2017 Dakar Rally - Stage 4: San Salvador de Jujuy and Stage 5: Tupiza - Oruro
Stage 4 of the 2017 Dakar proved eventful today, but it was successful for many of the MINI competitors, with six pairings continuing to improve on their overall position in the standings despite the challenges of this tough stage. A difficult start to the 521km stage for X-raid Team's Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) and Michel Périn (FRA) in the #303 MINI John Cooper Works Rally car was not indicative of the stage as a whole. Having dropped to 10th place at the first checkpoint, the Finnish driver quickly regained pace with strong navigation support from his French co-driver. The reward was 2nd place at the finish line in Tupiza to move them up to 3d overall.
Hirvonen said: "It was a good day but also very difficult; difficult navigation and then we had sand dunes at 4,000 metres and they were really high, even higher than ones I saw recently in Abu Dhabi. It was really difficult to get to the top, but then we always found the traction and managed somehow to tackle them and Michel did a good job. We fought all the way through and did all we could with no mistakes so all good and it went well."
Jakub Przygonski (POL) and Tom Colsoul (BEL) in the MINI ALL4 Racing #316 also enjoyed a strong performance in today's stage, which began with a good early attack that saw them reach waypoint 2 in fifth position. However, it was difficult for the pair to maintain their advantage and they slipped back slightly to 7th place, but the result was still good enough to move them further up the overall standings where they now sit in 6th. At 00:36:35 behind the fifth placed car though, the MINI pair still has a challenge ahead to achieve a top five Dakar result.
Przygonski: "It was a good stage for us but the beginning with the high altitude on the sand dunes at 4,000 metres was really hard. I worked with Tom well to find the easiest places to pass and we did well; Tom's navigation was really perfect and we enjoyed this stage."
One of the real stars of today was Boris Garafulic (ARG), who recorded his best ever stage finish in seven Dakars with the support of co-driver Filipe Palmeiro (POR). An amazing start saw the pair pass waypoint 2 in a surprise third place before slipping back gradually throughout the stage to secure a 9th place finish today. The performance has boosted Garafulic's overall position in the standings to 9th – eight places higher than at the end of yesterday's stage!
Garafulic: "We had a good day. There were dunes I had never seen before, even though I am from Chile, but these were really high and also soft. I think for anyone who didn't have major experience with dunes, today was a hard day but we did ok."
Following today's attack, Garafulic is now just over 30 minutes behind the #308 MINI John Cooper Works Rally of Orlando Terranova (ARG) and co-driver Andreas Schulz (GER) who maintained 8th position on the leader board today after a 10th place stage finish.
Terranova: "It was a difficult stage for us, we made a navigation mistake and we couldn't take the waypoint at the beginning. The dunes were very difficult and the temperature was high again. I started to feel a little sick in the high altitude but we continued."
The steep learning curve continued for Mohamed Abu Issa (QAT) on his debut Dakar in a car with the help of co-driver Xavier Panseri (FRA)in the #322 MINI ALL4 Racing. The pair climbed four places overall to 12th place today, after crossing the finish line for the stage in the same position.
Abu Issa: "Today we were expecting some soft sand, of course, but not all the way through and there were also some rocks in the beginning, but honestly the car was amazing. We had a really good day. Altitude was good and the help from the doctors worked, so I think it was my best stage today."
Sylvio deBarros (BR) and Rafael Capoani (BR) now sit just outside the top ten, having moved from 18th overall to 11th thanks to today's 15th place finish.
Just behind the pair were Stephan Schott (GER) and Paulo Fiuza (POR) in 16th who now move to 14th place overall.
Unfortunately, X-raid Team's Yazeed Al Rajhi (KSA) was forced to withdraw today after severe altitude sickness made it impossible for him and co-driver Timo Gottschalk (GER) to continue in the #306 MINI John Cooper Works Rally car. "I already felt bad prior to the start but it goes without saying that we started into the special stage, nevertheless," Al-Rajhi revealed in the bivouac. "But with 190 kilometres covered we stopped and I had a rest for a while. Nonetheless, the headache got worse and worse and so I opted for retiring from the special stage. But now I already am feeling far better again." The pairing completed yesterday's stage, ending in San Salvador de Jujuy, in sixth place overall and showed great promise for a strong result in what is, arguably, the world's most challenging endurance race.
Stage 5: shortened from 692 km to 219km. All drivers faced a much shorter route than expected on Stage 5 of the 2017 Dakar , following a decision by race organisers to reduce the route from 692 km to 219 km. Poor weather conditions on the way to the original destination of Oruro meant the second part of the day's track was no longer negotiable. Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) and Michel Perin (FRA) made an exceptional start to the stage, passing the second waypoint in third position less than four minutes behind the race leader. However, the pair's first mistake in the #303 MINI John Cooper Works Rally car came in the next section with some navigational difficulty. They finished the stage in 15th, pushing them to 5th overall but still within reach of the other frontrunners.
Hirvonen: "We got lost, we should have been able to recover better but then we got lost a second time. It was tricky, for sure, for everybody today."
It was a more successful day for the #308 MINI John Cooper Works Rally of Orlando Terranova (ARG) and co-driver Andreas Schulz (GER) who moved up a place to 7th overall today after finishing 8th in a very difficult stage of the event. Terranova said: "The navigation today was very difficult."
The third MINI John Cooper Works Rally also re-joined proceedings today, subject to appeal, with Yazeed Al Rajhi (KSA) feeling better than the past two days in which he was severely affected by altitude sickness. With the help of co-driver Timo Gottschalk (DEU), Al Rajhi steered the #306 car to 13th place today. His official overall position is still to be confirmed.
Al Rajhi: "Everything was okay, I felt a lot better, until we got lost, but I think a lot of drivers got lost today. You go one way and people were going another way so it was confusing but we just tried to keep pushing."
Jakub Przygonski (POL) and Tom Colsoul (BEL) fared well in the #316 MINI ALL4 Racing with a consistent performance that saw the pair remain in the top ten with a 9th place stage finish to maintain 6th position overall.
Przygonski: "Today was quite a good stage and then we got lost and it took us about 30km to try to find our way. Everyone was losing their way today but it's good that we are here. The weather is not so nice now and we have to be prepared for it."
Despite the tough challenges of the stage, Boris Garafulic (ARG) and co-driver Filipe Palmeiro (POR) also managed to maintain their overall position of 9th with a 14th place stage finish.
The remaining three MINI ALL4 Racing pairings also completed the difficult Stage 5 with Mohamed Abu Issa (QAT) and Xavier Panseri (FRA) finishing in 31st, one place behind Sylvio deBarros (BR) and Rafael Capoani (BR). The #325 of the experienced Stephan Schott (GER) and co-driver Paulo Fiuza (POR) were slightly ahead today in 25th position at the stage end.
Tomorrow's (07-01-2017) Stage 6 is scheduled to start as planned in Oruro and finish in La Paz, a total distance of 786 km.
Check out what happened on stage 3 of Dakar 2017 here!
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