Nancy Knapp Schilke, Dakar correspondent
Peterhansel nabs 10th Dakar legend status; de Rooy takes his first Dakar legend status
The 2012 Dakar race started in Argentina and for the first time in its history, it ended in Peru. The historic rally-raid has completed another chapter in its long history after the first Paris to Algiers to Dakar in 1979. The race was cancelled only once and that was the last minute decision in 2008 due to the threat of terrorism in Africa. In 2009, the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) moved the event from the African Continent to South America because of the terrorist threat. This year, they added the 27th nation to host the Dakar when they changed the Argentina to Chile route used over the past three years to now include Peru.
Peru proved to add the excitement factor to the final days as the route was difficult so any competitor who made it to Lima, Peru – even if the last one to arrive – conquered this year’s Dakar! For the ones who took their category championships, they became “Legends of The Dakar”, even if it was their first championship in either Africa or South America.
...it's incredible that I've been able to win ten of them.
Stephane Peterhansel moved to four wheels from two wheels and took on his new challenge with Nissan before later changing to Mitsubishi. The Frenchman earned six Bike championships with Yamaha in a span of eight years. In 2004, “Peter” and his co-pilot Jean-Paul Cottret took their first Dakar Car title and today they added their fourth one. It is the two Frenchmen's first championship with BMW and their first one in the Dakar Pan-American rally. It is also the first Dakar victory for the MINI ALL4 Racing since its debut plus the first for the X-raid team.
“When you think of how hard it is to win a Dakar, it's incredible that I've been able to win ten of them. It's been a long time, I've been waiting for five years to win again! To take the victory in South America is a huge relief, it ranks among my best triumphs,” said a delighted Peterhansel.
Peterhansel and Cottret ended up with three stage wins this year and the one that truly counted was yesterday! On the 11th stage, the lost time in their X-raid Team’s No. 302 Monster Energy MINI but they still had control of the Car overall lead, and their nearest challenger was Nani Roma. The newly crowned champions made their comeback yesterday by surprising all when they took the stage 12 win. Peterhansel and Cottret actually held the lead in the Car standings since the fourth stage and briefly after stage 2.
“The race was very close during the first week and there was always a lot of pressure. Winning the rally for Team X-Raid makes it even more special, since Sven Quandt has been waiting for years for this to happen. I don't know what I could do to go one better! Beating this record is going to be difficult... for the others! This race is stressful, exciting and fascinating, and it's also very rewarding at the end. Now I'm going to party with the entire team and then we'll see. My finest victory will always be my first win in the motorcycle category, but this one has something special to it. I was starting to doubt myself, to think I was growing too old for this, that I'd lost it or that I wasn't made for South America... and in the end everything turned out fine! But I still have a blue bandana from my motorcycling period. I didn't tell anyone, but I kept it in my pocket throughout the entire rally. It's the story of the comeback of the blue bandana,” Peterhansel said.
Adding to the delight of the X-raid Team, Roma and Michel Perin ended second with two stage wins with their MINI. In 2004, Roma was the first Spaniard to win the Dakar in the Bike category. Today, he celebrated his first Car podium. Roma commented, “[It was] very positive. I feel like I'm able to win again. I've got a good car and drive for a good team. I raced strongly and stayed focused. My stage victories were but a footnote. The most important thing is that it was a win for the team, that I came second at the end of a good race with zero mistakes.”
While their X-raid teammates challenged them several times, the two French aces were able to hold them off at the end. The team that threatened the MINI camp was Team SPEED with the Hummer H3s. American Robby Gordon and his new teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah were very fast but the constant mechanical problems saw the defending Car champion leave at the end of the ninth stage. The Qatarian was putting pressure on Peterhansel and a viable contender for this year’s title.
That left the American in the solo role of putting the pressure on the MINI team. Gordon and his co-pilot Johnny Campbell did give it their best shot and they won today’s final special stage before arriving in Lima; however the No. 303 SPEED Racing Energy Hummer was disqualified due to a technical issue regarding their Air Inflation System and they will await to see the results of their appeal, which could take weeks. Gordon and Campbell leave with three stage wins for their 2012 efforts. Despite the Americans taking the final stage victory, Gordon and Campbell were unable to move back onto the final podium step. Instead they had to settle for fifth.
Said Gordon whose four final words were a shock considering the American never gives up, “We were very fast this morning. I think we beat the second car by 1'30" over a bit more than 20 km. But I've always thought that second place is just the first among the losers. So I'm afraid we're fourth among the losers! But the best thing was having the fastest car in the rally, whatever the others say. My Hummer and Nasser's were the two fastest cars. I may come back.”
The two challenging in the end for the final podium step were fairly quiet during this year’s Dakar action but consistency pays off. Giniel de Villiers, the 2009 Car champion, was left without a ride when Volkswagen pulled out of Dakar, but the South African returned with a new challenge and with his favorite German; his co-pilot Dirk Von Zitzewitz. The duo were in the Imperial Toyota Hilux Pick-up with support from Toyota South Africa. They did not receive their vehicle for Dakar until October of 2011 and despite not taking a stage win this year, they celebrated as if they had won overall with their third place finish!
“Our aim was to crack the Top 5, since we knew we were at a disadvantage with regard to the Minis. Our car was designed based on the future rules, so we had a power deficit compared with them, especially on sandy surfaces. But our car was completely reliable and our team did a fantastic job. This is an excellent result, finishing on the podium on our first try tastes like a win. The rules are going to change next year, so we'll be even closer and the battle will be awesome. There's no doubt we'll try and win next year,” de Villiers said.
... we did it exactly 25 years after my father won the Dakar.
Fourth overall and besting the Hummer in the final standings was the MINI of Russian driver Leonid Novistkiy and his very experienced German co-pilot Andreas Schulz. Last year Noviskiy was having his best-ever Dakar but he broken his wrist and had to leave early but he made his return with a two-time Dakar champion in the seat next to him. The duo teamed up to open the 2012 challenge with the first stage victory and after that they never finished less than 10th on the special stages.
The X-raid MINI team leaves the 2012 edition of Dakar with 1st, 2nd and 4th – a great showing by the new rally-raid BMW manufactured car.
It was 25 years ago when Johannes “Jan” de Rooy earned his Dakar legend status and today, his son Gerard de Rooy has now taken his first-ever Dakar championship in the Truck category. While the younger de Rooy landed his victory in an Iveco, Jan de Rooy was racing a DAF heavy truck in 1987 in Africa; however both Dutchmen had the same feeling of being elated as they stood on the top step of the podium.
“It's wonderful. I can't believe we already did it this year. It's all thanks to our teamwork. I'm a bit moved, but I'll keep my sunglasses on. The entire race was terrific. I was 22 years old when I embarked on this and now, a decade on, we did it exactly 25 years after my father won the Dakar. I was very nervous before the start this morning, but it was a lot of fun. I'm proud of the entire team and my two cabin mates,” smiled de Rooy.
The Petronas Team de Rooy Iveco team leader had a right to be moved; he re-injured his back in the early stages of the 2011 Dakar. The Dutch racer has been and will continue to be one of the main rivals of the Kamaz Master team but like most racers, rivals on the track can be friends off the track. Before this race, de Rooy said, “The Russians offered me the services of their physical therapist. They wanted me to be in shape to for the Dakar. They wanted a good race.” This year they did get a good race and the likable racer and his co-pilots, Darek Rodewald also from the Netherlands and Belgian Tom Colsoul, finally got their status as legends of Dakar. The trio took five stage wins and held the top spot in the Truck overall since the fourth stage.
Making it a family affair by adding to the celebration was the 2007 Truck champion Hans Stacey, who is Jan de Rooy’s nephew. The Dutchman’s two co-pilots from his homeland were his nephew Hans van Goor and Bernard der Kinderen. It marked Stacey’s return to Dakar after a three year absence and it was worth the return as they finished second.
Kamaz was nearly locked out of the top three but Kazakhstan's Artur Ardavichus never gave up and with one single stage win and consistency, the very first team from Kazakhstan has notched their first podium. In the cockpit of the heavy Team Astana truck was Russian Alexei Kuzmich and Kazakhstan Nurlan Turlubayev. Today the top three finished the final stage in the same order of the Truck category podium.
The 2012 Dakar edition took the competitors from the Atlantic Ocean side of South America in the city of Mar del Plata in Argentina and ended today in Lima, Peru alongside the Pacific Ocean. One now wonders what will be in store for the 2013 Dakar.