Gerard de Rooy takes stage win and lead in the race
Just two days ago, defending his title looked like an impossible challenge for Gerard de Rooy. But the Iveco man from Son, near Eindhoven, clawed back 20 minutes on his rivals the 4th stage, then handed them an even bigger drubbing today. In the shortened fifth stage from Tupiza to Oruro in Bolivia, De Rooy claimed victory in the stage (his 32nd) as well as the lead in the general classification.
Bad weather in the high mountains of Bolivia forced the Dakar organisation to drastically shorten the stage. A sensible decision, as it turned out, as the remaining 219 kilometres proved once again to be incident packed from start to finish. "It was a really tough stage, with dangerously slippery river beds, dunes, and extremely difficult navigation," Gerard de Rooy reported.
"The first 60 kilometres went through the mountains. Very tricky, with a lot of small ravines. We accidentally drove into one of them, but we could drive straight out the other side. It was still reasonably dry while we were there, except for a few spots of rain. It started raining more heavily later. I didn't think it was too bad. The grip from the Goodyear tyres was outstanding. But if the whole pack behind us had to drive through that rain, it must have been like driving on ice."
The dunes in the final section of the stage made navigation a massive headache. A lot of competitors lost their way and lost a lot of time searching for the route again, but De Rooy's Spanish navigator Moi Torrallardona guided the Iveco Powerstar flawlessly around the course. "We stopped a couple of times to have a proper look and check," De Rooy said. "It was really tough, but the roadbook was dead accurate. We stayed right on course every metre of the way."
De Rooy's time at the finish (2:39:12) would have been good enough for fifth in the car class. The Russian Eduard Nikolaev took over 11 minutes longer to complete the stage. Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco's Federico Villagra crossed the line 46:50 behind teammate De Rooy. Ton van Genugten ran into trouble in the opening section of the stage, getting completely stuck in the mud. Both he and Wuf van Ginkel had lost over three hours on their team leader by the halfway mark in the stage.
De Rooy's 32nd stage victory also put him back on top of the overall standings. His lead over Nikolaev in the Kamaz is 2:23. De Rooy's Argentinian teammate Villagra is now in sixth, at 34:30 from the leader.