Dakar 2017 started with a bang, as many of the top names ran into difficulties during the opening stages. This seemed to be the new trend, as Stage 5 of the iconic event brought a new curveball: Rain, rain and more rain. So much so that the stage had to be shortened to around half the planned distance, but even so Nani Roma and navigator Alex Bravo flew the flag for Toyota by finishing second on the stage, just 44 seconds behind winner Sebastien Loeb (Peugeot).
"We had a very good stage today,"
said the Spaniard from the flooded bivouac at the town of Oruro.
"The Toyota Hilux handled the conditions perfectly, and were it not for a small navigational error near the end of the stage, we may well have come out on top."
Roma/Bravo (#305) had closed to within 28 seconds of Loeb at one point, before dropping back slightly after taking a wrong turn. But Roma's navigational trouble was nothing compared to that experienced by most others on Stage 5. Miko Hirvonen (MINI) lost 42 minutes, while Toyota Gazoo Racing SA's Giniel de Villiers and navigator Dirk von Zitzewitz (#302) lost 29:51 to stage winner Loeb.
"The navigation today was extremely tricky, and we lost a lot of time,"
said De Villiers after the stage.
"To make things even tougher, the weather wreaked havoc with the stage, and the organisers had to shorten the route significantly."
De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz are now in eighth place, and trail rally leader Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot) by 01:08:11. Roma/Bravo remain in 4th, 05:35 behind the leader.
For Glyn Hall, Team Principal of Toyota Gazoo Racing SA, the event just keeps getting tougher: "What can we say after a day like today? Giniel lost a lot of time, but Nani managed to save the day for Toyota. At the same time, the weather has turned really nasty, with icy rain and temperatures around 5 degrees in the bivouac. Stage 5 really suited the buggies, but even so we are encouraged by Nani's performance today. We'll keep fighting, and with so many of the top crews struggling with the navigation this year, anything can still happen."
Stage 6 is up next, and it promises to be another humdinger. The route stretches from Oruro to the Bolivian capital of La Paz, and will be followed by the much-needed rest day. Before any respite, however, the crews will have to negotiate a special stage of 527 km, peaking at an altitude of 4,400 m. The stage includes some tricky dunes near the start, and finishes at the spectacular Lake Titicaca near La Paz, the highest navigable lake in the world.