Iveco Leads The Dakar's General Classification
The fifth stage of the Rally led the caravan to Bolivia and close to the Uyuni Salt Flats, after dueling it out 327 kilometers.
Federico Villagra and his Iveco finished in 3rd place and were moved up to first place for overall time.
The Iveco fleet is performing at an impressive level on the most difficult roads in Argentina and Bolivia after five days of competition. After Gerard de Rooy's victory in yesterday's stage, which almost put him on the podium in the general, today it was Federico Villagra who, once again, proved to be the star behind the wheel of an Iveco and jumped to the top spot in the Dakar Rally in the general classification.
The day got started just after 1:00 PM local time, when the first truck kicked off the special after crossing the La Quiaca (Argentina) – Villazón (Bolivia) border. The Iveco Trakker driven by the Dutchman Ton van Genugten put up a good fight in the beginning against the Kamazes, Tatras and MANs that fought for the first spots in a stage that took him up to 4,600 meters above sea level and presented a challenge for both the pilots and their vehicles.
Gradually, after many kilometers, Federico Villagra, in the La Gloriosa Team de Rooy's Iveco Powerstar, edged towards the top spot, until he came neck and neck with his teammate Ton van Genugten, tying for 3rd place. With Pieter Versluis and Hans Stacey falling a bit behind in this stage, Villagra took advantage of the opportunity to snag the lead in the general by just 5 seconds and momentarily put Iveco in the number 1 spot in the Dakar Rally.
In this stage, which was won by Eduard Nikolaev, who was driving a Kamaz, the Dutchman Gerard de Rooy, winner of the 2012 edition of The Dakar, was relegated to 8th place, but is holding steady in 4th in the general. The overall balance is positive for him because he was able to finish the marathon stage and now he will be able to attack in the second part of The Dakar to try to bring home another victory.
Pep Vila took advantage of his strong pace, and the fact that his competitors were lagging, to secure 15th place today, which opens the doors for a very commendable 10th place in the general aboard his Iveco Trakker.
The sad news of the day is that the Czech pilot Aleš Loprais, who was in the top 10 of The Dakar with Iveco Powerstar #503, had to drop out of the race. Loprais had to stop his truck in the connecting stretch because of a mechanical problem. And, since this was part of the marathon stage, his teammates were not allowed to come to his aid or help him with his vehicle.
Tomorrow, the Dakar Rally participants will compete in the 542-kilometer special (with one stretch that is exclusively for Trucks), starting in the city of Uyuni and returning to the same point, but not before circling the entire Salt Flats on a course that will present difficulties such as sand, rocks and, of course, a lot of salt.
In the Cars category, Sebastien Loeb won the 3rd of 4 specials, while the Peruvian Alexis came in 1st in the Quads category for the second day in a row and jumped to the top position overall after Ignacio Casale suffered some setbacks. In the Bikes category, Toby Prince won the stage and rose to 3rd place in the general led by the Portuguese pilot Gonçalves.