Dakar rookies Thomas Rundle and Juan Mohr (DMack/Barden Toyota Hilux) continued their remarkable progress in the 36th running of the world’s longest and toughest motor race with 37th place on Monday’s second stage from San Luis to San Rafael in Argentina. They improved on their start position of 49th and have now moved up to 35th overall.
The 798-kilometre stage included a 433-kilometre racing section which proved to be the undoing of many fancied competitors and was rated as one of the most difficult encountered so early on in the Dakar for some years. High temperatures – the mercury rose close to 40 degrees Centigrade – and the first sand dunes of the rally made for a dangerous mix and the South Africans, competing in their first Dakar, can be proud of their performance so far after starting in 101st place on Sunday.
“Apart from two punctures and a little trouble in the dunes, it was a good day for us,” said Rundle. “All the training and testing we did before leaving South Africa is paying off. It was our first time ever in the sand dunes with the race car and it was difficult. We got stuck on the crest of one of the dunes, which were high and steep. After that we had no more problems.”
The special stage was won by defending champions Stephane Peterhansel and Jean Paul Cottret of France in a MINI, who have now taken the overall lead by 28 seconds from former champions Carlos Sainz of Spain and Timo Gottshalk of Germany in an SMG Buggy. Third are former champions Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz in a MINI.
Competitors will experience their first taste of the mountains on Tuesday’s stage three from San Rafael to San Juan. The 595-kilometre route (301 kilometres of special and 295 liaison) will pass through the pre-Andes. The Aconcagua volcano stands 6 962 metres high and will observe the progress of the vehicles.