Hectic start into new chapter for Ourednicek and Kripal
The day everyone was waiting for has come: the 42nd edition of the Dakar Rally has started in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Ultimate Dakar’s Tomas Ourednicek and David Kripal were smiling happily on the start ramp in front of their Ford Ranger Dakar – but behind those smiles there were many difficulties.
It all started on New Year’s day at the airport when mechanic Jirka Sivek realised he brought his girlfriend's passport. The ticket was forfeited and so was a part of the “authorised kilograms” for baggage packed with some very important items for the 42nd Dakar Rally, organised for the first time in Saudi Arabia.
The “adventures” continued for the rest of the team as well: “In Istanbul, we unexpectedly had to take our luggage and check in again and we almost missed the connecting flight. Fortunately, the aircraft waited for us even at the cost of a delay,” driver Tomas Ourednicek recalls the complicated journey.
Thursday's shakedown brought another dramatic moment when mechanic Lukas Kalanka suffered a deep laceration on his head. First aid was provided by Martin Prokop's physician, and then the injured mechanic went to the hospital for treatment. As a result, the preparation of the Ford Ranger Dakar for the scrutineering and the race itself stopped for hours. "The boys had to work on the car all night, they took a nap in the morning and then continued," Tomas adds. After the tests on Thursday and Friday, the driver praised the new engine of his Ford and the Good Year tires which worked very well in the unusually soft sand.
Of course, Tomas Ouednicek was shocked by the accident of fellow Czech driver Martin Kolomy, who, according to the MP-Sports team, broke two vertebrae during testing his Ford Raptor and thus is not able to take the start. "I feel so sorry. I also recommended Martin to the MP-Sports team with whom I have experience. Now it will be a long way for him to return to racing, which will be physically and mentally demanding. I wish him a swift recovery,” Tomas says.
Although the new host country, Saudi Arabia makes huge efforts to provide the best circumstances, like all participants, Tomas and David also had to get used to the new location – and the change was quite big compared to South America. The huge distances between locations and the constant traffic jam in the city caused headaches for many competitors. “On the way to the ceremonial start podium we even had to use a small team motorcycle with David, otherwise we wouldn't have been able to make it on time. We looked pretty funny,” Tomas explains.
Saturday’s start ceremony was huge and spectacular but missed the “heart”, the emotions and the atmosphere the enthusiastic fans created during the times in South America. “The invited guests preferred to stay in the VIP rooms inside the building. But we enjoyed beautiful projections and me especially the presence of my family. I was very happy to have someone to wave at. And now David and I are focusing on the first race kilometres on Sunday. We will do our best,” the driver promises.
The Dakar’s first ever stage on Saudi Arabian soil takes the crews from Jeddah to Al Wajh, 319 km of the total 752 km will be against the clock.