South African privateers Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr (DMack/Barden Toyota Hilux) have enjoyed a remarkable first week of their first Dakar Rally and find themselves in a very creditable 20th place overall as the 9 500 kilometre event reaches its halfway point with a rest day at Salta in Argentina on Saturday.
The pair from Gauteng, who are competing in the ex-Toyota Motorsport V8 Hilux with independent rear suspension that took Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz to second place in the 2014 Dakar, are understandably delighted to have survived what has been described as the toughest Dakar since the event moved from Africa to South America in 2009.
After starting 101st in Rosario on January 5, their progress through the field over the past six days has been impressive.
“It’s been a wild ride,” admitted Rundle, tired but delighted to have made it to the rest day. “It’s been tough, for sure, but that’s what we expected. We had a few problems with the gearbox this past week, but it all seems to have worked out and I have to thank our hard-working pit crew, who have had little sleep and been superstars. The rest day has come at just the right time. We’ll give the car a good going over and recharge our batteries before taking on the Dakar for one final week.”
Rundle and Mohr completed Friday’s 424-kilometre special stage in 28th place to defend the 20th position overall they have occupied since special stage four on Wednesday.
Seven stages lie ahead, one more in Argentina and then six in Chile before the finish in Valparaiso on January 18.
Sunday’s stage seven is a 763-kilometre mega loop from Salta to Salta with a racing section of 533 kilometres that will test the competitors’ ability to adapt to changes of pace. After stony terrain at the beginning of the day, some top speeds will be recorded in the second part of the special stage. The drivers’ road techniques will be tested, at an average altitude of almost 3 500 metres. Their day will end with a crossing of a vast salt flat extending over more than 20 kilometres.