Dakar 2023: Ales Loprais slowed down by punctures


The third stage of the Dakar Rally 2023 was tricky for the InstaForex Loprais Team. First, the challenging weather played its role, followed by punctures and a penalty for missing a waypoint. Yet, Aleš Loprais and his crew managed to stay in the fight for the lead.

A special stage leading from Al-Ula to Ha’il was supposed to be 447 kilometres long. However, due to bad weather conditions, the top contenders in the Truck category could do only 377 kilometres. The rest of the stage was cancelled, as the strong wind and rain complicated the ability of organisers to ensure the event’s safety and fairness.

In the morning, Aleš Loprais, Jaroslav Valtr jr. and Petr Pokora with a Praga V4S DKR truck left the bivouac as overall leaders of the Truck category. At the beginning of the stage, they even managed to stay close to the fastest time despite heavy wet sand. However, in the following kilometres, they lost a few minutes.

Dakar 2022

“We had a great run until we got a slow puncture on the left rear tire. Shortly after, we got another one, this time on the right rear. And that one went a bit faster. For the next 100 kilometres, I kept it alive by inflating it, but then the rear right couldn’t handle it anymore and we had to change it,” described crew mechanic Petr Pokora.

“But that wasn’t everything. Just a few kilometres later, we got another puncture on the right rear. Luckily, we were able to hold on until the end by inflating it. It was close, but we did it. In the end, there were three punctures, but we had to leave our cabin for a tire change only once.”

Dakar 2022

However, the crew had to leave the cabin once more a bit later, as they came across Cristina Gutiérrez and Pablo Moreno in trouble at a ford. Their buggy had got stuck in a river basin, as the water got dangerously wild. “It started to rain very heavily. And at a river that we were supposed to cross, we saw a stuck buggy. We tried to help, and we did it just in time, as Cristina was in the water up to neck already,” said Aleš Loprais.

“At times it looked like the rally would be halted. When it starts raining here, it takes just a minute for the rivers to go up, which we saw with our own eyes. The four trucks ahead of us still had a fairly good crossing, but when we arrived at that point, the river was already much higher. And as we were stopped because of the buggy, the river had risen by another 40 centimetres. The rain was so heavy that there was even flooding in the bivouac. However, tomorrow’s stage should run as planned. It’s clear how tough the route is, but our goal is to continue with the same effort that we had shown in the previous days. Today was more about surviving, and I’m really glad that we were able to finish and that we’re still in a very solid position.”

The stage was stopped at a control point after km 377. The Praga #508 arrived there in fifth place. However, the crew missed one of the waypoints. That meant a 15-minute penalty and tenth position in the stage classification. In the overall standings, Loprais currently holds second place, just 6 minutes behind new leader Jaroslav Valtr sr. The Praga crew is over 10 minutes ahead of van Kasteren in third position.

Dakar 2022

On Wednesday, January 4, the event continues with the fourth stage. The second loop of the competition will be 574 kilometres long and will take the crews to the west of Ha’il. More than a third of the 425-kilometre-long special stage should run through dunes. Also, the organisers are promising that the first 100 kilometres are going to be a challenge even for the most experienced drivers, who have already seen a lot in the desert. Also, the weather should play a role in the competition again. The second half of the special stage is also promising tough moments. While most of it should run through sandy terrain, the organisers have warned crews about tricky navigation.

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