Gerard de Rooy is not exactly happy with his third place in the 2017 Dakar Rally, but he is not too deeply disappointed either. Of course he would rather have won. He came close to doing just that. One hard-to-find waypoint and a total of three flat tyres cost the Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco team leader victory. “The aim was at least a podium, and we achieved that. We had one bad day, and you can’t really blame anyone for that. I can live with third place.”
A single navigation error, heading off in the wrong direction and getting lost as a result, then taking just a little too much risk trying to make up time, and being punished with two punctures. That, in a nutshell, is the story of the tenth stage, which proved to be crucial for Gerard de Rooy at the finish of the Dakar Rally in Buenos Aires. De Rooy lost 24 minutes in the stage from Chilecito to San Juan, and as a result, lost touch with the Russians in first and second.
De Rooy had suffered a flat tyre two days earlier, in stage eight. That cost him the lead in the standings, but with a deficit of just two minutes there was no cause for concern. Had the ninth stage not been cancelled – the “queen stage” of the Dakar in the dunes of Belèn – then it may have all ended very differently. “That’s where we were going to make the difference. Of course you never know if it would have worked out, but having two stages cancelled and a lot of others reduced in length left us only about 2200 kilometres of actual racing. That’s not much.”
Everybody makes mistakes and loses time at some point. That’s all part of the game, De Rooy knows. “The Kamazes made mistakes too. The difference is that they had time to make up for them, and could take advantage of my off day. They did that really well. I could make up the half an hour that I lost due to the problem with the tyre inflation system on day 3. But I couldn’t make up the 24 minutes from my bad day. There just wasn’t enough time left, and that’s a shame. Seen from that perspective, third place is a bad result, because I know more was possible. I played it safe the last two days, to make sure I held on to third. Whether I’m in third and 20 minutes behind or 41 minutes behind doesn’t really matter.”
Navigation was the decisive factor in this Dakar, and De Rooy believes this is a good thing. “It’s fine if it’s difficult. It’s supposed to be difficult. I liked the fact that things changed from day to day as everyone made mistakes. But it was a bit too hard in some points, because it wasn’t clear what they meant.”
Three flat tyres is just down to bad luck, De Rooy believes. “Last year Kamaz had six flat tyres and I had just one. This time I had three. Sometimes you get lucky, other times you don’t. But I am very happy that we didn’t have any mechanical problems with the truck, and that we worked really well together as a team. None of the four Ivecos had any problems. That’s really important.”
Team De Rooy will start the race with a completely new Iveco next year. The aim is to have the truck ready in March and start testing then. “If everything’s OK and we like it, we will race it in the Silk Way Rally in the summer.”