Jan 08, 2017
Ton van Genugten has seen plenty of mud and dirt in his time in rally racing. But the Bolivian mud in stage 5 of the 2017 Dakar was too much even for him. Van Genugten’s Team De Rooy Iveco got trapped in the constricting mud early on in the stage. Teammate Wuf van Ginkel, who came to his aid, also suffered the same fate, and even a 6×6 drive fast service truck couldn’t pull them out.
The rain had transformed the course into a slimy, slippery mud bath. “We were the sixth or seventh truck, and I thought it would be better to try to open a new track, as the existing track was already deeply rutted,” Van Genugten explained from the bivouac in Oruro, which was also completely under water. “But the mud was so soft there that it just sucked the truck in and trapped it. I couldn’t move forward or backward, not even a metre. We waited for Wuf van Ginkel, but when he tried to pull us out he got stuck in the mud too.”
Both Team De Rooy Ivecos were forced to wait for help from a 6×6 truck. But even that couldn’t pull them free. “We tried everything: pulling forward, pulling backwards. In the end, a group of Bolivians got out some spades and started to dig the trucks out of the mud. It took three hours for us to get free. What a nightmare.”
The stage went a lot more smoothly once they got underway again, but it was impossible to make up the three hours they lost on the shortened 219 kilometre stage. Both Van Genugten and Van Ginkel were also give a two hour time penalty for taking too long to complete the stage. “We have to forget about the general classification now,” Van Genugten admitted, much to his disappointment. “There’s no hope for me there any more. The only bright point is that we were tenth at the start of the stage. So I can use my joker and start behind the top 10 in the next stage.” That will allow Van Genugten to support team leader Gerard de Rooy, who leads the race. “That’s our most important task now, and that’s what we’re completely focused on.”
The delay and the long connecting section to the finish meant that Van Genugten returned to the bivouac in the middle of the night. There, he was greeted by total chaos. “It looks like Glastonbury. Everything is flooded. It’s one giant mud bath.” The sixth stage of the 2017 Dakar has been cancelled because of the terrible conditions. The assistance trucks are on their way to La Paz, where the competitors will have a rest day tomorrow. The race trucks will make their way there this evening.
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