A Day of Rest in The Dakar
The first half of the 2016 Dakar Rally is over.
Gerard de Rooy put Iveco in second place in the general, and now, the crews are resting in Salta and getting ready for the second week, which promises to be even tougher than the first, with stages intended to "weed out" competitors.
Traditionally, Sunday is a day of rest. And the Dakar is sticking to that tradition today in Salta. Well, at least the organizers are. The majority of the mechanics and pilots are still holed up in their work spaces with their vehicles, getting them in shape for another week of racing on the most difficult roads in Argentina. At this point, 83% of the vehicles that left from Buenos Aires are still in the competition, including 51 of the 55 trucks that started the race.
The 2016 Dakar already passed through Bolivia and left the Iveco trucks very well-positioned in the general classification. Gerard de Rooy, of the Team Petronas De Rooy, is currently in 2nd place, just 5 minutes and 31 seconds behind the Dutchman Pieter Versluis. After more than seven stages and 21 hours of competition, that difference is miniscule and everything can change in the second part of the rally.
"We have a lot of faith in our vehicles, things have been going smoothly for us. We think the Kamazes are going to put up a fight next week, no one expected them to have problems," said Gerard de Rooy, referring to the Russian trucks that always battle it out for the top spots in the Dakar and whose star pilots, Mardeev and Nikolaev, are now in 3rd and 4th place, 10 minutes behind the leader.
Federico Villagra has been the surprise of the season in the first half of the Dakar in the Trucks category. The Argentine, at the wheel of the La Gloriosa Team De Rooy's Iveco Powerstar, has demonstrated a great ability to manage and adapt to large vehicles, taking the lead in the general classification after Stage 5. Because of a flat tire in the last few kilometers of yesterday's race, he is now in 6th place, 15 minutes behind the leader, Versluis.
Ton van Genugten is getting the job done aboard Iveco Trakker #516 and is currently in 7th place in the classification, behind Villagra. The Dutchman also lost time yesterday when he stopped to help his teammate, Villagra, with his flat tire. Had he not stopped, he would likely have won the stage.
Pep Vila is aiming to make it into the Top 10 by the end of the competition and still has one week ahead. He's in 12th place but is just 32 minutes from the 10th position. "The Iveco Trakker is in good shape; today was all about maintenance, a wash down, filters, brake pads, two wheel retainers, shafts, shock absorbers, all the oils and more," explained the Spaniard, who, instead of taking the day off, is looking for the best way to prepare for the end of the Dakar.
The bad news for Iveco in this first part of the rally is that the Czech pilot Aleš Loprais had to drop out of the race because of mechanical failures in a connecting stretch, just when the Powerstar was in a strong position within the Top 10 in the race.
In the Cars category, Sebastien Loeb surprised everyone by leading the first part of the 2016 Dakar with three stage victories, coming in ahead of his teammates Stephane Pterhansel and Carlos Sainz, who both have experience in the competition. The three men from Peugeot are just 4 minutes and 50 seconds apart and are the leading candidates.
In Bikes, the battle is between Honda and KTM. Paulo Gonçalves is leading with the Japanese brand, but is only 3 minutes and 12 seconds ahead of the KTM driven by Toby Price, the winner of the last two stages.
The Patronelli brothers took the lead in the Quads category after Ignacio Casale dropped out and Alexis Hernández fell behind. Alejandro Patronelli is the front-runner, but he is just 3 minutes and 36 seconds ahead of his brother Marcos.
Iveco's official fleet will get back on the road this Monday, heading south and then to the east of Argentina, facing down complex roads and even sections of sand and dunes, on course that covers 1,800 timed meters divided into six stages, which will determine the winners of the 2016 Dakar Rally.