The brakes were put on the race on Sunday as the competitors and crews enjoyed a much needed rest in the Bolivian capital. 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.
Mechanics and engineers worked tirelessly on the cars, bikes, trucks and quads that remain in the race before a 622km stage to Uyuni on Monday. 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.
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 occupying all three podium positions in the car category the questions came thick and fast for Stéphane Peterhansel, Sébastien Loeb and Cyril Despres.
Despres said: “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. Apart from the bird-inflicted damage to our Sentinel antenna early on, we haven’t had a single problem with our 3008DKR and we are really looking forward to the second week!”
Also looking to defend their strong position is the KTM Factory Team who currently have Sam Sunderland leading the bike race. Sunderland and his teammate Matthias Walkner are on a quest to deliver KTM their 16th consecutive Dakar win.
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Sunderland said: “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.”
Team Kamaz Master are relishing their battle in the truck race with reigning champion Gerard De Rooy. With Eduard Nikolaev, Dmitry Sotnikov and Ayrat Mardeev all within striking distance of De Rooy we’re guaranteed plenty more drama when this contest gets back underway tomorrow.
Mardeev said: “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.”
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