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Carlos Checa - Astara Team

Stage 13: Carlos Checa of the ASTARA TEAM bids farewell to the dunes as the first Spaniard in his class

The riders are facing the penultimate stage of the Dakar with their sights set on the 673 kilometers ahead of them, 153 of which correspond to the special stage in which the dunes are once again predominant, with very soft sand but somewhat less complicated than on previous days. A short stage, but with lots of dunes and a very long final link.

The first ASTARA TEAM car to cross the finish line was that of Laia Sanz and Maurizio Gerini and it did so in 39th position, 27 minutes and 9 seconds behind the stage leader and in a total time of two hours, 53 minutes and 26 seconds. Although the stage was not complicated, Laia Sanz had a hard time because she had to face the continuous up and down of the dunes with a lot of dizziness and an upset stomach. “It took me a long time to get to the finish. It wasn’t a difficult special today, but it wasn’t pleasant”.

Carlos Checa and Marc Solà’s ASTARA 01 powered by e-fuel finished 44th after a ‘clean’ route, with no difficulties, and 28 minutes and 19 seconds behind the winner. “Houston, Houston, no problems today, we arrived safely. We cut communication”. That’s how happy and joking they contacted the team after finishing the special in which they finished as the first Spanish team in the T1 category.

Laia Sanz - Dakar 2023

Carlos Checa: “It was a stage today without any mishaps. Totally dunes, but it was a good day, we controlled the pressure and the lines well. At the end, with the sun on our backs, it was difficult to see the relief and we got a bit dizzy, but it was a fun and beautiful stage. There were areas where you couldn’t ride very fast, which is what I like the most, to pick up speed, and some areas where you could ride faster, we didn’t have the vision to know if the dune was cut or not. In short, it was an all dune stage, with much softer sandy areas that had to be skirted. It was a perfect training to learn how to navigate the dunes. Also the fact that we started very far back, the track was more destroyed and it hurt us a bit, but it was the handicap we had on this stage”.

“I’m learning from this Dakar in all aspects.  On a sporting level, on an emotional level, because it’s a race in which you have to learn to know how to go slowly, to hold back, to know how to control your speed, to conserve your mechanics, to learn about mechanics… There are many important aspects and every detail has an influence. You can’t cover everything but you can learn things. Then there is the human side, that we are a group of people who are together for 20 days, many without sleep, in many tense situations, living together for a long time, especially with my co-driver. And I will certainly leave here with a group of friends, with whom I have experienced some very intense moments. In terms of training, I think Infova has helped us a lot to know how to manage personal relationships, tensions, emotions… There are many people here, there are moments of despair… But the worst defeat is abandonment. And in this aspect, we have been overcoming and the human and training part that has been prepared beforehand has been fundamental to face all those difficult moments that we have had”.

Marc Solà: “Very happy. A clean stage, with perfect driving and navigation. We are one day away from the finish. We can’t claim victory, tomorrow is as if it were the first stage and we will have to be one hundred per cent focused. We will have to fight until the end”.

Laia Sanz: “I got very dizzy. I must have a stomach virus, and today in the dunes I had a bad time, because all we were doing was going up and down, and you couldn’t see the relief, which usually makes you dizzy. It’s the first time something like that has happened to me, and I had a hard time, but I had to keep going. I had to stop to vomit. It took me a long time to get to the finish. It wasn’t a difficult special today, but it wasn’t pleasant. It’s in the bad years that you learn the most and I’m doing a master’s degree on this Dakar that will be very useful for next year”.

In this edition, the rain is not giving much respite in Arabia, a country where water is usually absent. The competitors in what has been the toughest Dakar in recent years are bidding farewell to their last night in the bivouac with water, mud and cold. With this penultimate stage, the riders and drivers bid farewell to the dunes of Saudi Arabia. Tomorrow they will have plenty of sand and soil. The Dakar 2023 will say goodbye in Dammam.

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