The tenth stage of the 2017 Dakar wasn’t the Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco’s day. Gerard de Rooy lost 23 minutes and 43 seconds to the Russian Eduard Nikolaev, who took a firm hold of the championship and leads De Rooy, who is third, by 24 minutes. Two flat tyres and searching for a waypoint did for De Rooy’s chances in the stage.
It was plain before the start that navigation would be the decisive factor in the tenth stage, 406 kilometres against the clock from Chilecito to San Juan. One after another of the bikes and cars which started ahead of the trucks went astray. “We drove into a rio, and I immediately got the feeling we’d made a wrong turning,” Gerard de Rooy said. “Soon after, we saw a Mini heading our way with two more cars in his wake. We turned around and found the right turn quite quickly, and found the waypoint.”
Things went wrong while searching for the second waypoint. The Iveco Powerstar had drifted too far to the left, and was circling around with some eight other trucks. “I drove back through the bushes, and got a flat tyre in the process. Ton van Genugten found me quickly and helped me change the tyre. They had already found the waypoint, so we drove straight to it. But then I got another flat tyre, probably on a rock or something, I didn’t see it happen.”
Changing the tyre was done in a jiffy, with help from Van Genugten who had waited for De Rooy 12 kilometres after the start of the special stage. But De Rooy had lost so much time in the process that he had ended up among the slower cars and trucks, who wouldn’t pull over and let him past. “I was trying to get past by driving beside the track, but the truck was banging around so much I bruised a rib,” De Rooy said. “Our service truck with doctor Gust van Montfort was waiting for us in the neutral zone. Gust gave me an injection for the pain straight away, otherwise I wouldn’t have made it through the second half of the stage. I was in agony.”
De Rooy pushed as hard as he could in the second part of the stage to try to make up time, but he couldn’t make the progress he wanted to in the dust. “I was behind Ales Loprais and Peter Versluis, but they wouldn’t move over and let me through. They’re not trying to win the race, especially not Loprais. You would have thought they know better than that. I was stuck in their dust for 170 kilometres. I could only get past them 10 kilometres before the finish.”
The result is a major setback for De Rooy. With two stages to go, holding on to his title is going to be difficult. “I drove well today, but those two flat tyres meant I got stuck in the dust. Really frustrating. I’m not going to give up, but I’m not going to risk it all tomorrow and chance losing more time to flat tyres.”