Dakar SS1: Zala finishes fourth in the MINI JCW Rally Plus

214 ZALA Vaidotas (ltu), FIUZA Paulo (prt), X-Raid Arijus Team, Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus, FIA Ultimate, action during the Stage 1 of the Dakar 2024 on January 6, 2024 between Al-Ula and Al Henakiyah, Saudi Arabia - Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI

– Casale finishes ninth in the Challenger classification
– The first dunes are coming up tomorrow

After yesterday’s short debut, the drivers had to complete the first real Dakar stage today. The 414-kilometre stage took them to Al Henakiyah. Vaidotas Zala and Paulo Fiuza secured a very good fourth place in the MINI JCW Rally Plus.

The MINI JCW Rally Plus crew Krzysztof Holowczyc / Lukasz Kurzeja ended the day in 15th place, while their team-mates Pau Navarro and Goncalo Reis finished 29th. In the Challenger classification (formerly T3), Ignacio Casale and Alvaro Leon secured ninth place in the X-raid 1000R Turbo Side-by-Side.

When Zala reached the finish line after 414 kilometres, he was surprised by his strong position. The Lithuanian had started 22nd and was stuck in the dust of the cars in front of him for a long time. Despite this, he was able to stay in the leading group with his times right from the start and eventually finished fourth.

Navarro and Reis, on the other hand, were unlucky. Due to a defect on the jack, they had to take a more cautious approach to part of the stage. As a result, they crossed the finish line without a puncture and had to settle for 29th place.

Tomorrow’s second stage from Al Henakiyah to Al Duwadimi covers a total of 572 kilometres – 462 kilometres of which are against the clock. The riders will encounter the first dunes here.

Quotes from the drivers
Vaidotas Zala (#214 MINI JCW Rally Plus): « I wouldn’t have expected this result. It was a really tough and long day with lots of stones. We spent half the time in the dust of other cars and trying to overtake. We were totally surprised at the finish – but it was a nice surprise. The stage showed that the MINI works really well. A good start to a tough Dakar. »

Krzysztof Holowczyc (#217 MINI JCW Rally Plus): « We’ve reached the finish of the first day. We’re sticking to our plan and that’s the most important thing. We are driving calmly, perhaps too calmly at times. But we still have almost two weeks of rallying ahead of us. The Dakar is a marathon event. You have to manage your strength well so as not to make any mistakes, damage the car or destroy any tyres. I’m satisfied, the car is working very well. Now we have time to rest and tomorrow we continue with the second leg. »

Pau Navarro (#230 MINI JCW Rally Plus): « We quickly caught up with other cars. Nevertheless, we were able to find a good rhythm. Unfortunately, the jack was damaged later on. That’s why we had to avoid a puncture for the rest of the stage. We drove carefully in order to reach the finish. »

Dakar 2024 – result SS1 (Ultimate-class)
1. G. De Mevius / X. Panseri – Toyota – 4h 35m 59s
2. C. Sainz / L. Cruz – Audi – 4h 37m 43s
3. G. de Villiers / D. Murphy – Toyota – 4h 45m 17s
4. V. Zala / P. Fiuza – MINI JCW Rally Plus – 4h 46m 41s
5. R. Dumas / M. Delfino – Toyota – 4h 48m 17s…
15. K. Holowczyc / L. Kurzeja – MINI JCW Rally Plus – 4h 55m 37s…
29. P. Navarro / G. Reis – MINI JCW Rally Plus – 5h 13m 31s

Dakar 2024 result SS1 (Challenger-class)
1. E. Goczal / O. Mena – Taurus – 5h 14m 18s
2. M. Goczal / S. Gospodarczyk – Taurus – 5h 14m 37s
3. M. Goczal / M. Marton – Taurus – 5h 21m 56s
4. A. Jones / G. Gugelmin – Can-Am – 5h 24m 42s
5. C. Gutierrez / P. Moreno – Taurus – 5h 27m 44s…
9. I. Casale / A. Leon – X-raid 1000R Turbo – 5h 40m 38s…
25. A. Quandt / A. Seel – X-raid 1000R Turbo – 6h 48m 42s…
tba. P. Lonyai / F. Ippolito – X-raid 1000R Turbo