Ben Grabham has slipped down the order of the 2014 Dakar Rally after a simple navigation error turned into a critical rescue operation to leave the Australian rider in 33rd place overall at the finish of Stage three, between San Rafael and San Juan, Argentina.
Grabham was a hot contender for this stage, in third place at the first checkpoint.
Two hours later, Grabham and three other riders including yesterday’s stage winner Sam Sunderland followed one of the lead riders in the wrong direction.
KTM rider Ruben Faria crashed heavily and required airlifting, where Grabham and the other riders waited with Faria for the helicopter to arrive.
Grabham said, “In the first 20-metres we knew it was wrong but it was just way too steep to get back. We tried for about an hour but it was damaging the bike too much.”
The simple mistake then turned to a mission, Grabham said, “All of us had to help each other lift our bikes down rock ledges and that took us a lot of time and energy.”
To add to the complication, Stage three is the first of the Dakar Marathon Stages, meaning Grabham is away from his team overnight and does not have access to team resources until the finish of Stage four, a further 550 kilometres away.
It is unclear at the moment if Grabham and the other riders will be credited for any time for their assistance to the injured Faria.
2014 Dakar Rally overall rankings after Stage 3:
1. J.BARREDA BORT (ESP) HONDA 09:56:44
2. C.DESPRES (FRA) YAMAHA 10:09:48 00:13:04
3. M.COMA (ESP) KTM 10:10:40 00:13:56
4. A.DUCLOS (FRA) SHERCO 10:13:22 00:16:38
5. F.LOPEZ CONTARDO (CHL) KTM 10:15:23 00:18:39
6. D.CASTEU (FRA) KTM 10:19:00 00:22:16
7. J.VILADOMS (ESP) KTM 10:31:17 00:34:33
8. O.PAIN (FRA) YAMAHA 10:33:17 00:36:33
9. K.PRZYGONSKI (POL) KTM 10:34:38 00:37:54
10. S.SVITKO (SVK) KTM 10:36:53 00:40:09
32. B.GRABHAM (AUS) KTM 12:33:19 02:36:35