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Weather Conditions Strike the Dakar: Stage 6 to La Paz Cancelled

All competitors of the Dakar faced an extremely and demanding stage five yesterday. Heavy rains changed the terrain dramatically, which caused problems for many drivers. Because of this, stage six was cancelled and the competitors were instead given a direct route to La Paz. However, there was still several hundred cold and wet kilometers to be conquered. Due to there being no race, there were no changes in the rankings and so three Toyota drivers are in the top ten: Overdrive Toyota driver’s Nani Roma #305 and Conrad Reichenbach #320 respectively finished in 2nd and 6th place. TGRSA driver Giniel de Villiers #302 came back in 10th position. 

The forecast already had predicted bad weather for the Bolivian Altiplano. The terrain took a pummeling from yesterday, leaving course conditions fierce and dangerous. Holes became deeper, water crossing became more raging and the road where extremely muddy and slippery. Yesterday’s conditions caused many vehicles to get lost along the way and started driving in circles. Today’s conditions were no different causing the sixth special stage to be cancelled by officials. Instead, a more manageable caravan to the finish line in La Paz was planned. They could drive straight from Oruro to La Paz accompanied by thousands of people cheering and waving to the Dakar competitors. Press and other vehicles joined the Dakar caravan making this route like a long parade. The tamer alternate route to La Paz would give teams a chance to collect their thoughts and strategies as they finish up the first half of the rally.

Driving and Navigating: more difficult than before

Speaking about yesterday’s challenges, Alex Haro Bravo, co-driver of Nani Roma #305, said, “Even with the adapted air restrictor feeding the engine with more oxygen, we had to work very hard to get to the finish.” Dirk von Zitzewitz, co-driver of Giniel de Villiers #302, faced some difficulties with the road book. “We got lost yesterday, and therefore lost precious time. Still I think there are enough chances to get to the podium. And the 4WD Hilux is doing great.”

The course and weather conditions put all the competitors to the test. “This Dakar is tougher than before, I feel it is more tricky due to some changes in the road book and the navigation”, Robert Howie said, co-driver of first-time Dakar rally driver Conrad Rautenbach #320. According to Wouter Rosegaar, co-driver of Erik van Loon #310, navigating is far more difficult this year. “The road book is not giving any support, you are on your own.” And Laurent Lichtleuchter, co-driver of Akira Miura #332, added: “the distance in the road book is good to handle, and the courses are never the same. So you never know what lies ahead. The Dakar is one big surprise.”

Speaking about Dakar overall, Xavier Foj #331 had this to say, “The first half of the Dakar had very difficult stages due to difficult navigation combined with high speeds, sand dunes and plenty of water. The second half of the rally will also be a battle but of a different kind. There will be more wide open areas, many more sand dunes and a marathon stage. We never know how it will go until we arrive.” Foj’s co-driver, Ignacio Santamaria, had a positive impression of this year’s Dakar, “I have enjoyed the variety of the road surfaces and views so far. I am looking forward to the second half.” We share Ignacio’s positive excitement as the world awaits the next stage.

Awaiting the competitors tomorrow: Teams will enjoy a much deserved rest day in La Paz, the highest capital in the world at 3600 meters above sea level. It is in this atmosphere of rarefied oxygen that the Dakar competitors will have to catch their breath. But due to the fact of the sixth stage being modified today, all the competitors experienced a kind of a rest day already. Although there will not be any racing tomorrow, teams will be hard at work discussing new strategies and vehicle modifications as they enter the second half of the Dakar.

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