Broken bones and dreams for most Czech drivers at Dakar rally

Aleš Loprais' Tatra, photo: CTK

They started out with dreams of positions on the winners’ podium but for many the most tangible souvenirs are broken bones and trips to the hospital. Many Czech competitors in the gruelling Dakar rally went out with a bang. But for one of the best hopes of a winning place, Tatra lorry driver Aleš Loprais, it was more like a whimper.

Aleš Loprais' Tatra, photo: CTK
For Aleš Loprais’ Tatra lorry team the start of the Dakar rally turned out to be highly promising.

Loprais’ Czech team won two stages of the rally and was third overall going into the ninth stage of the rally. There seemed a real chance that a challenge could be mounted to the predominance of the king of truck rallies in recent year’s, the so-called Russian Tsar, Vladimir Chagin.

But it all started to come unstuck for Loprais on the 77th kilometre of the stretch through the Atacama desert, the driest place on Earth. Loprais, the nephew of six-times Dakar winner Karel Loprais, continues the story.

Aleš Loprais' Tatra, photo: Jan Říha
“Unfortunately a basic component, the turbocharger broke. We had to continue with about 30 percent of power and missed some of the compulsory waypoints along the way. ”

The Tatra lorry crawled past the finishing line two hours and 48 minutes behind the stage winner. In spite of that time lag, the team was still in fourth place and conserved a chance of challenging for the lead. But race judges decided that disqualification was the only option for the missed waypoints during the stage even though there was a surprising call from competitors for Loprais’ mended Tatra to be allowed to continue in the race. Russian teams from the Kamaz squad now occupy the top three positions in the truck race.

Loprais’ team will return home proud of what they achieved but disappointed not to have got further. But many colleagues are already back and nursing injuries picked up during the rally.

Josef Macháček (left), photo: Jan Říha
Truck competitors Marek Spáčil has an injured eye and fellow team member David Vršecký has serious spinal injuries and were forced to quit the rally after the third stage. Truck team partners Jaroslav Lamač suffered torn nerve endings and two broken vertebrae in a crash and was operated on at a local hospital. Fellow racer Martin Kolomý returned to the Czech Republic for an operation on his spine. Car racer Miloslav Janáček suffered a bruised spine.

One Czech still in the rally and still in one piece is quad racer Josef Macháček. He is third, around two hours and 45 minutes off the lead, and with a real chance of being on the winner’s podium on Sunday.