Jan 05, 2017
The leg Tucuman-Jujuy became first off-road test for contestants of the Dakar Rally. The special with length of 199 km consisted of two separate parts, divided by 300-km neutralization area. The route was laid in the foothills of Andes and was much more interesting than the yesterday’s route for drivers and for co-drivers. The second part of the distance went on the height of more than 3800 meters among picturesque mountains and canyons, across dried-up river beds and along narrow mountain roads. The sportsmen could also see San Martin in the hazy air.
Eduard Nikolaev had the best time on the finish of the first SS (75 km). Only seconds separated him from Martin Kolomy (TATRA) and Ton Van Genugten (IVECO). An unexpectedly big gap had Gerard De Rooy (+31:40). On the bivouac the Dutchman explained that he had two wheel punctures, and due to the problems with the pumping system, they had to change the wheels twice.
In general, the day was full of adventures for most of the sportsmen. Dmitry Sotnikov’s crew faced with the breakage of the rear shock absorber.
The track was full of holes. As Eduard Nikolaev said “it was like our native Astrakhan, but with fesh-fesh”.
“We had to do very dangerous overdriving, by miracle we passed cars without hitting them, – told Eduad Nikolaev after the finish. – During the second part we drove in the highlands. Vehicles and people felt it immediately. But this year we prepared our engines for heights and there are improvements. Apart from that, the second part of the route was fast and curvy. We did relayout for weight distribution improvement, for example, we changed layout of spare wheels and it helped us a lot”.
Bad luck still follows the crew of Airat Mardeev. The guys started quite well. After start they overran three trucks, but at the moment they got into dust and fell in the wheel track. According to Airat, this moment their windscreen was covered with cloud of dust. In order to avoid an accident due to zero visibility the pilot decided to stop and wait until the dust clears away: “I only stopped, we even were not stuck. But I couldn’t start again. We had to pull it on tow. Mathias Behringer helped us. Thank him very much! But unfortunately we lost 11 minutes.”
The crew of Airat Mardeev got into the crowd of cars and trucks searching for the navigation point on the 20th km. They had to overrun stuck cars. A lot of dried-up river beds had only one way out and they were occupied by a stuck truck or a car.
Robert Amatych, the co-pilot of Anton Shibalov (No515) told us about the very control point: “A lot of crews found it quite quickly but they left prints for those who came later. WPC – it is a new kind of control point that “opens” in the radius of 300 meters (the signal about taking this point is shown on the organizator’s navigation equipment installed in the cab – author’s note). And when you drive on impassibility and this point is left aside, the GPS arrow used to show the direction towards it. This year there is no such an option, it was made to complicate the work of co-pilots. We lost there approximately 7-10 min” Earlier the crew of Anton Shibalov had to change the wheel. It took them additional 12 minutes.
The Renault Team has its first losses. First Gert Huzink didn’t toe the starting line. Yesterday his truck hit the race car just before the finish. The broken cab and steering problems, that he seems to have after the accident, didn’t allow him to continue the race. When the press-release was written, Martin Van Den Brink on the bonnet Renault hadn’t finished yet. Dmitry Sotnikov, who followed him for a long time, thought that he had engine problems: “First black smoke went out from mufflers, then the smoke became white. It means that there are engine problems: the hole in the lining and the water goes to cylinders, or the breakdown in the valve and there is no fuel burning in some cylinder and unburnt fuel goes out.”
After three days of the race the crew of Eduard Nikolaev leads the general classification of the truck category. Dmitry Sotnikov takes the 6th position (+00:11:12). Anton Shibalov is on the 10th place (+00:11:12). Airat Mardeev is the 14th (+00:35:02).
Other Russian crews participating in the Dakar continue their performance. Today the bike-riders Aleksandr Ivanyutin (No60), Anastasiya Nifontova (No59), the quad-rider Sergey Karyakin (No254) and car driver Sergey Shikhotarov (No380) reached successfully the finish line.
The winner of the first stage of the UTV category and the long-time leader of the second stage Ravil Maganov (No 378, Polaris), unfortunately faced with bad luck yesterday: his gearbox and reduction unit were broken. The crew reached the bivouac on tow. The whole night the mechanics spent in repairing the buggy, and fortunately they managed to finish the works by morning. They had to start later than the planned time and therefore the crew of Maganov was still on the route at midnight local time. Dakar is always a challenge for a novice. And Ravil’s courage and persistency are worthy of respect.
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