodhanya are still in the race in spite of a chaotic second half of the marathon stage on Friday. The SVR Red Lined Nissan Navara duo was one of several to be caught out in the desert when fog set in Friday afternoon, but they made it to the Arequipa bivouac delighted to have finished their first week in what is essentially a brand new car.
“It's been a wild few days, but most important is that we will be starting the second half with stage six on Sunday,” Shameer explained. “We are pretty happy considering that our car is brand new — we only finished building it two months ago, it ran just 1500km of testing before shipping it here to Peru and it had never been in the dunes before the start, but it has been brilliant all the way. “The car has run faultlessly beyond a few new build glitches, we are learning more about Dakar by the minute and it has been a huge adventure, so no complaints!
“So I think we have done pretty well to get this far and now we are looking ahead to the second half, which is pretty amazing. “It hasn't been easy though — our starting position near the back did not help and we’ve also been a bit unlucky to hit trouble just after we’d passed half the field each time and had to do it all over again a few times, so we have been pretty lucky to get away with just a few punctures and replacing a suspension control arm with all that dust and overtaking.
“The Marathon stage proved a huge commotion — we went well enough on Thursday and had no real problems other than that control arm and the punctures we’d already fixed on the route, so it was not a problem at the no service bivouac, although we were a bit thin on tyres. “But Saturday proved chaotic — we started very late because of the delay for the fog in the morning and then the fog set in again before the stage was finished. “The truck stage was stopped at Checkpoint 3, but more than half of the cars were still in the dunes, so like several others, we opted to turn back to the previous road crossing and drive back.
“There are still guys out there in the desert and others have only just finished the stage Saturday morning after they waited for the fog to clear and nobody knows what will happen next — there are no results posted, there has been no communication from the officials and we have no idea what to expect, but everyone is in the same boat. “It can go two ways — either we will pick up penalties, or we will be excluded, but with only 19 cars classified over the full distance last night, they will take three quarters of the field out, so let’s just wait and see.
"Either way, we will start tomorrow and take it from there. “For the rest Zaheer and I are pretty exhausted — we've had less than three hours sleep a night over the last few days, so we're going to catch up through the rest day today while the crew renews the car for the second week. "The SVR Red Lined team has done an incredible job, not just to get the car here, but also to maintain and keep it going through a really tough first week and we salute them for a huge effort.
“Tomorrow we start again, renewed, refreshed and ready to race and we just cannot wait — bring it on!”
With no racing on Saturday, the second half of Dakar 2019 gets under way Sunday morning with a race back up the Peruvian coast to San Juan de Marcona en route to the finish in Lima on Wednesday.