Dakar 2016: Remarkable Dakar debut for Hirvonen
Mikko Hirvonen secured the really fine fifth place, in his first true Dakar special stage. In the bivouac he said: “On the one hand I am really happy with today’s achievements but on the other, I also am slightly frustrated. I still miss the pace notes I am used to from my WRC days. I braked while approaching every single corner and hill as I just don’t know what I will have to face behind them. I just have to learn that everybody has to cope with this situation,” admitted the Finn who completed today’s special stage without making any mistakes. “But I didn’t take any risks and having finished fifth represents a very good initial position for tomorrow.”
So far, the weather conditions make a massive impact on the course of the Dakar. After the cancellation of yesterday’s stage, today’s special stage had to beshortened. But even the track of the shortened route was often flooded and Al-Attiyah got stuck in a mud hole at kilometre 183 – but fortunately succeeded in getting going again after three minutes. “This was a difficult day,” he said. “And after we had disengaged from the mud, a damaged tyre added to our problems. But I’m not worried, to date. Tomorrow we want to push and make up for the lost ground.”
For Nani Roma and Orlando Terranova, however, this mud hole proved to be disastrous: Terranova lost more than 30 minutes compared to Loeb, the current leader, and Roma even had to cope with losing 45 minutes. “I already was on the grass next to the mud but there were too many spectators – and when I got them I got stuck in the mud. Throughout the liaison section I asked myself why this spot wasn’t mentioned in the road book.” A short time later, Terranova also got stuck. “It was a disaster. We tried everything to disengage ourselves. Then Malysz came, pulled us out of the mud and afterwards I helped Nani. This was anything but a good start for us.”
Malysz finished 15th in his first Dakar special stage, with his MINI ALL4 Racing. “It wasn’t easy for me, today,” he revealed, “I didn’t find my rhythm, in the early stages. “Sometimes we were fast, sometimes slow. Then, Nani and Orly were standing in the mud. I towed Orly out of it and I think he afterwards helped Nani. Later we were racing at a good pace but then we lost our way and had to drive back. But altogether I’m rather happy.”
Tomorrow’s 663-kilometre stage will take the field further to the north, to Jujuy – with the special-stage distance amounting to 349 kilometres. The route across the mountains will feature tight, winding tracks.