Al-Attiyah battles his way up
Today, the two MINI ALL4 Racing pairings Nasser Al-Attiyah / Mathieu Baumel and Mikko Hirvonen / Michel Périn once again battled it out for top positions. Following his loss of time due to a mud hole and a damaged tyre, Al-Attiyah had no problems today and finished third. “I pushed today to make up for the lost ground,” said the driver from Qatar. “But doing so was anything but easy as the rain still was torrential, at times. As I see it, the marathon stage will be the key stage for the entire event and being third in the starting order represents a very good initial position. But we will keep on pushing to work our way further up.
Hirvonen keeps on delivering in consistent style and finished fifth. “I am happy. We once again completed the stage without encountering any problems. With pace notes we certainly could have been even faster,” said the Finn. “At several places the rain was really torrential and the track was virtually flooded. Consequently, it was extremely slippery. Now I am looking forward to the coming days when we will have the opportunity to finally enjoy some off-road racing.”
Yesterday’s unlucky fellows, Nani Roma and Orlando Terranova, raced together, today, and once again had difficulties with the weather conditions. “It was rather difficult,” said Roma. “When we started, heavy rain began to fall and the vision was extremely poor. Even the windscreen wipers couldn’t cope with the water! Then, I was driving for 40 kilometres in the dust of Dabrowski. But I am happy with my performance and even more so as the beginning wasn’t difficult after yesterday’s stage as I had to focus to the max.” Terranova had to cope with the same situation. “It was difficult as the track conditions changed again and again. Here you had grip, there you hadn’t. In these conditions, consolidating your self confidence was extremely difficult.”
Meanwhile, Dakar rookie Harry Hunt – currently 15th in the overall standings and the fourth-best MINI ALL4 Racing to date behind Al-Attiyah, Hirvonen and Przygonski – delivered an amazing performance. “So far, everything ran rather well for us,” beamed the Briton. “The start with the short prologue and the cancelled first stage was somewhat weird and in addition, there was far more rain than I had expected. For me, Dakar means sunshine and 40° C. Today’s stage resembled a WRC stage and that suited me rather well. I won’t take any unnecessary risks in this Dakar. I just want to finish.”
Tomorrow, the MINI ALL4 racing crews and the rest of the field will have to contest the first part of the marathon stage. In the evening, the crews will have to do without their team that already is on its way to Bolivia. Damages must be repaired by the drivers and their navigators alone and so, going easy on the material is crucial. In addition, the 201-kilometre special stage will take the field to an altitude of 3,500 metres above sea level and across sandy and rocky terrain.