Dakar Rally motorcycle competitor Michal Hernik, 39, of Poland was found dead today at kilometer No. 206 along Stage 3 between San Juan and Chilecito, Argentina.
In a statement, race organizers say the circumstances of his death have yet to be determined and that Hernik did not show “any external signs of an accident.”
The statement continues: “When the race management detected the loss of his Irritrack signal and was informed that he had not completed the special stage at 15:16, it decided to start a search for the rider at 15:23. An ambulance helicopter found the rider 300 meters off the route at 16:03. Unfortunately, the on-board doctor could only confirm the rider’s death.”
Hernik was competing in his very first Dakar and was running 84th in the motorcycle category. Prior to this year’s event, he had completed the 2013 Morocco Rally and 2014 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
His official profile on the Dakar site details a short story of friendship between himself and fellow Polish riders Pawel Stasiaczek and Norbert Madetko – all of whom had a common dream to compete in the world’s toughest rally.
Ultimately, Hernik and Stasiaczek were able to reach the start this year in Buenos Aires as teammates. Both of their profiles carry the following: “Getting ready [for] Dakar took us two years…In terms of amateurs, our goal will be to complete the rally, whatever the position. That would be our success.
“Our most powerful asset is our friendship and mutual support in difficult moments after heavy days. This is due to our common dream and the adventure we lived to prepare for the Dakar…”
Our thoughts and prayers are with Hernik’s family, friends, and peers at this time.
Last year’s event was marred by the Stage 6 death of Belgian rider Eric Palante. In a separate incident on that same stage, two other people were killed when the car they were traveling in fell into a ravine. Two others in that car survived the crash.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.