Dakar 2024: "Two nights under the stars with campfire"

Dakar 2024: "Two nights under the stars with campfire"

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This Dakar Rally is tougher than ever.'' Martin van den Brink is an expert by experience. The 53-year-old driver of Eurol Rally Sport can know. ,,We arrived at the bivouac this morning after two nights in the desert.''

The 48-hour stage got an unwanted extension for Martin, Jan van der Vaet and Richard Mouw. But after 72 hours, the trio could breathe a sigh of relief and the team started the seventh stage this morning. ,,We are still in the race and that is the most important thing for us. We want to be able to help Mitchel if we need to.''

Helping has been the key word for the men in the Iveco Powerstar in recent days. ''We've helped a lot of people and have been helped ourselves by a lot of other drivers,'' Martin told us this morning from the bivouac in Riyadh where the drivers had just under half an hour to freshen up and tell their stories.

Broken handlebars

The bucket of "Dakar problems" was filled for the first time on Thursday morning. ,,After only three kilometers, the steering wheel broke off. I had to avoid Gert Huzink, who was lying somewhere, and on a strange bump the steering wheel broke off. We got another steering wheel from Anja van Loon. In the first part of that sixth stage we helped De Groot, among others, but because of all that delay we didn't reach the finish before dark. The part through the dunes in the dark was so difficult. It almost went wrong a couple of times and we ended up lying in a dune pan.''
For Martin and his men, there was nothing left but to spend the night in the desert. ''We made a campfire and waited until the next morning. At 8 a.m. we were helped upright by Richard de Groot's Firemen team. Gerrit Zuurmond put us in a little better shape and at 9:00 a.m. we could continue.''

A few kilometers before bivouac D, Van den Brink senior again had to act as helper. ,,We saw Anja van Loon in a nasty position. The truck was askew and could no longer move. Together with the Hungarian Kovacs, we were able to put the truck of the three ladies on the right track. But then it turned out that the truck also had technical problems. We solved those as well. When we got back on the road, the Japanese Sugawara was still stationary. He had run out of fuel. We were also able to help him, but it was already getting dark.

Not a successful combination

And as the experienced rally driver now knows, driving in the dark through the dunes is not a successful combination. Van den Brink again had to bow to the elements of nature. ,,It was really dangerous and especially very difficult. At six kilometers before the finish we were again on the side in a dune pan.''
The Eurol Rally Sport team was thus able to pull out the previously proven recipe again. ,,We gathered wood again, made a campfire and slept under the stars. Fortunately, Jan (navigator van der Vaet) joined the Belgian scouts,'' said Martin, who can put the problems into perspective like no one else.
The organization of the Dakar Rally appeared to have things well in hand logistically during the forced nights in the Empty Quarter. ,,We were helped really well. A helicopter came and we were given water, coffee bags and some food to get through the night. That was well taken care of.''
On Saturday, the brigade from Harskamp had to wait for help. The truck had to be put upright. ,,But we were not really in a nice place,'' says Martin. ,,William de Groot eventually joined us and at 3 p.m. we were able to continue. We finished the stage and put the truck on transport. We drove in our team's Toyota to the bivouac in Riyadh. That was about another 800 kilometers.''
At 7 a.m. this morning, the Eurol Rally Sport team was complete again. Including the truck. ''The mechanics quickly changed the tires, filled up the tank and were able to do some small things, but we have to continue immediately.''

'We never give up'

According to Martin, the team did not hesitate for a moment to throw in the towel. ''We never give up. That is our trademark and it will stay that way. We hardly slept for four days, but we are happy that we are still in the race. Last year was also a tough rally, but this really beats everything. It really is a rally of helping and being helped. That makes it more beautiful. I also know that it gets tougher when, like us now, you get into trouble. Then that piles up. However, we are proud that we are still in the race and that we may be able to drive near Mitchel over the next few days to give him assistance if needed. That was the plan and it still is.''

Automatic translation of the Dutch version
Source:  Eurol Rally Sport
Written by Berry Kamphorst.
Photo: MMphoto

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