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Dakar Proves it is The World's Toughest Rally: Stage Conditions Worsen

The common theme for this year’s Dakar is “Anything can happen”. To add to the already difficult raid through heavy rains, tall river-crossings and deep sand traps; a muddy landslide in the Argentinian village of Volcan bisected the liaison to the bivouac in Salta. Officials scrambled to create alternate routes to safely get teams to the bivouac. Stage 9 is set to be cancelled as the rally re-groups and evaluates the Dakar. TGRSA Giniel De Villiers in the #302 crossed the finish line in 5th place, putting their Hilux in 6th place overall. Overdrive Toyota driver Nani Roma in the #305 arrived in Salta in 7th place, slipping to 4th place in the overall ranking. Conrad Rautenbach in the #320 rolled into the bivouac in 9th place for the stage.

Stage eight, the second half of the marathon stage, proved once again who the biggest competitor in the Dakar rally is: Dakar itself. Throughout the raid, competitors and their vehicles have countlessly been put to the test. This is expected with Dakar, but the punishment the terrain has taken has caught some off guard. The stage took competitors back into Argentina towards Salta. However due to the inclement weather running up to the stage, the longest special stage in the rally was shortened. The driving was especially difficult to the fact that the cars had been prepared for hard gravel, yet due to the weather, the 4000m high mountain roads had turned into sand trails littered with large rocks. The area had previously suffered a draught until recently. Heavy rainfall and loose terrain conditions resulted in a massive muddy landslide in the village of Volcan. The landslide became a blockade, leaving competitors and technical assistance vehicles stranded on their way to the bivouac. This led everyone to ultimately take an extended detour around to reach the bivouac, however at the time of writing, 9pm local rally time, no one has yet reached the bivouac.

This stage marked again the arrival of three Hilux’ in the top ten for the stage. TGRSA driver Giniel De Villiers in the #302, Overdrive Toyota driver Nani Roma in the #305 and Conrad Rautenbach in the #320 came in 5thplace, 7th place and 9th place respectively. This stage bumped Conrad up a spot in overall rankings to 13th place, moving him closer to the top ten overall. TLC driver’s Christian Lavieille #327 and Akira Miura #332, once again showed their Land Cruisers can take on the Dakar and are still in 1st and 2nd place overall in the production category. Miura looked to be having a bit of fun on the stage, blasting through standing water with giant rooster tails of water shooting towards the sky. Director of TLC Yuji Kakutani stated that “Although everyone is stressed due to the cancellation and the weather, we are adapting to the situation. We have to look forward to the last remaining stages and keeping our current momentum.” The achievement today is greatly magnified by the fact that in such conditions, the competitors had little or no access to assistance, due to the rules of the marathon stage.

Announcements of stage nine’s rally from Salta to Chilecito being cancelled came Tuesday evening with a call for re-grouping and an overhaul of the road book, something that has given all competitors trouble thus far. Teams are disappointed in the constant uncertainty of this year’s rally but is no surprise with the “anything can happen” bivouac slogan. Although the stage will be cancelled, there will be little possibility of the vehicles receiving a thorough check due to the large assistance trucks being unable to pass through the damaged roads.

Awaiting the competitors tomorrow: the Dakar will take another break period as the second half of the rally is once again re-tooled after today’s weather and course conditions. Teams will take this time to mentally, physically and mechanically focus on the remaining stages ahead as we race closer and closer to the podium.

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