X-Raid: The Dakar begins its final spurt
Slowly but surely, the 2018 Dakar competitors are getting ready for the final spurt of the legendary event.
The 11th of the 14 stages took the Dakar train to Chilecito. Jakub ‘Kuba’ Przygonski (POL) and Tom Colsoul (BEL) succeeded in avoiding getting involved in any problems with their MINI John Cooper Works Rally and crossed the finish line in seventh position. Two positions behind them, the MINI JWC Rally pairing Orlando ‘Orly’ Terranova and Bernardo ‘Ronnie’ Graue (both ARG) in a second MINI JCW Rally secured ninth place. Boris Garafulic (CHI) and Filipe Palmeiro (POR) took their MINI JCW Rally to 11th position in today’s special stage. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) and Andreas Schulz (GER) rolled over early in the stage but could continue later.
The organisers came up with a special starting procedure for today: the best 10 motorbikes and cars as well as the best five trucks of yesterday’s stage started into today’s special stage before the rest of the field. Przygonski, Hirvonen and Terranova with their MINI belonged to this group.
“Today’s special stage represented a mix of difficult navigation, hard dunes and soft sand. Later we temporarily were stopped by a puncture and in addition we had some minor navigation problems,” revealed Przygonski who keeps on holding his sixth place in the overall standings. “The forthcoming two stages definitely will represent a true challenge. We will give our very best to defend this sixth position and at the same time, we will wait and see what will happen ahead of us. The front-runners are fighting hard and a lot of things still will happen.”
“At the beginning things went really well for us and we found a good rhythm,” said Terranova. “But I unfortunately had stomach problems and therefore, I wasn’t able to push to the max. And then we helped Mikko to get his buggy back on its wheels again and doing so certainly cost us 15 minutes.”
In the early stages, Hirvonen delivered in great style and even battled it out for the lead with Bernhard Ten Brinke. But then, at kilometre 107, he rolled over. Terranova stopped to help him but at the end of the day the Finn and his navigator had to wait for the service truck as their radiator was damaged. The MINI JCW Buggy could be repaired and Hirvonen now is on his way to completing the special stage.
Slowly but surely, the 2018 Dakar enters its home straight. Tomorrow’s 12th stage takes the teams to San Juan and a quarter of the 523-kilometre special stage once again will feature sand. Furthermore, numerous riverbeds turn the navigation into crucial factor. Altogether, the competitors have to cover 793 kilometres until they cross the finish line at San Juan.