The brakes were put on the 2017 Dakar Rally today as the competitors and crews enjoyed a much needed Rest Day in La Paz. With over 4,000 kilometres already ventured through Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia there was anticipation in the bivouac of what’s to come on the second week of the toughest test of endurance motorsport has to offer.
With no racing on Sunday the Dakar camp in Bolivia’s capital city was a hive of activity from sunrise to sunset. Mechanics and engineers worked tirelessly on the cars, bikes, trucks and quads that remain in the race.
The world’s media were also busy in La Paz as they caught up with competitors to get their take on the race so far. With Team Peugeot Total occupying all three podium positions in the car category the questions came thick and fast for Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA), Sébastien Loeb (FRA) and Cyril Despres (FRA). The French trio were happy to reflect on a solid first week of driving but also careful not to get too carried away with nearly 5,000 kilometres still to be covered.
Also looking to defend their strong position is the Red Bull KTM Factory Team who currently have Sam Sunderland (GBR) leading the bike race. Sunderland and his team-mate Matthias Walkner (AUT) are on a quest to deliver KTM their 16th consecutive Dakar win.
Team Kamaz Master are relishing their battle in the truck race with reigning champion Gerard De Rooy (NLD). With Eduard Nikolaev (RUS), Dmitry Sotnikov (RUS) and Ayrat Mardeev (RUS) all within striking distance of De Rooy we’re guaranteed plenty more drama when this contest gets back underway tomorrow.
There was also the chance today for race fans to come and have close up look at the bivouac and get a real taste of the action. One special guest having a good look around was windsurfing legend Robby Naish. The self-confessed motorhead was blown away by the scale of the operation that keeps the Dakar on the road and enjoyed a guided tour of the Peugeot 3008 DKR.
Tomorrow will give Naish the chance to see Peugeot’s machine as well as the rest of the Dakar convoy in action as we travel 622km to Uyuni. It’s the first half of this year’s marathon stage so competitors will be separated from their mechanics and will have to carry out any necessary repairs by themselves.
Cyril Despres #307: David (Castera, co-driver) and I have had an incredible first week. We wanted to win a stage, even though we knew it wouldn’t be simple on what we expected to be a very complex rally, and the stage we won really wasn’t easy. That was a big boost to our morale because it showed we have the speed. It put us ahead of our game plan and was a nice reward for the work we have put in since our switch to four wheels, as well as for the team’s ability to provide us with a great car which is fast on all types of terrain. Apart from the bird-inflicted damage to our Sentinel antenna early on, we haven’t had a single problem with our 3008 DKR and we are really looking forward to the second week!
Sam Sunderland #14: I’ve tried to get a bit of rest today but things have been pretty busy as we get things organised for the next week. I also went to see Toby (Price) in hospital. He’s a good friend and I’m really bummed for him. He was in good spirits and he’s on the road to recovery already.
Ayrat Mardeev #501: We had a few mechanical problems in the first week that cost us some time. The navigation has also been tough and it looks like that will be the case in the second week also. I’m pleased that we have an exciting race with about six different trucks that have a chance of finishing on the final podium.
Robby Naish: It’s not just the competitors that I have huge respect for but also the teams that support the guys and keep them on the road. There’s a lot to take in that’s for sure. You’ve got the guys on bikes who are doing everything solo and from an athletic point of view that’s mind boggling. The mind, body and spirit of those guys must be destroyed come the end of the race. Then you’ve got the full on professional teams with dozens of crew members working around the clock. From simply a logistics standpoint the whole thing is breathtaking.