Team De Rooy kicks off the 2017 Dakar with three trucks in the top 10
Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco got the 2017 Dakar off to a strong start with three trucks finishing inside the top 10. Ton van Genugten ended the first stage in second place, just 13 seconds shy of the leader. Gerard de Rooy did better than he had expected, crossing the line in fifth. Federico Villagra finished in ninth place. Wuf van Ginkel was the only truck to suffer bad luck. He got stuck in a deep rut and lost fifteen minutes getting out. The main cost to Van Ginkel at the end of the 39 kilometre stage will be a loss of starting positions.
The stage, 40 kilometres outside Asunción, was much tougher than expected. Not because of its length, but because of conditions. The stage was narrow, bumpy, strewn with potholes and tight turns which were especially tough on the trucks. Gerard de Rooy was the first to start the stage and the first to cross the finish line. There was plenty of consternation as he did so, as the brakes of his Iveco Powerstar were blazing hot enough to have flames coming off them, forcing De Rooy to use the fire extinguishers. The heat claimed two punctured rear tyres as casualties. "They weren't damaged, but the sensor had melted. If you tried to deflate the tyres a bit, they just went completely flat," De Rooy explained. "It looked much worse than it actually was, and it only happened at the finish. It wasn't a problem during the stage." De Rooy's fifth place only lost him 47 seconds to stage winner Martin Kolomy, a better result than the reigning champion had expected. "The stage was good fun. Not really my kind of terrain, fast tracks like that, so I'm more than happy with the result. There were some big potholes, but those are easier to take in a truck than in a car. The suspension earned its keep today."
Van Genugten second
Ton van Genugten's second fastest time also exceeded expectations. "I don't know if I'll still be so happy about it tomorrow," Van Genugten said. "It's pretty stressful driving so far up front. It'll take a bit of getting used to. I have no idea what to expect tomorrow. I'll take it as it comes." Van Genugten decided to approach the first 5 kilometres with caution. He saw that a couple of the trucks ahead of him – only seven started in front of him – had missed the tight turns and gone straight on. "That meant they lost time," he said. That was the sign to push the Iveco Trakker a bit harder. "It was an intense half an hour. It was pretty greasy, with a lot of turns and some deceptive hairpins where it was easy to make a mistake. But we didn't. I'm glad the first stage is over and we are finally racing."
Federico Villagra was satisfied with his ninth place. A better finish might have been possible, but the Argentinian didn't want to take any risks. "It was the first time out with the new crew (with Adrian Yacopini and Ricardo Torlaschi), so we needed some time to gel. But we worked really well together in the cab and the Powerstar was fantastic." Villagra also found the first stage pretty tough. "It was hard work. We really had to get stuck in, especially in the tight 90-degree turns which were tough on the brakes. The rear end broke loose a couple of times, but luckily not by much." The Argentinian is looking forward to tomorrow, which sees him driving on home soil. The stage from Resistencia to San Miguel de Tucuman is built for him. "A fast stage with some WRC-ish stretches which suit me very well, I think. I'm feeling pretty confident about it."
Van Ginkel disappointed
Wuf van Ginkel was far from happy. He lost time and especially a lot of places because he got stuck in one of the deep ruts in the track. "I was trying to drive off to the side of the track, but I slid in and got completely stuck. Jan van de Laar tried to pull me out, but the tow rope snapped. So I ended up having to wait for the 6x6." That cost him fifteen minutes, which dropped him to 42nd place at the end of the 39 kilometre stage. "A real shame," he said. "It was going pretty well until then. I'd passed two or three trucks and was catching Pascal de Baar, so I was on course for a really good time. I'm really annoyed, because it's not going to be easy making up those lost places. But it is what it is, we'll just have to go flat out tomorrow and try to pass half the field without making any more mistakes."
The second stage is 812 kilometres long for the trucks tomorrow, with 284 kilometres a timed stage. Ton van Genugten will be the second truck to start at 14:12 (18:12 European time).