Loprais (Tatra) surprised all in yesterday’s stage by immediately taking command of the lead which he maintained up to the finish. Loprais finished with a time of 5 hours and 10 minutes, followed by Karginov (Kamaz) 37 seconds behind. Gerard de Rooy took third place, just 6 minutes behind the stage leader. His lead in the overall ranking now stands at 7 hours and 55 minutes, a time which the Iveco driver is confident can still be enough to gain him the top spot on the podium in Valparaiso, Chile.
“It was a great stage, set in an incredible environment. Driving was fun, but also very difficult at the beginning due to the sandy route and large sand dunes. It was exciting, but I didn’t push the limits. We drove well and Tom Colsoul did a great job once again in his role as navigator. We incurred some damage to the truck, when coming up against the steep dunes, but nothing serious," commented De Rooy at the end of the stage.
Overall, Team Iveco De Rooy obtained a good result: all four Iveco trucks are still in the race. The Team has faced each day of the rally with the perfect amount of adrenaline, and team spirit has increased thanks to excitement over De Rooy’s performance aboard the Iveco Powerstar, which has helped his team keep the first place position in the general rankings.
Hans Stacey, who has had problems over the race, is now in sixth place in the overall standings followed by the two Iveco Trakkers driven by Vila and Adua who are respectively in 11th and 12th place and therefore still in the running to enter the top ten.
Today’s stage could potentially decide the final winner of the 35th DAKAR rally and will be quite challenging with a long Special of 605 kilometres running from Antofagasta to El Salvador. The stage starts with a 144 kilometre connection followed by 350 kilometres through many dry riverbeds and rocky roads which will be full of holes.
Competitors will then be faced with 120 kilometres of sand and dunes in the legendary Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth. Proof of this is evidenced by the city of Copiapó, Chile, which is surrounded by the Atacama Desert. Copiapó only has about a millimetre of rainfall each year, with real rainfall only occurring every four years. Once the competitors exit the desert area, they will then find another 135 kilometres of gravel and stones on the route to the finish where they are expected to arrive late in the evening.