Yesterday we finished the last stage from Carlos Paz to Rosario, it was short but not exactly easy stage with quite a bit of mud, water crossings and boggy water holes. We made it to the podium in Rosario in 31st overall. We had a fairly clean run, no major dramas just got stuck few times on some of those difficult stages but made it through without any assistance throughout the event. Our service crew Garry, Pierre and Miguel did fantastic job every night and the car was perfectly prepared and ready every morning. The support from the South Racing was great and the whole team had an awesome event with all the team cars making it to the finish. BIG Thank You everyone. Over the next few days we should have more time to process additional photos and perhaps some video as well. Cheers, Peter & Dale.
Stage 10 and 11. We had quite a difficult time yesterday in Fiambala (Belen to La Rioja) after losing time in previous 2 stages and starting behind some 40+ trucks, that's not ideal when you have a full day of dune crossings. We had quite a clean run up to CP1 and were progressing quite well but then got badly wedged between two smaller dunes and couldn't get out for over an hour, it was insane digging and lifting the car up on sand boards, moving some 5 inches each time and ...eventually freeing the car after 10-15 attempts. By this time even more trucks got ahead of us and most run ups to big dunes with waypoints were all chewed up. We got bogged several times and finished the stage just before sunset with long 300km transport section to bivouac still to cover. We arrived very late, time is always the biggest enemy at Dakar, no time for dinner, no time for breakfast next morning, just happy to get 2-3 hours sleep and carry on with next stage. Today's stage 11 from La Rioja to San Juan was re-run in reverse of last year's stage 2 (Geoff and Adrian will remember this one quite well) with endless sections of fesh fesh throughout the stage. It was again very hot and dusty stage (the aircon in the car just doesn't work btw.), we made good progress initially and managed to overtake some trucks and cars but then our steering rod snapped. While this was a quick repair we lost more time overtaking same cars and trucks again for the second time. Last 4 days were not ideal and we lost quite a bit of time but lost only one position in overall standing and are currently 32nd.
Not much luck with internet here in Belen, non-existent 3G network and just got the use of home PC from one of the local residents tonight. Toughest stages of the Dakar started yesterday with stage 8 and continued today with stage 9. Ultimately the conditions were so tough today with 50+ deg temperatures in the soft sandy desert that with so many crews stranded and seeking both physical recovery and medical asistance the Dakar officials had to scramble all of their safety cre...ws meaning today´s stage would finish at CP2. Many cars including ourselves had a difficult time on both stages (in one sandy canyon alone we passed approximately 20 cars or trucks all stuck together incl. one truck tipped on its side), with the trucks and cars now starting together in mixed order the tracks become destroyed very quickly, many bottlenecks with deep ruts are created and those are nearly impossible to get through in cars. We have to look all the time for alternative routes to avoid getting stuck in fesh fesh or in unstable soft sand and at the same time keep visual reference of the main track or just find our own way to the next waypoint off piste and this makes travel very slow. We lost about 45 minutes yesterday and 2 hours today getting bogged in areas where tracks in all directions were already badly broken and quite often blocked by other cars or trucks. Extreme heat and hard work getting unstuck also meant that we consumed 14L of water and had to seek alternative resources from locals and officials along the route. We made it safely back to bivouac on both days and are currently sitting in 31st overall.
After completing stage 7 we are now half way through the Dakar rally. Yesterday's stage took us back from Bolivia to Argentina, it was a long day starting in Uyuni in the morning and arriving late at night in Salta. The special stage was a combination of fast flowing tracks through a valley between the mountains, then it became more technical and rough, some dry and wet river bed crossings, back into high mountains on narrow winding tracks we reached the altitude of 4500m whe...re we experienced once again a snow storm followed by wet and slippery descent. Second part of the stage on the Argentinian side was on super fast tracks, occasionally with humps, dips and wash aways. There was also a neutralization section to allow for border crossing between the two countries, including a complicated river crossing in one of the villages that was flooded by recent rains. Some cars and even trucks got bogged in the river and one bike rider had to be saved by another competitor after he was taken down by the flowing water. Other than that the scenery on the stage was as always spectacular. This is already 8th edition of Dakar rally in South America and passion for the rally here in South America just has to be seen to be believed. There are endless people lining the stages, the road sections and bivouacs supporting and cheering on every competitor in the rally. Today is a rest day here in Salta and some members of our support team were having difficulties reaching the bivouac after one of our support vehicles broke down, some got lift by Robby Gordon support team but then got stranded at one of the river crossings and arrived only this afternoon. Rally continues tomorrow and we’ll be heading to the Tucaman, Catamarca and La Rioja regions for what is expected to be more difficult part of the rally, including the dunes of Fiambala. Starting order will be mixed with trucks so we expect more dust and difficulty in overtaking. First half of the rally was not really typical difficult Dakar, we had some “WRC” stages at the beginning followed by medium difficulty rally raid stages. Car has been very reliable so far, apart from few dramas collecting it from the port in Buenos Aires and some minor electrical and fuel pump issues on the prologue day we had a good run so far, no damage whatsoever, all panels are still straight and the paintwork intact. We are currently 33rd overall.
We noticed something is going on with this FB page, the posts we made to date keep on disappearing and reappearing every few hours, it's out of our control, somehow the Facebook is playing up what appears to be some kind of "approval" process (FB probably "thinking" there is some kind of security breach since we are updating from Argentina), there is nothing we can do about that. We'll just keep on posting and it'll be just a lottery whether you get to see it or not, last night's post didn't even go through.
just a quick note to say we finished the longest special stage of the rally (540km timed section) that took us over 6 hours to complete. internet is not working very well here in Bolivia and we are unable to download any photos today so we'll do another summary once we are back in Argentina. car is all good after this very scenic stage around the Salar, some beautiful scenery all around. we were stuck in dust behind the car that started in front of us for about 250km and lost some time, the second half of the stage was much easier once we got through. overall it was very long and tiring day still at high altitude. really hoping to reach Salta tomorrow because this is a big milestone with rest day to follow, organizers always tend to schedule a surprize difficult stage before the rest day.
Stage 5 - Jujuy to Uyuni. We are relieved to complete the second of the marathon stages which brings us to Bolivia. Huge stage with just about all conditions including thick dust, dry soft river beds, winding mountain passes climbing to 4700m where we also encountered some falling snow, torrential rain, some flooded sections were difficult with quite a few cars stuck. By the end of this 4 and half hour stage we were back into soft sand, little bit of fesh fesh. Amazing amount of spectators lining the stage finish and massive welcome in the town of Uyuni. 36th overall now.
We are back in Jujuy after first half of the marathon stage. Car is in "parc ferme" over night and apart from refueling we aren't allowed to touch it. We had a clean run and brought the car back in good order and with no punctures, only one small off early in the stage when a sharp left over crest was not in the road book and we went straight on into a drop but managed to get back on the road without any damage. Our support team left in the morning to Bolivia and that's where we hope to see them tomorrow after 2nd half of the marathon. It'll be another "dizzy" stage tomorrow going to altitude of 4700m with only 11.5% of oxygen in the air.
We are still waiting for any pictures from yesterday or today but at least here is quick update. We completed stage 3 from Termas Rio Hondo to Jujuy. Stage was again shortened due to bad weather. We started the stage just as clouds and heavy rain moved in, some parts of the stage were still dry and dusty but wet and muddy in the mountains, towards the end we were again caught in heavy rainfall. We had an average day and dropped few minutes against our nearest competitors, cur...rently 39th overall.
The real Dakar hasn't started yet though, we are running "WRC" stages at the moment but this could change from tomorrow when a 2-day marathon with no service will take us to Bolivia. We'll reach altitude of 4000m on stage 4 and next day continue to Uyuni and climb to 4700m during the special stage. It's been raining non-stop since we arrived to Jujuy and the city is completely flooded and so is the bivouac. We have no idea what awaits us in the high mountains tomorrow.
We have just completed Stage 2 of the 2016 Dakar rally. Although this first proper stage from Carlos Paz this morning was shortened slightly due to the weather, it still totaled some 387km of both fast and twisty mountain stages not unlike the WRC rally here and in fact this distance equates to the entire WRC schedules worth in just one stage!!
No problems to report from our South Racing Hilux, we had a good fun stage and although catching some cars and overtaking in the dust was tricky a couple of times we had a very clear run and are making good progress on the long road section up to Termas de Rio Honda which we are hopefully to reach just on nightfall. There were loads of spectators out on the stage as well as the official photographers so we hope to also post some pictures ASAP.
We are in Villa Carlos Paz at the end of Day 2. Today's special stage was cancelled due to bad weather. We've completed the transport section to the start of the stage under heavy rain and thunderstorms and then were redirected and continued to bivouac. Last 40km of the planned special was a famous Argentinian WRC stage and we missed out on that. Tomorrow's stage is second longest of this rally and we expect very late arrival. Weather forecast for tomorrow however is not look...ing very good, 80% chance of rain and thunderstorms. It's quite unpredictable weather at the moment so we just have to wait and see, hopefully we'll get to run on rally roads rather than just transport section.
Earlier today while transporting to the start of the stage we tried to post an update from yesterday's ceremonial start and the prolog but somehow didn't manage to get the post here, so here it is again :
"It was an amazing ceremony in Buenos Aires but not the bests of starts to the Dakar with a few small technical issues but we're through Day 0. We had to use a jump pack to start the car for the ceremony and then a jump from a friendly competitor before Prologue. We also had a small fuel issue so we cruised through the stage and although we stopped again on the road section we made a repair and got to the bivouac on time. Anyway chin up we still have an entire seasons worth of WRC km's left so in the grand scheme of things we're happy and off to enjoy this Day 1 experience! "