Top 20 result for David Thomas at challenging Afriquia Merzouga Rally

Event: 
37th Dakar Rally

The South African privateer motorcycle rider, David Thomas, returned to South Africa this past weekend after successfully competing in a tough and challenging Afriquia Merzouga Rally in North Africa where he claimed an 18th place in the competitive Pro Motorcycle Class.

It was Thomas’ second international Rally Raid event this year and he finished 10th in Abu Dhabi earlier.

The recent Morocco race formed part of the Dakar Challenge where a competitor who entered the challenge _ Thomas did – could win his entry to the 2017 Dakar Rally. After an up and down event with temperatures soaring to over 40°C each day, Thomas finished eighth in the Dakar Challenge and although he has not won it, he can now enter the Dakar Rally without having to go through the selection process.

This year the competition at the Merzouga Rally, that took place for the sixth year, was extremely tough with many seasoned Rally Raid competitors who have participated in numerous Dakar Rally events, using the event to gain more dune riding experience for their Dakar Rally attempt next year. The race was won by Kevin Benavides, a professional factory rider for the Honda team.

The Afriquia Merzouga Rally started quite well for Thomas who competed with his Husqvarna 450 Rally Replica in the HT Rally Raid Team as he posted the 10th fastest time after the short three kilometre prologue that determined the starting order for the first of five race days to follow. He was, however, violently ill due to possible food poisoning during the night and struggled through the first stage being drained and with no stamina. He eventually completed the stage in 12th place, but was penalised for missing two waypoints and had to settle for the 34th place in the PRO Class.

This did not get him under and he tackled Stage Two refreshed and determined to better his results – which he did! He made up 10 places on the overall classification when he finished the stage in 16th place. The next day (Stage Three) was the first of the Marathon Stage where competitors have to race for two days without the assistance of their service crews. This means they had to conserve their tyres and their bikes as they could not really service it after the stage before taking on the next day’s racing section.

Some intense sand storms resulted in the Stage Three to be shortened somewhat and Thomas posted his best result by finishing eighth. This result again pushed him up a few more places and he found himself in the 18th place overall. After a night in the bivouac in the desert, Thomas was eager and ready to improve his standing even further. Looking back, he admitted that he learnt a valuable lesson on this day, as he was pushing too hard and did not give enough attention to the navigation. He realised he missed two waypoints and turned back to ‘find’ it. He lost time and could not improve on his 18th place on the overall standings.

The final stage was a mass start with racing in the dunes and anything could still go wrong. Thomas made sure he complete this event – he finished the stage with the 14th fastest time and kept his 18th place on the overall standings – to have his foot in the door of the next step in his ‘Journey To Dakar’ – a secure entry for the 2017 Dakar Rally.

“I suppose to finish in the top 20 between some of the world’s best competitors, is not too bad for a rookie,” Thomas said afterwards. “I am disappointed about the mistakes I’ve made, but I’ve learned some valuable lessons and gained much needed experience for the Dakar Rally,” he said.
The Hout Bay entrepreneur will now focus on looking for sponsors to partner with him in his quest to conquer the 2017 Dakar Rally.

To follow David Thomas, visit the Facebook page Journey to Dakar (@Journeytodakar)

End