Jan 15, 2016
Gerard de Rooy saw something blue looming up in his mirrors. His racer’s heart said: ‘Don’t let him pass!’ His reason said: ‘You’ve got plenty of time. Let him go.’ So the leader of the overall rankings in the truck race let the Kamaz of Airat Mardeev pass. The Russian nibbled 6 minutes off De Rooy’s advantage, but with 1.09.21 left it didn’t bother the Dutchman at all.
In the eleventh stage of the Dakar, a 431 kms long special from La Rioja to San Juan, all that mattered for the leading Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco was not to take any risks. Eduard Nikolaev was allowed the stage win. Ton van Genugten took third with his Iveco Trakker and thus gained a position in the rankings. A puncture cost Federico Villagra some time, but not that much to threaten his third place overall.
The 431 kms were though and bumpy. “Rio in, rio out, washboards with stones and rocks,” De Rooy describes. “Luckily this stage was today and not a few days ago: with all this hammering and pounding it was a good one for Kamaz. I’m glad I didn’t have to take any risks.”
Nearest rival Mardeev didn’t take any risks either, De Rooy noticed. “He wasn’t in a hurry. He has to defend his second position. Only at 40 kms to the finish he overtook me. Fine, let him go. There was a Mini between him and me. I stayed behind it.”
By driving sensibly and safe De Rooy made sure he wouldn’t lose time on punctures and other misery. Federico Villagra suffered one puncture. “It was hard for the body and the truck,” the Argentine said. “The track was jumpy and bumpy and it was very hot. We finished all the water we had with us and it wasn’t enough.” Changing the tyre in the heat was an attack to the energy of the crew. “When we were done, all three of us were worn out,” ‘El Coyote’ admitted.
Despite the loss of time Villagra secured his third position in the rankings. He already knew that during the stage: “We saw that Hans Stacey was stopped and therefor knew we opened the lead on him.”
Stacey had to hand over fourth position to Iveco driver Ton van Genugten, who managed to turn arrears of 28 minutes into 23 minutes ahead. After his loss of one and a half hour in stage 10 Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco played the trump card, allowing Van Genugten to start the stage from eleventh. He lost a fierce duel with Peter Versluis (MAN) by only 34 seconds after 431 kms. “We’re pleased with the result,” Van Genugten said. “Surely we would have liked to win, or at least beat Versluis, but fourth in the overall list is more important.”
In the two remaining days of the Dakar the three Iveco’s on top of the charts will defend their position or try to move up a bit. Villagra is looking for a chance to make up the 36 minutes he is behind on Mardeev. Especially the penultimate stage of 300 kms rally like piste might be his chance. “That is the terrain that suits me best,” Villagra said. “Let’s see what we can do.”
Gerard de Rooy is not even thinking about attacking anymore. “It is a matter of putting a box of eggs on top of the truck and make sure no one breaks. Stay alert, stay focussed, stay calm and not get carried away when we lose some fifteen minutes. I have to keep in mind that there is only one goal and that I have enough time and margin to reach that goal.”
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