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SLOVAK MOTORCYCLIST NEVER GAVE UP ON LIFELONG DREAM

Katriňák: Excellent finish to Dakar Rally

SLOVAK motorcyclist Jaroslav Katriňák fulfilled his dream on January 21 of crossing the finish line of the prestigious and extremely demanding Dakar Rally. It was his fourth attempt. After 16 days of crossing Portugal, Morocco, Mauritania and Mali, and finishing in Senegal, the experienced 40-year old professional driver ended in ninth position with a time of 55:17:03 hours, which was 3:40:10 hours behind the winner, French rider Cyril Despres.

Ivan Jakeš with his motorcycle.
photo: SITA

SLOVAK motorcyclist Jaroslav Katriňák fulfilled his dream on January 21 of crossing the finish line of the prestigious and extremely demanding Dakar Rally. It was his fourth attempt. After 16 days of crossing Portugal, Morocco, Mauritania and Mali, and finishing in Senegal, the experienced 40-year old professional driver ended in ninth position with a time of 55:17:03 hours, which was 3:40:10 hours behind the winner, French rider Cyril Despres. Katriňák is the first Slovak to complete the almost 8,000-kilometre route.

"I'm elated that it all finally came together," Katriňák told the SITA news agency while grasping a medal awarded to all drivers who reached the finish line. "I'm experiencing a kind of satisfaction I did not have after my stage triumph [at the Dakar Rally] seven years ago. I never expected to finish at such a high position."

"This time, I raced much more carefully," he said as he revealed his strategy and determination for this year's competition.

After three previously unsuccessful attempts at the Dakar Rally, Jaroslav Katriňák is ecstatic to have finished ninth.
photo: Reuters

In 1998, as a greenhorn to the Dakar Rally, Katriňák placed well within the first seven stages, but gave up during the eighth because of a malfunction in his bike's gearbox. The next year, he won the sixth stage from Atar to Atidikje, but had to quit soon after due to technical problems. And in 2005, he quit again after falling during the race's seventh stage.

Katriňák faced a range of problems this year as well. During the first stage, he ran out of fuel and had to borrow some from a person on the side of the road. A penalty for speeding in the second stage added ten minutes to his overall time. In the fourth stage, he came across the corpse of South African motorcyclist Elmer Symons, who had been killed in an accident on January 9, and waited until a helicopter came to take it away. During the next stage, oil began leaking from his engine. He got lost in a sand storm during the seventh stage. The milometer of his bike broke down during the eighth stage. And during the twelfth stage, he fell and injured his spleen and left ribs.

Katriňák was joined in the race by fellow Slovak Ivan Jakeš, who dropped out of competition during the sixth stage due to an electronics problem. Both are planning to race again next year, when the Dakar Rally celebrates its 30th anniversary.

by Jana Liptáková

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