Van Kasteren saves the day for Team De Rooy
With a fourth place, Janus van Kasteren ensured that the mood at Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco cleared up. That mood was depressed and disappointed after Vick Versteijnen had to throw in the towel before the start of the fourth stage. A broken hub prevented the truck from arriving at the start in time and is therefore out of the race.
Janus van Kasteren’s fourth place could have been even better, he thought for sure after arriving at the Al-‘Ula bivouac, after a very though stage of 453 km. The leader of Team De Rooy had started the fourth stage as the eighth truck and was catching up until he came across Richard de Groot, who had left in fourth. The Dutchman had ended up in fourth place due to an error in the timing, and to everyone’s surprise it had not been corrected.
“That’s a blunder,” said Van Kasteren. “Richard is a nice guy, but what inspired him today is a mystery to me. He did not step aside. I sentinelled behind him for half an hour (an alarm signal in the cabin indicating that someone wants to pass, ed), but he refused, while there was enough room to move over. He only stepped aside when a mechanical problem forced him to. If he hadn’t held me up for half an hour, I – who knows – could have won. I’m angry about that, for sure. I understand that it is cool to be at the front, but he doesn’t belong there and he shouldn’t interfere with the game at the front.”
If Van Kasteren could have continued on full throttle, then Dmitry Sotnikov would probably not have passed in the last part. The Kamaz started eleventh, but was able to catch up with the Iveco Powerstar and came by in the final stages. “Terribly fast. Then you see that they are professionals and we are not. I do not understand that his tires hold on to so much violence. Fortunately we have not had anything, not even a puncture.”
With three crews in the top 3 today, Kamaz can fully play the team game tomorrow. The closest teammate for Van Kasteren is Albert Llovera, who came in seventeenth today. Michiel Becx finished in nineteenth place after being one of the last trucks to start the special.
He first helped as long as possible with Vick Versteijnen, who was confronted with a broken hub on the way to the start. “We tried to fix it, but it took too much time,” said Becx. “That is why we finally started driving, because otherwise we would be out with two trucks. From the back field we worked our way forward for the third day in a row. It was a long day and a tough stage. The last 100 km we have driven in the dark. That didn’t make it any easier.” In the rush to get as far as possible before dark, Becx punctured two tires at a time on a piece of rock. In the last part he also had problems with a wheel bearing. “But if the stages don’t get any fiercer than this, it’ll be fine,” said Becx.
In the meantime, Team De Rooy continued to be concerned about the deeply disappointed Vick Versteijnen. “It is not our Dakar,” he concluded. “After 50 km on the liaison we heard a blow and we saw that oil ran out from under the front axle, at the bottom left. Everything has to be taken apart to fix that, but that takes a few hours. We didn’t make it in time. A bloody shame.”
Versteijnen can now start in the so-called Experience class, in which participants who have dropped out with technical problems can still start outside of competition. Versteijnen cannot mean anything in the race, but he can still support the other trucks of Team De Rooy.