Jan 15, 2017
In the penultimate stage, from San Juan to Rio Cuarto, Orlando Terranova (ARG) and Andreas Schulz (GER) finished third, thus closing in on Giniel de Villiers – fifth in the overall standings – by several seconds. Meanwhile, Yazeed Al-Rajhi (KSA) and Timo Gottschalk (GER) set the fifth-fastest time, today. And their team-mates, Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) / Michel Périn (FRA) who struggled with many problems yesterday, crossed the finish line in 11th position, followed by MINI ALL4 Racing pairings Mohamed Abu Issa (QAT) / Xavier Panseri (FRA) and Kuba Przygonski (POL) / Tom Colsoul (BEL) who came 12th and 13th respectively.
“We tried to push right from the start,” revealed Terranova. “But the first part of the special stage was very bumpy and sandy. Furthermore, the Peugeots and Toyotas also pushed to the max. And in the second part we also couldn’t go flat out as we were driving in the dust of the motorbikes and quads. We nonetheless succeeded in closing in on Giniel – but only by a few seconds and that wasn’t enough.”
“In the first part of the special stage everything actually went fine. We had a puncture and in addition we unfortunately lost our bonnet. It disengaged in the dune section and ended up below the car,” said Al-Rajhi. “In the neutralisation we snatched an Argentinean flag and covered our radiator with it to prevent it from getting choked.”
“At least our day wasn’t as bad as yesterday,” Hirvonen said laughing. “We had a damaged tyre in the early stage. This section was really bumpy and featured soft sand. It was a constant up and down for the entire 120 kilometres. The second part was really nice. The first kilometres were contested on a tight and winding road and we were really fast, here. Afterwards we unfortunately closed in on several opponents and couldn’t keep on gaining time.”
“This was a really good day” beamed Abu Issa in the bivouac After all, he worked his way up in the overall standings by two positions and holds 10th, now. “The first 120 kilometres featured only sand and our suspension did a great job, today. After the first part we even held 10th position. The second part represented a WRC-like challenge and that was something – I have to admit it – I was somewhat afraid of. But it went really well for me. This is the special stage that saved the Dakar for me.”
Przygonski also could breathe a sigh of relief, following yesterday’s difficult stage. “We had some problems in the early stages but later we could make up for a part of the lost ground,” said the Pole. “This special stage really was big fun for us.”
By finishing 16th, Sylvio de Barros and Rafael Capoani (both BRA) also secured a good result. Stephan Schott (GER) and Paulo Fiúza (POR) finished 21st and worked their way up to the very fine 15th position in the overall standings. Meanwhile, Boris Garafulic (CHI) and Filipe Palmeiro (POR) had problems with their vehicle. The team offered them to get towed through the stage by a race truck what would have allowed them to contest the final stage, tomorrow. But Garafulic, who until then was positioned on a great 7th place in the overall rankings, opted against this possibility and retired from the race action.
Tomorrow, the field will have to contest the final stage of the 2017 Dakar. In the morning, they will have to cope with a short 64-kilometre special stage around Rio Cuarto. Later, the entire field will cover 700 kilometres to Buenos Aires where they all will be celebrated on the finish podium.
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