2017 DAKAR RALLY
After I wrote my Dakar report before the start of the event I decided rather not to publish it – for the simple reason that I did not predict the outcome in an acceptable, South African way.
There was no reason for my predictions other than being based on experience, ability and almost common sense.
Peterhansel had the experience, Peugeot proved in the past that they do have the ability and common sense said that if you looked at the career of one of the best drivers ever, Sebastien Loeb – you would see that he was due for an overall win on this event.
Of course my heart and soul wanted Giniel and the South African Toyota team to win, but my “feeling” placed even one more driver ahead of him – I was convinced that Mikko Hirvonen was going to pull off the last podium position.
Two factors played a major role in prediction – one moving it in the right direction and on the other caused the Hirvonen “feeling” to fall off the tracks.
The first factor that helped me was the Dakar itself. In fairness I did not feel this way before the event but as it progressed this year I actually decided that I was not really interested in following it as I did year after year before.
To be honest I was not even worried about being right or wrong – let alone who were leading and who not.
The reason? Well, the “Frenchness” of this event is starting to work on my tits – the navigation data the crews are expected to use seems to be inaccurate, but that does not seem to affect the “Frenchier” entries too much. No prove of anything – I am just saying.
A year or so ago when a chopper of the organisers created sufficient dust just ahead and around Giniel to cost him some time, worried me, especially after the Toyota team complained about the unfairness only to hear that that was “part of the rally” and then also some stories about – “if you are not French you are in trouble” worried me.
This year, this one of the most expensive TV shows on earth, sponsored by the actors did it for me, because it proved to be just another TV show.
Drama caused in reality by either incompetent or stupid organisers who have no respect for the amounts of money and the effort put into this almost senseless exercise, that proves to be, for them, a very financially beneficial project.
The organisers seem to do exactly as they wish and if you do not like it, leave your few million on the table and go home.
The second factor affected Hirvonen’s performance. He is simply hampered by the fact that the Mini simply does not measure up this year and that is that.
Why I did not rate the Toyota’s chances all that high this year was because I was under the impression that their September 2016 Press release where they announced that they were going to run a two wheel drive version – still stood.
I was wrong, but I doubt if the fact that they decided after the press release to run a 4×4 with less turbo restriction, would have changed my mind – simply because I had a feeling that the pressure placed on the team by one of the most determined and almost recklessly one track minded drivers – Al-Attiyah may be too much.
So there you have my feelings and you would not have seen them, had Andries van der Walt not fall ill and I heard a bit too late that I had to put together some report for today.
So, what happened on the 8th stage?
The Tuesday run, spanning from Bolivia’s Uyuni to Argentina’s Salta, was to feature a timed section of 492km, split by a neutralised zone on the border between the two countries.
However, the Bolivian part of the special was shortened as a result of continued rainfall, trimming the timed stage for the day by 73km.
Reigning champion Peterhansel, first in the running order, was fastest at the first two waypoints – but a short stoppage cost him time against Loeb and allowed the WRC legend to move past Peterhansel on the road ahead of the neutralised zone.
In the Argentinian section, Loeb continued gaining ground and was five minutes up on Peterhansel at one stage.
He dropped some time late on as a result of a puncture, but still ended up over three minutes quicker than the reigning champion, which was enough for him to take the lead of the overall classification.
Both Loeb and Peterhansel again gained on their nearest rivals Cyril Despres (Peugeot) and Nani Roma (Toyota).
Whereas Despres managed to limit his losses and now sits 17 minutes off the rally lead, Roma had a tough time, dropping to fourth overall as Peugeot’s 1-2-3 was reinstated.
Mikko Hirvonen once again led the X-Raid Mini contingent, completing the stage eight minutes behind Loeb, whereas Giniel de Villiers was 12 minutes down as the quickest Toyota.
Road section dramas
The logistics of the Dakar’s preparation for Wednesday’s 1000km Super Belen stage have been complicated by inclement weather.
A rockslide on the road section link from the finish of the timed section to the Salta bivouac had blocked both competitors and technical assistance vehicles from arriving at the venue.
An emergency bivouac was touted as one of the possible solutions, although it has now been reported that crews will simply take a different route to Salta.
The opportunity for teams to perform technical checks and fixes on Tuesday is regarded as particularly crucial, as competitors received no assistance at the Uyuni bivouac under marathon stage rules.
Sebastien Loeb and Daniel Elena are leading the event overall from Peterhansel by 1m38s. To complete the Peugeot 1-2-3 is Cyril Despres 17m17s off the leading pace.
Nani Roma is in fourth spot in a Toyota Hilux 23m36s off the pace, with Mikko Hirvonen in the first of the Mini’s in 5th – 53m41s behind and then our own Giniel de Villiers in 6th place short of one hour, 21 minutes and 44s – which even in Dakar terms will be very hard to make up – except of course if the fat lady comes out to sing and fall off the stage – or something similar and unlikely happens.
Next up in 7th spot is Orlando Terranova in a Mini, followed by two more Mini’s driven by Kuba Przygonski and Boris Garafulic respectively.
10th place is filled by Romain Dumas in a Peugeot.