Behind is only a third of the first Dakar Rally 2020 in history of Saudi Arabia, and in the general classification the gap between the leader and the second half of the top 10 looks significant. However, even advantage in 50 minutes does not say anything, and the whole struggle for the podium is still ahead.
After yesterday’s finish, the Dutch driver Janus Van Kasteren sincerely said that he was honored to fight on the track with the five-time winner of the Dakar Eduard Nikolaev. On his third multi-day event, the racer, who changed the Mammoet Rallysport team to Team De Rooy Iveco, performs confidently: third place on the first stage and seventh position in the general classification. According to the Dutchman, this truck is faster and he likes it more. Particular emphasis should be put on the Czechs Martin Macik (Iveco) and Ales Loprais (Praga), imposing a serious struggle with the leaders.
Leaving the Red Sea coast, today the rally caravan headed deep into the Arabian Peninsula, overcoming sandy and rocky stretches with lots of sharp stones. The truck category started after 20 cars, and Andrey Karginov had to open the special section with the length of 453 km – the longest one since the start of the Dakar. Two minutes behind was the overall leader Siarhei Viazovich, who only had to keep the pace of the KAMAZ crew. A time mark on the 108th km was passed quite tightly by the group of 17 vehicles, only ten minutes apart.
Already by the middle of the distance it became clear: the high pace, taken by Karginov, was kept only by Anton Shibalov. The remaining contestants, including Viazovich, began to gradually lag behind. At the finish, the best time – 4 hours 15 minutes 43 seconds – was shown by the winner of the first stage Shibalov, Karginov was second (+2:41), Viazovich, who most likely lost minutes due to technical problems, was the sixth (+15:42).
Anton Shibalov, driver of crew No 516: “Today it was the most stony day on the race, it could be only a miracle that we didn’t puncture a single wheel. There was a real trial almost all the way, I haven’t seen so many stones in my entire career. We didn’t have problems in navigation and technical issues.“
Facing with serious problems on Tuesday, Dmitry Sotnikov’s crew started in the morning on the truck, completely ready to conquer the special sections of the fourth stage. During the night, mechanics of KAMAZ-master team prepared the vehicle, fixing the breakdown. On the last kilometers the Russians decided to speed up and finished third (+9:05). Eduard Nikolaev is only 11th (+26:13): because of two punctured wheels between 243 and 296 km he lost about 13 minutes.
Dmitry Sotnikov, driver of crew No 501: “It was a difficult day, a big change of pace. In some places there was no road, only rocks of different sizes. Unfortunately, Nikolaev’s crew punctured two wheels. We stopped and gave them one ours. We tried to work out the last part of the special stage until the end, all the trucks slowed down, but we hit the gas to claw back time. I think KAMAZ-master had a good day today.”
The day was lucky for Van Kasteren as well, who became fourth. Many contestants and fans are curious about the hybrid Renault truck of the Dutch Gert Huzink: earlier such a vehicle didn’t enter the Dakar routes. After not very successful positions in previous days, this crew showed the fifth best time on the fourth stage.
The fourth stage of the rally-marathon made changes in the general classification. Andrey Karginov took the lead, being ahead of Siarhei Viazovich by 10 minutes 43 seconds. The crew of Anton Shibalov is now only five minutes behind the Belarusian. Martin Macik saved the fourth position, and Eduard Nikolaev let Ales Loprais ahead. Dmitry Sotnikov entered top 10.
Andrey Karginov, driver of crew No 511: “The day turned out to be difficult and long. There were a lot of rocks, just a huge amount. Especially on the last 50 kilometers, I have never seen such huge stones in my entire career.”
On Thursday contestants of the Dakar 2020 will have a mixed start of the fifth stage along the route Al-Ula – Hail with the length of 564 km, 353 of which will be a special section. The crews will continue their movement to the east of Saudi Arabia, focusing on huge rocks, and overcoming giant sandy hills.