De Rooy knows: To finish first, you first have to finish
One is never ‘almost’ there, certainly not in the Dakar. Gerard de Rooy knows that more than anyone. That’s why he doesn’t take any risks, not in the penultimate stage and not in the final one. “I have quite a margin but if I have to, I’ll drive the final stage in second gear.”
De Rooy has his second victory in the Dakar at his fingertips and he refuses to let it slip away. But he realizes nothing is for granted. “Look at what happened today: Gert Huzink’s Tatra burned down to the ground, Dmitri Sotnikov blew the engine of his Kamaz. I don’t care how, but I’m going to take my Iveco Powerstar to the podium. Upside down or inside out, doesn’t matter. To finish first, you first have to finish.”
Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco played ‘rather safe than sorry’ in the twelfth stage and decided that Federico Villagra was allowed to try his luck in winning the stage, but Ton van Genugten had to wait for the leader of the overall rankings to cover his back. “Ton waited for me and we stayed together all day,” De Rooy explained. “It wasn’t a stage in which overtaking was easy. In the first part it was a mountain pass with narrow paths, in the second part there was quite some dust.”
De Rooy’s nearest rival Airat Mardeev didn’t take any risks either and therefore De Rooy, who finished in fifth, clawed back the minutes the Russian took in stage 11. “He has to defend his second position like I defend my position,” De Rooy knew. “Neither of us can gain anything, but both of us can lose a lot.”
For Van Genugten the waiting for De Rooy for nine minutes meant a bit more pressure from behind in the overall standings. With 180 kms to go in the final stage, the Dutchman has 11 minutes left on the number 5 in the general rankings. “It would be a pity to lose that, but winning the Dakar as a team is more important than ending up in fourth or fifth,” the driver of the Iveco Trakker said.
For Federico Villagra there was something left: a possible stage win and a slight chance of closing in on second in the rankings. The Argentinian driver of the #514 Powerstar tried his best but he had to acknowledge the superiority of Peter Versluis in the stage. Second place was not enough to become a serious threat to Mardeev in the overall list.
The stage favorited the second Trakker of Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco. Pep Vila not only finished in eleventh in the special, but more importantly moved up into the top 10 overall.
“It would be great to finish with four Iveco’s in the top 10,” De Rooy said. “It still is a shame Ales Loprais had to abandon, but I would have never dreamt of the scenario with Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco’s in first, third, fourth and tenth. We’ll do whatever it takes to stick to this.”