Villagra leads the way for Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco

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Extremely slippery circumstances in the shortened third stage of the Dakar Rally played into the hands of Federico Villagra. The Argentinian driver led the way for Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco by recording the third fastest time in the special stage between Termas de Rio Hondo and Jujuy. Also in the general standings Villagra is in third now, at just 1m 21s from leader Hans Stacey.

His position in the provisional standings is a surprise for Villagra as well, as today was only his second Dakar stage in the Iveco Powerstar and the circumstances were really tricky. Because the rain had flushed away parts of the track in the final part of the stage race direction was forced to alter the length again and stop the truck race after 130 kms.

“The first 50 kms were extremely slippery,” team captain Gerard de Rooy said. “It was raining, something fiercely, and I had my hands full keeping the truck on the track. Ales Loprais and I have a different kind of tyres than Federico; mine had much less grip in the mud than his.”

Villagra had no complaints about the grip. “I only had to get used to the reaction of the Iveco in these circumstances. It isn’t a big difference compared to the car, but I had to learn to drive with it. Once I understood where the limits were, I dared a little more.”

In the second part of the stage it got dry and De Rooy, Loprais, Ton van Genugten and Pep Vila were able to speed up and overcome the gaps. “But time was too short to make up enough,” De Rooy said. He finished the day in provisional seventh. In the standings De Rooy is in fourth, but both the results and the standings are still unsure.

Finishing third in the stage and having that position as well in the general standings was more than Villagra had expected. “I know these tracks well and these kind of rally tracks suit me. I know I can go fast on these tracks. Let’s not be too happy yet. We only had two days so far, shortened days, and the more difficult stages are still to come. The differences are very small.”