Today, the 2017 Dakar competitors can enjoy their well-deserved rest day. Although yesterday’s stage had to be cancelled, one million motor-racing enthusiasts lined the streets to welcome the competitors. The rest day represents the end of an eventful week.
The weather in particular represented the topic of many conversations and often gave the competitors a hard time. In Asuncion, Paraguay, and in the following Argentinean cities too, the enormous heat represented a huge challenge for the drivers and navigators. And the same applied to the service teams that had to prepare the cars in the bivouacs at temperatures of more than 40° C. Then, after the border crossing to Bolivia, the conditions changed. The temperatures dropped but now, torrential rain complicated the conditions – particularly around Oruro. And the Bolivian altitude added to the challenge. The stages took the field to more than 4.400 metres above sea level and the bivouacs also were erected at more than 3.000 metres above sea level. The bivouac at Oruro was located at 3.800 metres and the rest day at La Paz is spent at more than 3.200 metres above sea level.
Although there isn’t an official special stage to be contested, today, the rest day doesn’t represent a real break. All those involved can sleep longer than on the previous days but have to work, nevertheless. The mechanics intensely attend to the three MINI John Cooper Works Rally and the five MINI ALL4 Racing vehicles to prepare them for the second part of the Dakar Rally and the marathon stage in particular. The drivers and co-drivers also have to execute several tasks. Guests and journalists visit the service park and ask the drivers for first-hand reports about week one. While the co-drivers later are provided with the road book they have to prepare for the coming day.
The following days will be particularly exhausting for the pairings, with the marathon stage following next. While the racing cars drive from La Paz via Uyuni to Salta, Argentina, the service crews and vehicles take the route via Tupiza. This means that the pairings will have to fend for themselves, following the special stage to Uyuni. Other than last year, working on the cars will be allowed – but only without the help of the mechanics. Only in Salta, the teams and the pairings will be reunited. And from there, just another for stages has to be contested to the finish in Buenos Aires.