The Dakar Enters The Marathon Stage: Competitors On Their Own

The marathon stage could be compared to floating in space. No external assistance is allowed. No support crews are found along the whole special stage. Drivers and co-drivers are left with their road books, filled petrol tanks and the great open Bolivian landscape. The competitors left La Paz for a long drive towards the “Salar de Uyuni”, the remarkable salt flats. Because of the bad weather conditions the last few days, the seventh special stage was shortened to 160 km. TGRSA driver Giniel de Villiers #302 finished 3rd and Overdrive Toyota driver Nani Roma #305 finished in 5th; placing Nani in 3rd place in the overall ranking for his category. 

When it comes to endurance and keeping a cool head; the marathon stage is a great equalizer among all competitors. No service is available during and after this stage, creating a “win or lose” situation for each and every one of the competitors. Once the drivers and co-drivers leave the La Paz bivouac, they must also become their own mechanics to overcome any complications. For competitors like Xavier Foj of the #331, owning a Land Cruiser for several years for his personal usage will come in handy. The bivouac in Uyuni holds a service station welcoming all the vehicles, but competitors must perform repairs to their vehicles alone, no mechanical support allowed.

For Toyota, this stage is a crucial point when it comes to the overall ranking. Although the stage was shortened due to poor weather conditions, it was filled with sandy trails that were liable to create big leaderboard gaps among the top contenders. TGRSA driver Giniel in the #302 and Overdrive Toyota driver Roma in the #305 arrived in the bivouac with focus on their faces as they assessed their vehicles. Giniel finished in 3rd for the stage with Roma placing in 5th. This ranks Roma 3rd overall in his category. As for the production category, TLC driver’s Christian Lavieille #327 and Akira Miura #332, again did a perfect job by finishing in 1st and 2nd place.

The Toyota team showed their preparations yesterday paid off during the marathon stage. During the rest day in La Paz, TGRSA, Overdrive Toyota and TLC were busy thoroughly checking the vehicles over. The 4WD Hilux and Land Cruisers have to perform every day, but for the marathon stage the vehicles needed to be in the best condition possible with the “anything can happen” nature of the marathon stage.

Awaiting the competitors tomorrow: the Dakar will leave the Bolivian Altiplano for an off-road special stage in the first half, where more water-crossings will follow the dune sectors. The race has often set up camp in Salta, Argentina; but never has a special stage been contested in the region. The rally raid will be played out in new canyons and spectacular landscapes that will be a beauty to spectators, and a worthy opponent to competitors.  

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