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Dakar 2009: Ales Loprais with clutch problems.

Ales Loprais record a day full of ups and downs in the 2nd stage Of rallye Dakar 2009, from excellent pace in the first part to the special, through hopelessness with clutch collapse to enough luck to finish the special.

It should have been another special to attack the overall lead. Instead of that, it became a fight for a sole existence so early in the race. The organizers described the second special on the way from Santa Rosa to Puerto Madryn as relatively easy and as a good warm up. Expectations quickly disappeared as fast sections alternated with stretches of feche-feche, in which especially cars got stuck and blocked the way. After the special, there was an exhausting, 600-kilometer long liaison to Puerto Madryn in a 40-degree heat.

After two-thirds of the special, the leading quartet of de Rooy, Kabirov, van Vliet and Loprais was setting the pace with only minimum gaps in between. Chagin was staying behind and de Azevedo was already 30 minutes back. At km 200, after the hardest part, the truck stopped with a broken clutch and remained alongside the track: "Too bad, the truck had been running perfectly. We had caught up Van Vliet and we were 2nd at the moment," Ales said.

The tactical battle that followed did not offer too many positive alterations. From the finish line it was impossible to get to the special. Using an assistance vehicle to help was unthinkable because the police were closely monitoring all access roads and because the racing crew would have been disqualified immediately. It was apparent that Ales Loprais could be helped only by another competitor and only by towing.

In the meantime, things were going on in the special. The organizers had shifted the way a little bit, and so all potential helpers took a different way to get through. The last hope came with another Czech crew with a MAN truck of Robert Randysek who drives a rapid assistance vehicle for Czech team of Miroslav Zapletal. Randysek put Tatra on a towing strap and towed it until the finish of the special.

Loprais Tatra Team would like to thank for a professional assistance, without which it would be unthinkable to resume in the race.

At the finish of the special, Ales had been awaited by the assistance truck, which later towed it to the bivouac. The team has planned the repair in the meantime.

Ales' time loss is 3h23m25s and indicates a drop to 6t place overall. However, the truck is in the bivouac and the repair is going on. "We have come here to fight for the best result possible and we shall continue with it," navigator Vojta Stajf said.

2009/01/05 | 16:35 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Jirka Vintr

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