Gerard de Rooy looks back with satisfaction at Dakar Rally 2022
“We can’t complain with four pilots in the top ten”
SON EN BREUGEL – The clouds of dust in the desert of Saudi Arabia have barely lifted when the curtain to the future opens. “We are already working on the 2023 Dakar Rally.” Team De Rooy crossed the finish line with four rally trucks on Friday. The quartet of pilots finished in the top ten. Janus van Kasteren was the highest placed rider, who did not drive a Kamaz. Mitchel van den Brink surprised friend and foe with his strong performance. Except Gerard de Rooy. “I wasn’t really surprised about his driving skills. Mitchel will grow further.”
A week after the finish in Jeddah, Gerard de Rooy (‘Actually it’s with an ij, with dots. But they don’t know that letter in English, that’s why we use the name De Rooy in our communication of the rally activities’) summarizes. “We can’t complain. With four pilots in the top ten we are ‘best of the rest’ directly behind the four Kamaz pilots. I had hoped that maybe we could get a little closer to the top three to increase the pressure a bit. But a little technical setback for us in the first week while there were no setbacks for Kamaz and Janus, ‘falling’ on his side, made a podium finish after one week unthinkable.” The Russians led by Dmitry Sotnikov and Eduard Nikolaev made no mistakes. In their tracks, Anton Shibalov and Andrey Karginov also went as numbers three and four to the finish podium in Jeddah.
Janus van Kasteren was the first ‘foreigner’ in the truckers legion on behalf of Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco. The 35-year-old pilot from Veldhoven sent the Iveco Powerstar to fifth place. “Janus made one mistake. That threw him back in the standings. The ‘crash’ took some time,” said De Rooy about the ‘slip’ in the seventh stage. On the way to El Dawadimi, Van Kasteren made a rare mistake. “I didn’t even notice it. It was my fault, I should have not driven over that bump,” Van Kasteren said soon after that stage. “But Janus was able to compete well throughout the rally. I am certainly satisfied with him.”
The latter also applies to the performance of Vick Versteijnen and his co-pilots Teun van Dal and Randy Smits. The 36-year-old driver from Hilvarenbeek was added to the line-up of the Petronas De Rooy Iveco team at the last minute. As a ‘last-minute’ replacement for Hans Stacey, who did not travel to Saudi Arabia for medical reasons, Versteijnen did his job more than excellently. “In the first place, I was very happy that Vick was able to fill in Hans’s place. With minimal preparation, he really performed to the maximum. Vick’s team had some bad luck with the problems we had with the tire pressure. In addition, they also broke a wheel bearing. This was a bit disappointing, but from a pilot’s performance point of view it was excellent and Vick ended up around Martin’s position in the last few days.” Versteijnen finished eighth in the standings. In the last stage he saw a seventh place with minimal difference (23 seconds) go up in smoke. The Czech Martin Macik prevented with an insanely strong performance in the final stage, in which he finished second a short distance from Sotnikov, a five, six, seven finish for Team De Rooy.
The sixth place overall was in the hands of Martin van den Brink. The experienced rally driver from Harskamp drove a ‘decent’ rally in the colors of Mammoet Rallysport Team De Rooy Iveco. In his fourteenth Dakar Rally, Van den Brink (51) was able to record his best result ever. “Martin lost a bit of time due to missing a waypoint and a mistake on the route. That can happen and is part of it. Furthermore, Martin drove very stable and this was the maximum achievable for him.”
Not many ‘connoisseurs’ expected that Mitchel van den Brink would be so flawless and fast. Van den Brink junior, who turned 20 last Friday, even finished in the top ten after a very consistent rally. “I’m not really surprised,” said Gerard de Rooy. “I was surprised with the classification. I did not expect tenth. But somewhere around 13, 14 or 15 I would have thought possible. That he was solid and fast in the rally is no surprise to me. Last year we had him join our team because we saw the potential. I am therefore very happy that Mitchel has shown what he can do. The rally, just like last year, was a good learning experience. With an Iveco Powerstar he will certainly be in the top ten. He now has to gain even more experience and then he will certainly progress in the coming years,” says De Rooy, who does not rule out the possibility that the talented Harskamper may take part in a full-fledged rally truck in the near future. Mitchel van den Brink, navigator Richard Mouw from Kootwijkerbroek and mechanic Bert van Donkelaar from Lunteren formed a team this year in the Iveco Powerstar Front. “The truck has slightly less power and is much heavier because we have a lot of parts with us for the leaders in the rally,” said Van den Brink before the start of the Dakar Rally.
According to Gerard de Rooy, it is not just steering and acceleration that make Mitchel van den Brink a talent. “He is above all very mature. If you say that he is 25 or 28 years old, everyone will believe that. He is also critical and very honest. He is a boy without fuss and fits well in our team,” says De Rooy, who knows what he’s talking about.
Gerard de Rooy (41) drove the Dakar Rally thirteen times. On the side of his father Jan, he made his debut in 2002 with a sixth place on African soil. The team owner and rally enthusiast won the ‘mother of all rallies’ in 2012 and 2016. That was in South America. In 2019 De Rooy started for the last time. According to the owner of a transport company in Son en Breugel, he has not really missed driving in recent weeks. “I now have a different role. I liked that very much. Only on the penultimate day I would have liked to have driven a bit. That was a stage with many and especially high dunes. I still think that is great.”
During the rally in the Middle East, De Rooy had plenty of opportunity to focus on the drivers and the trucks. “Our team manager Henk van Leuven was there for the day-to-day business. I had so all the time in the world to focus on the sportive part.”
The Team De Rooy formation worked together for the first time in Saudi Arabia with the people from Mammoet Rallysport. The arrival of Martin van den Brink to De Rooy’s team, as a replacement for intended pilot Ton van Genugten, who died after a tragic industrial accident, made the two teams intertwined. “We had a great collaboration,” says De Rooy. “The people from Mammoet were a good fit with our team. We have known each other for a long time from the rally, of course. We have certainly been able to learn from each other this year. In the bivouac you always look at other teams and consult each other in order to improve by sharing information and taking advantage of each other’s positive things.”
Martin van den Brink is also satisfied after two weeks of intensive collaboration with Team De Rooy. “We have done well together. We have had our input and learned from the working method of Team De Rooy. This way we all become stronger. We will see what will come of this in the future. The intention is to continue together.”
That the collaboration will continue is in line with expectations, but Gerard de Rooy does not want to confirm that yet. “We have done well together. In the coming weeks we will evaluate the rally with all pilots and we will also hear what the plans and wishes are for the coming period. Only then will we know what we want and can we fill in the positions for both the Silk Way Rally and later the Dakar Rally of 2023.”