The Dakar Rally 2019 has already started in its maximum demand style. If the very first day was already hard for the Instaforex Loprais Team then the second stage from Pisco to San Juan de Marcona was another step to hell. Although the Tatra Jamal – Queen 69 gained a considerable loss due to technical issues and two puctures, the crew consisting of Ales Loprais, Ferran Marco Alcayna and Petr Pokora reports: Purgatory has been survived and we roll on!
On Tuesday 8 January the special stage was 342 kilometres long, taking the competitors in the most difficult car and motorcycle rally in the world across sand dunes, beaches, rocks and pistas. The trucks started the stage at ten in the morning when the desert was already heated and the sand soft and rutted by the earlier starting cars, motorbikes and quads.
Ales Loprais began the race in a high speed and soon caught up with the first rival but the joy did not last long.
“I made a mistake attacking one of the Kamaz trucks after catching up with it,” admits Ales Loprais. “I was glad and said to myself, now we will overtake them one by one, for dunes are our territory. But I descended from one of the dunes more quickly than I should. I destroyed a tyre and we had to change it. This is difficult in the dunes for there is not hard place to support the jack on in the sand. The tyre change lasted the whole twenty minutes in the end.“
And the Czech-Spanish trio had to go through the tyre change process once again on the same day.
“The other pucture happened on a beautiful beach where I did not expect a boulder. Suddenly we felt a hit, one of many in every stage, but after five kilometres the tyre exploded and took with it part of a mudguard,” described the 38-year-old pilot the second unpleasant moment of the day.
But the biggest torture was only about to come. The crew struggled on, but suddenly they were made nervous by strange sounds and hits on the cab, because of which Loprais first slowed down and then stopped.
“I thought it was non-functional cab dampers but then we were afraid that the engine got loose, which would be a fatal problem not repairable on the road,” continued Loprais. “We decided to drive on but it was mere survival and no race.“
The result was an 85-minute loss and a drop to eighteenth overall in interim standings.
The finish of the special section of the stage was still about two hours from the bivouac, where the Tatra with the starting number 507 arrived around eight thirty pm, after dark, as one of the last. The team then had problems with finding a place to park the truck at. Subsequent inspection confirmed that the cause of the problem was cab dampers, which the mechanics changed before midnight. Then followed an about two-hour standard maintenance.
“We have survived a purgatory and hope for the better! The first two stages were nothing much for us but now the good luck must turn its face to us, I believe it will. We do not give up, we roll on!“ concluded Ales Loprais.
The situation is complicated for Loprais and his team by the fact that for the third stage of the competition the organisers long before prepared a joint start and therefore mixing of the starting field of cars, SxS buggies and trucks. While usually the heaviest machines set off for the route after all others, now they will all start together. The Tatra in the colours of the Instaforex Loprais Team will start as eighty-fifth vehicle, surrounded by small buggies, which it will need to overtake, which will be another significant handicap.
The Wednesday stage from San Juan de Marcona to Arequipa will take the participants to the Dakar Rally for the first time in the history of the event through the sand dunes in the Acarí region. The stage will be 798 kilometres long, of which 331 kilometres will represent the special stage. Ales Loprais will start this special stage at 3:52 pm CET.
Trucks standings after 2nd stage:
1. Nikolaev / Iakovlev / Rybakov (Kamaz) 4:56:56
2. De Rooy / Rodewald / Torrallardona (Iveco) +4:23
3. Villagra / Yacopini / Torlaschi (Iveco) +7:23
18. Loprais / Alcayna / Pokora (Tatra) +1:31:08