|Dakar Rally 2013: Australia's first quad pilot Paul Smith with S11 stagewin.|
34 year old Victorian dairy farmer Paul Smith had ventured into the 11th Dakar stage in trepidation. The white sands of Fiambalá have a menacing reputation amongst riders, and he was aware that many Dakar competitors have been snared by them in past years.
Wednesday his objective was just to reach the finish, but his reality was to be far more rewarding when he crossed the line in the fastest time. In doing so, Paul Smith stands as the first Australian to clench a stage victory since the late Andy Caldecott, and the first Honda rider on two or four wheels to top the time sheets at this year's event.
His finish 04:18 mins ahead of Gaston Gonzalez and 05:42 in front of event leader Marcos Patronelli elevates Smith to 8th overall. A high speed tumble cost a small amount of time but a quick recovery and careful navigation kept him on top at all but two waypoints.
"It was raining pretty much the whole stage off and on, lots of creek crossings and running water. In the first 50km of the stage, I had trouble finding my way and was consequently lost with about 30 other bikes. Brett Cummings eventually came along and led me back the right path. Had a fair few scares on the rough, broken track" said Smith.
"I just focused on getting to the end of Wednesday - there were about 30 dropouts on this stage last year and about 15 bikes this year... pretty tough going. Ben Grabham caught me and passed me, so I latched on the back of him and we raced for a while. Then we caught Rod Faggotter and the three of us had a ball together to the finish. Closing in on the end of Dakar, my aim is to just cruise through to the finish now."
The TRX700XX quad was modified yesterday by team mechanics to optimise cooling along with the three CRF450Xs in the moto class. Extra thermo-electric fans were fitted, passive ventilation improved while surplus weight was removed. Consequently Smith was able to push harder than before in the soft terrain.
2013/01/17 | 16:19 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/GHR-HONDA