Team De Rooy strikes back: all four trucks in the top 10, Gerard de Rooy wins the stage
In another brutal stage in the 2017 Dakar, Petronas Team De Rooy took revenge for the setbacks of the past few days. With all four trucks finishing in the top 10, the fastest time for Gerard de Rooy, and second place in the standings for Federico Villagra, things were looking decidedly more rosy after the fourth stage.
Gerard de Rooy came out of today's stage particularly well. He guided his Iveco Powerstar through the dunes without a hitch, crossing the finish line in Tupiza with the fastest time after 416 kilometres. But this stood to be corrected by a time penalty of a minute. "We just hit 141 km/h," De Rooy explained. As the difference with Airat Mardeev was just 30 seconds at the finish line, that would mean that victory in the stage would formally go to the Russian. But De Rooy was unconcerned. "Winning a stage would be nice, but it wouldn't be such a bad thing to start second tomorrow, instead of having to blaze a trail with three Kamaz trucks breathing down my neck."
Opening the stage often means losing time. This proved to be the case in stage 4, where Eduard Nikolaev made a mistake. That allowed De Rooy to make up a lot of the time he had lost in stage 3. He moved up to fifth overall. "Navigation was really tough in the dunes and just after we left them," De Rooy said. "A lot of people made mistakes there. We started eleventh, and when we got there, we could see everyone driving in circles looking for the route. We had to turn around once to recover our tracks, but apart from that, our navigation was perfect."
De Rooy passed at least four or five trucks in the dunes. He passed the checkpoint in sixth, after starting as eleventh. "I didn't even see Hans Stacey, for example, even though he started ahead of me. After the dunes, which were just fantastic, we came to a section with some river beds. We dropped the tyre pressures a little there for a bit more grip, so I could catch the two Kamaz trucks in one go."
De Rooy set such a fast pace through the dunes that he dropped his teammates Ton van Genugten and Wuf van Ginkel who had caught up with him earlier in the stage. De Rooy had an added advantage over the Trakkers as he took less of a beating in the cab of his Powerstar. "It was a really tough day for the truck," De Rooy said. "But it performed perfectly. I'm really happy. Not just with my own performance, but with the whole team."
Federico Villagra led for most of the day, after Nikolaev and Kolomy had lost their way. It was a good stage for the Argentinian, as he took second place in the general standings. "The dunes were amazing," Villagra said. "Very soft sand which a lot of cars got stuck in. That made it hard, as there was only really a single track and so you had to drive around all those cars."
Villagra lost a bit of time to De Rooy while he was looking for a waypoint along with the two Kamaz trucks. "Once we found it, the Kamaz boys just followed us." That allowed Sotnikov to take the lead in the race instead of Villagra, but that didn't bother the Argentinian. "I'm happy with how things are going so far and with my position in the overall standings. There are some very tough stages coming in the next few days. The terrain in Bolivia is very rough."
Ton van Genugten drove to a seventh best time. He felt that he could have done better after the finish in Tupiza. "We lost a lot of time searching for one particular waypoint. If we'd been 500 metres further to the right, we could have just driven straight through it. Once we finally found the trail, we put the hammer down to the finish. We got a bit lucky in the final section. There were three crossings in one of the river beds, but only one of them was suitable for the trucks. I had to back up a couple of times, but others lost the top half of their trucks."
Wuf van Ginkel brought up the rear for Team De Rooy with a strong tenth place. The team leaders hadn't needed his help, and so he could concentrate on keeping a strong pace.