Well another year, anothere f5irehose..
Testimony to the enthusiasm, anxiety and f5irst day jitters common on an event of this magnitude, we had a f5ew cyber-riders who checked in early for the f5irst liason and the cyber/rider cards have been marked an in true ASO'le f5ashion will be docked accordingly upon arrival at the cyberASS this evening - much to the idignation an surprise of the off5enders*... just like in a real rally!
(*I even considered cutting and moving the posts backe over to the "pre-event" thread...
but thought... "naaaaah..."
"better to leave thenm up as part of; doyles f5irst f5our pages of "early book ins"
for the 2014 "F5 rogues gallery".
meanwhile back in the real world... the Moto/quad competitors and majority of the AUTO/CAMION fiels have embarked on the first liason stage from Rosario to the DAY ONE Special Stage:
Cyril Despres with the #1 plate made his way first into the liason stage at 4.20 AM local Argentine time. The competitors have just under 6 hours to complete the transport stage to SS1... all depart the Rosario compound at their designated start time, and must arrive to the Start control of SS1 on their allotted time to "book in" for the competition stage.
Todays SS1 is 180 km's long and serves (ostensibly) as the first racing stage and will determine the start order* for DAY TWO (on sunday).
*In many previous editions of DAKAR (and other rallies) there has often been a "PROLOGUE" to determine the start order of the rally (DAY ONE) held in conjunction with the "pre-event" activities (scrutineering, Ceremonial start etc.). Traditionally a "prologue" is a shorter (5 to 10 km) stage set up as a "spectator friendly" venue... but - as far as the rally itself is concerned - is not much use in seeding any relevant start order. ie. the relatively short (often taped and arrowed) "motocross/cross country" nature of a prologue stage (that require little - if no - navigation at all) is really mostly a PR excercise.
For 2014, ASO have includeed a shorter (than normal) stage of 180 km's which I think is a great format. Long enough for the competitors to warm up/get in the groove. And located in an area (of the Cordoba region) where the public are more than familiar with spectating on the WRD events conducted for many years in this area... there should be NO PROBLEM with the number of spectators that are along the course to cheer on participants!
So what can we expect?
Despres starts off in the first position, then the first 10 riders at two minute intervalls... then the next 10 at 1 minute intervalls. there after two riders each, together at 30 seconds apart...?
How will this play out for the top 30 or so riders looking to position themselves for the DAY SS...?
Given the WRC/gravel road nature of the stage, navigation will be simpler (from the GPS/waypoint acquisiton perspective) than the "off piste" stages to come later as the even unfolds. What this means for the front runners is concentration on the roadbook and tripmeter (often refered to as ICO) in order to make all of the intersections and instructions (also know as "notes" or "tulips") in as good a pace as possible.
"Lead hounds and tracker dogs":
Often on the "off piste" stages (over terrain with no discernable track/road to follow) the first few MOTO riders often MAKE the trail (over the years, Despres and Coma have proven to be in a class of their own at this), which means for the following 5 to 15 riders, there is a visual prompt/trail (through dunes etc) for them to "sniff". Inherreantly this means (but not always) that the best stage times on the "off pist" selectives can be set by riders in the position 5 to 15 bracket.
On todays WRC "style" stage, this "bloodhound" phenomena will not be as evident. What will be the three biggest factors in determining who will be quick on todays stage?
If the vconditions are dry/dusty catching and overtaking a preceeding competitor can be quite difficult/hazardous. The first 10 riders have the advantage of a two minute "dust buffer"... the next 10; one minute. Thereafter two riders every 30 second means (if it is dry) that from about position 30 and back there could be a continuos pall of dust above the 180 km route.
Road book nav.
The top 50 riders are all very competent at roadbook/tripmeter nav at speed (or they should be). Setting a good time on todays stage will be a combination of;
Balls, bravado or tactics?
Depending on the combination of these factors (and largely on the weather) I would expect that the quickest rider will come probably from somewhere in start position 5 to 15...
Despres can go quick out front if needed (no dust)... but being bike one on this type of stage is a little like mine sweeping; finding spectatotor unaware, livestock on roads, ambiguos indtruction/roadsign somehere along the route (exactly this caught Coma a few years back). And I expect Cyril would be satisfies to position himself in the back half of the top ten for the start of DAY TWO in any case... so I not expect a blinder from him. Coma... much the same.
So who will be the quickest...?
But I have a feeling that with all of the above factors in the mix, and the hype juggernaught surrounding their effort, that the winner of todays 180 km "prologue" could well be a member of the red HRC squad.
Safe bet? Maybe? After all, they do have five chips on the roulette wheel don't they?
SS1 kicks off at 10:20 AM local Argentine time for the MOTO's... cyber pilots have your irritrack pages, POSIS, Mischas tracker, and all your assorted twitts tweets and random brainf5arts at the ready... It's gonna get F5 rowdy in here in a f5ew hours!