De Rooy takes his chances in the dunes
In theory and looking at the results stage 9 of the Dakar was a joy ride for Gerard de Rooy. It wasn’t on the job. “An uncommonly tough special,” De Rooy said about the loop in the dunes of Belèn. Nevertheless De Rooy drove his Iveco Powerstar faultless through the ultra-soft sand, in close cooperation with navigator Moi Tollallardona and mechanic Darek Rodewald. In doing so he not only won the stage, but opened up a lead of nearly half an hour to his nearest rival Eduard Nikolaev. Team mate Federico Villagra took possession of third in the general rankings.
“Brilliant score,” the captain of Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco established with a smile. “But it wasn’t easy. It was too hot, the sand was too soft. Shortening the stage and stopping the race at CP2 was the right decision.”
The extreme heat hit the Iveco crews as well. Anton van Limpt, co-pilot of Ton van Genugten, and Jorge Companc, co-pilot of Federico Villagra, suffered from gripes. Villagra had to stop a few times to relieve Companc. Both Van Genugten and Villagra got stuck in the sand but managed to get out quickly. It cost Van Genugten ‘some three to four minutes’. He finished the stage in second, 3.59 from De Rooy…
“My own fault,” Van Genugten admitted. “Luckily it was only three to four minutes. It’s from one extreme to the other. Just a few days ago the stages were cancelled because of the rain, now it was shortened because of the heat. It was terribly hot indeed. Temperatures reached 50 degrees Celsius.”
De Rooy’s rivals lost ground already early in the stage. At CP1 Russian Nikolaev (in third in rankings at 8 minutes down) had already lost 17.39. Peter Versluis (second at 6.29) was 11.29 behind. The only one able to keep up with De Rooy was team mate Van Genugten. He was the only one who closed in on De Rooy to the finish. The other gaps only widened. Versluis finished 35 minutes behind, Nikolaev lost 19 minutes.
“They all got stuck or punctured while we were able to keep moving,” De Rooy explains. “The tyre pressure was punctually managed by Darek and Moi made no mistakes in navigation. We were in doubt for just one moment. I didn’t see the exit, but the others did.”
Beforehand stage 9 was announced as the toughest and decisive day of this Dakar, but despite his ample advantage De Rooy remains cautious. “We should be able to defend this position, but tomorrow will be another tough day, with a mass start and dunes. A split second can cause half an hour delay.”
The top 5 of the general rankings now contains three out of four Iveco’s. Federico Villagra is in third, 41.24 down to De Rooy. Van Genugten moved up to fifth, 45.02 behind his team captain. The difference to Peter Versluis in fourth is only 1 minute. Pep Vila had to give up some positions. Over 3 hours behind De Rooy the Spanish crew is in thirteenth.