'Team De Rooy on the podium is the most important'

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Of course, Gerard de Rooy came to Peru with the aim of winning the Dakar Rally of 2019. But the twofold Dakar champion is also satisfied when someone else from Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco is on the highest step. "Whether that is Ton van Genugten, Maurik van den Heuvel, Federico Villagra or myself: getting Team De Rooy at the highest possible position at the finish is the most important thing. Everyone needs to help each other."

The four Iveco Powerstar’s went without any problems through scrutineering in Lima, where the ceremonial podium start of the Dakar is at 15.00 local time (21.00 hours CET) on Sunday, and where the rally really starts on Monday morning. The first trucks will then start at 1.30 pm (6.30 pm) for the opening special stage of 84 km.

Good memories of the dunes

Gerard de Rooy is looking forward to it. "I have good memories of the dunes of Peru," he says. "In 2012 I won the Dakar here. Then I did not get much of it, because then I was so busy with controlled driving not to lose my victory, but the first days of the Dakar of 2013 are a wonderful memory. It was really great."

The dunes in Peru are one of the reasons that De Rooy is looking forward to the Dakar after a year of absence. "Dunes and sand are good for us – for the whole team - but anything can happen. You can win a lot, but also lose a lot. You have to keep your head and not risk too much. You do not have to win any stages to win the Dakar. Of the top 5 of last year, only two have not fallen over in the dunes. If you are lucky, you will quickly rise again, but if you are unlucky, you will be there for an hour. On the rest day we look at where we stand as a team: who is the best and who becomes the backup driver. If Villagra or myself have lost a lot of time in the dunes, it makes little sense anymore. Then we can go for a few day victories, but the most important thing is to help the others to get someone else from Team De Rooy on the podium. For that reason alone it is important that we are here with four strong drivers: we have to help each other."

Van Genugten in tactical mode

A good classification is also the target for Ton van Genugten for this Dakar. The four stage victories he achieved last year was fun, but in the standings he finished only ninth. "It is important to perform more stable and to make the bad days less bad," he thinks. "It is exciting in the dunes, but I'm going to take a step back. A stage victory is nice, but I'm not very fond of having to open the stage the day after. You only lose out on that. So I start in 'tactical mode' at the first stage Monday. I start as tenth truck, I hope to finish somewhere between fourth and sixth. Not as first in any case."

Although Van Genugten does take back a bit himself, the average speed will probably go up. All four Iveco's are now equipped with automatic gearboxes, which means that they can go through the dunes about ten to fifteen percent faster. "We have taken a step with that," says Van Genugten.

Van den Heuvel more than enthusiastic

Teammate Maurik van den Heuvel agrees with this. "I am more than enthusiastic about that. That part is really incredible. Trucks that still have a manual gearbox in the Dakar do not even have to think of a place in the top 5, if you ask me."

At the shakedown of Team De Rooy in a dune area just outside of Lima, Van den Heuvel first became acquainted with his new truck. It made him very happy. "Nothing more to do. I have not even changed anything about the shock absorbers. I like it that way." The driver who participated with his own team in previous years is very pleased with Team De Rooy. "It's a nice team. Everything is well organized, top mechanics who understand their profession, very professional. That gives a lot of rest, also in advance. Last year I said that I would never want to ride in such a team, but I take those words back. I like it very much."

Like De Rooy and Van Genugten, Van den Heuvel expects a fierce battle in the dunes with competitors such as Kamaz, MAZ and Renault. "I can name fifteen competitors easily who qualify for the podium, but only three of them fit. Anything can happen in the dunes. Literally. Full throttle has never been my style, but certainly not this year. I do not want to ride too much on the limit. A day victory is fun for the scrapbook, but it doesn’t bring you anything."