VILLA CARLOS PAZ, ARGENTINA – Stage 1 of the 2016 Dakar Rally turned into a non-event, when the organisers were forced to cancel the 258km-long racing section due to heavy rain in the area. According to the official information, the race director deemed it unsafe for the race helicopters to take to the skies, and without aerial support they had no choice but to cancel the stage. This is particularly frustrating for the top teams, as everyone is keen to benchmark their cars’ performance – and Stage 1 would have been the perfect opportunity.
“We all develop our race cars in isolation during the year, with very few opportunities to truly determine how we stack up to the global competition,” explained Toyota Gazoo Racing SA Team Principal, Glyn Hall. “So the first proper stage of the Dakar is always revealing. Now we’ll have to wait for tomorrow – if the weather holds.”
Argentina has suffered severe flooding in the north-eastern parts of the country recently, mainly due to the El Niño weather patterns, which has brought much more rain to the country than in recent years. The areas along the Dakar 2016 route have thus far not been affected by floods, but today’s cancellation shows that heavy rain can wreak havoc at any point of the race.
So with no racing today, the start positions remain the same for Stage 2. This means Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitewitz will line up their Toyota Hilux in 8th place tomorrow, with Yazeed al Rajhi and his navigator, Timo Gottschalk, in 21st place. Leeroy Poulter and Rob Howie will be 24th off the line.
Stage 2 starts on the outskirts of the town of Villa Carloz Paz, with 510km of racing, followed by a liaison of 337km to the bivouac at Termas de Río Hondo. The 2016 Dakar Rally started with a prologue on January 2nd, and will see teams travel northwards into Bolivia, before returning to the Argentine city of Rosario for the finish, on January 16th.