- The Repsol Toyota Rally Team drivers completed a difficult 11th stage of the Dakar Rally with a delay of just over three hours after getting stuck twice in the dunes and having a technical problem.
- Co-driver Txema Villalobos had an extra helping of work in the sand, but his expertise allowed the team to get back on track and reach the bivouac, where mechanics are not allowed to assist tonight.
- "Although it has not been a good day, the positive thing is that we are in the bivouac, when we could perfectly well be sleeping in the dunes," says Esteve.
Isidre Esteve and Txema Villalobos have finished the first half of the marathon stage of the Dakar Rally, drawn in the dreaded Empty Quarter, after overcoming an extreme situation in the Saudi dunes. A technical mishap that prevented the Repsol Toyota Rally Team car's engine from restarting, coupled with two snags in the dunes, tested the expertise and mechanical skills of the Spanish team, which after more than three hours of repairs in the middle of the special stage managed to reach the finish line at the bivouac to continue the race tomorrow.
The first segment of the marathon stage predicted great difficulties, both in terms of navigation and the very nature of the route, which alternated fast zones with sand and dune sections. Isidre Esteve and Txema Villalobos got through the first half of the special stage at a very good pace, making up ground compared to yesterday's stage, which gave way to the light buggies (T3 and T4). However, at kilometer 180 the first challenge arrived, as the driver from Lleida said: "We jumped over a dune without any major problem, but when I landed I stalled the car. When I tried to start it again, the starter motor didn't work. Luckily we were going downhill, so when Txema removed sand from the wheels, a push was enough to revive the mechanics and keep going". The first difficulty was overcome, but at the cost of a major handicap: the Spanish crew could not put the Toyota back in the water, and there was still a long stretch of sand to overcome...
"The last dune of the day had a double ridge at the top, and when I jumped the first one I got stuck on the second one with the car hanging. At this point, Txema immediately set to work to dismantle everything to find the problem and get the car running again, an operation that took him more than three hours. But after repairing it, we were able to reach the finish line. Although it was not a good day, the positive thing is that we are at the bivouac, because we could have been sleeping in the dunes", concludes Isidre Esteve.
The time lost has relegated the Repsol Toyota Rally Team to 112th place on the day, 44th among the T1s, 3 hours and 26 minutes behind the stage winner. This breaks the extraordinary progression in the general classification of the last few days, and the drivers supported by Repsol, MGS Seguros, KH-7 and Toyota Spain drop back to 36th place in the overall car classification, although they remain in 25th place among the T1s.
As this is a marathon stage, Esteve and Villalobos will not have the support of the Repsol Toyota Rally Team mechanics tonight, so they will have to repair the Toyota Hilux T1+ with their own means. The reunion with the entire technical team will take place at the end of tomorrow's stage, which will finish in Shaybah after 185 km timed.
Automatic translation from the original Spanish version available on www.todoterreno.pt
Source Repsol Rally Team