After a warm-up in the prologue yesterday, the Dakar Rally competitors today enjoyed their first stage of 333 sharp kilometres on the circuit, starting and finishing near the town of Hail. The crew of the yellow Big Shock! Racing team, consisting of Martin Macik, Frantisek Tomasek and David Svanda, fought their way to sixth position both in the stage and in the overall ranking. However, the crew had a problem with one of the checkpoints and are expecting a penalty. The second crew, with Martin Soltys, Roman Krejci and Jakub Jirinec in the cabin, managed to move up in the rankings. Although the crew had to cope with punctured tires, their truck eventually reached the finish line in 21st place. The organizers promised the competitors a sandy track that would test their navigation skills and give them several adrenaline experiences. On behalf of the Big Shock! Racing team, we can confirm that they certainly did keep those promises. In the evening, the organisers also announced that due to flooding, the crews will be doing the marathon stage with their assistance vehicles.

Martin Macik’s crew was delayed at one of the checkpoints  

The Big Shock! Racing’s Martin Macik, in his truck, Charles, kept up with the TOP 10 drivers in the opening prologue and thus started Stage 1 in 8th place with a 41-second deficit. The yellow Iveco truck with the crew from Sedlcany soon started catching up with their rivals in front of them. At the fourth measured point, Macik’s crew was already sixth and they managed to keep the position until the end of the stage. “The pace was fast from the beginning. Everyone is excited and rushing towards the finish line. But, at the same time, the routes are difficult. Navigation is tough, there are all types of sand, big exits, rocks of all shapes and sizes… It’s really not fun. But one mustn’t think too much about it, just keep going,” Macik said and added: “We set the pace from the beginning. But I had memories from last year, when we had to deal with the steering linkage around this time, and couldn’t go at full speed. We couldn’t quite get over one of the dunes, so we had to reverse and lost about 2 or 3 minutes there. Nevertheless, we caught up in the second part, Frantisek navigated without any problems, and everything was good. We accelerated on the rocks, boulders and uneven pathways, which suited us.” However, after the neutralisation, the crew had a problem with one of the checkpoints and therefore feared a penalty. “After the neutralization, there were 120 unpleasant kilometres in the sand, huge descents, a rutted soft track, very difficult to navigate. We probably took a wrong turn somewhere, we were a bit lost, looking for one checkpoint. Everyone was confused there,” Martin Macik reported at the finish and added: “The car is holding up well so far, we are fighting on, even though we’re expecting a penalty after this stage.”

Martin Soltys had to repair a tire

Martin Soltys’ crew has been successful so far in the cabin of the other team’s truck. The navigator Roman Krejci competed in last year’s Dakar on a motorcycle, but for the onboard mechanic, Jakub Jirinec, this year’s Dakar is his first-ever. In the sandy part of Saturday’s prologue, the crew failed to climb one of the dunes on the first try, and so they ended up 6 minutes and 18 seconds behind. “We’re getting used to it all. We need to coordinate who’s doing, watching, and reporting what in the cabin. At the same time, I’m getting used to the new truck. I think it will take a day or two. Roman and have got on really well, he’s enjoying it a lot, and he’s getting the hang of the navigation,” Martin Soltys, who started Stage 1 from 30th position, said. However, he planned to do everything he could to move closer to the top of the truck rankings as quickly as possible. Well, he succeeded on Sunday. The crew with the number 510 gradually worked their way forward, eventually finishing 21st after a great ride, despite being slowed down by punctured tires. “After the first 150 kilometres, during which we passed a lot of trucks, we got a flat tire. We changed it five minutes later, got going and after about a hundred metres, the new tire got punctured again. We changed it again and drove on cautiously, knowing we didn’t have another spare. As we were avoiding one of the blocked sections, we lost another, though. Luckily, we managed to patch it up and spent the last two hours driving in the dark, getting a little lost along the way. In the end, however, we managed to reach the finish line,” Martin Soltys concluded.

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