"The battle started immediately at the beginning of the stage. Fairly soon we faced the dunes, which were challenging. We were stuck at one point, and while struggling to get going again, the rear axle shaft was broken, making for a complicated situation early in the stage which forced us to navigate on loose terrain with only three wheel drive and the risk of the entire differential breaking down. We decided to still make the attempt because the repair would have taken at least half an hour and that was longer than we could allow for.” This is Gerard de Rooy’s description of the lengthy and challenging fifth stage of the Dakar.
Due to the large amounts of dust and sand, the radiator of the Iveco Powerstar accumulated a great deal of both, causing issues that lead to it being completely closed off and the engine overheating. There was no other solution, but to stop and let the engine cool down.
"When we were finally on the road again,” continued De Rooy, “we missed a waypoint control marker which stipulates that the driver must transit within a radius of 300 meters to avoid a time penalty. To make matters worse, 50 kilometres before the end of the first part of the stage we punctured again. At that point, we decided to not change the flat tyre but to keep going while maintaining tyre pressure with a compressor until we reached a neutral zone where we then changed the tyre. Overall, it was a very difficult way to begin the fifth stage."
A problematic day for many truck competitors as demonstrated by De Rooy’s words which are hardly ever heard from a seasoned professional such as himself, who is often at his best during the toughest stages. After a 211 kilometre Special, it was Sotnikov (Kamaz) who managed to place first with 3:14:03 hours followed by Karginov (Kamaz) and De Rooy who had accumulated a time backlog of 11:01 minutes. Iveco team drivers Pep Vila came in sixth, Hans Stacey in eighth and Jo Adua in 21st position with a time backlog of 1:07:54 hours.
The second part was relatively calmer and the majority of the teams kept their positions. After a special of 343 kilometres, Sotnikov (Kamaz) was the fastest with a time of 4:47:46 hours with a 2:56 minute advantage over his teammate Karginov. De Rooy placed third, reducing his time difference to 12:07 minutes. Villa finished in seventh place with a time gap of 28:52 minutes, just two seconds slower than Kuijpers (MAN). Stacey was eighth in the rankings with a time deficit of 33:28 minutes.
De Rooy and his Iveco still lead the rankings with an advantage of more than half an hour over the second place competitor. Until yesterday, it was Marcel van Vliet was (MAN) behind him, but it is now Karginov (Kamaz). For now it seems to be a battle between Iveco and Kamaz through the challenging terrains of South America, but the road ahead is still a long one.
After yesterday’s the exhausting Special, the stage from Tucumán to Salta will be a relatively calm and short route for the trucks that will have to first face a 242 kilometre connection followed by a 156 kilometre Special before heading directly to the bivouac, along a 152 kilometre connection where the drivers will have a well-deserved rest day.
Today’s route goes north along the famous Ruta 40 Argentina where competitors will have to tackle gravel and rocky terrains, certainly not the easiest of surfaces for vehicles and their crews.