Mission accomplished. Before heading out to South America, Isidre Esteve set himself the challenging goal of finishing the Dakar Rally in the top 20 of the overall classification. To achieve this, he decided that he needed to be in the top 30 by the end of the first week, and that's exactly what he has done: the Repsol Rally Team has completed the first part of the toughest race in the world in 27th position in the provisional ranking, with an accumulated time of more than 27 hours over six stages. His Sodicars Racing BV6 prototype with adapted controls on the steering wheel has helped him climb to the third spot in the T1.2 category.
The competitors waved goodbye to Peru and crossed the border into Bolivia during the stage this Thursday. They were met with changes in temperature and dune conditions due to the rain and altitude. Participants competing in cars covered a total of 760 kilometres (313 km special), leaving the Peruvian city of Arequipa in the early hours of the morning and arriving to capital of Bolivia, La Paz, after nightfall.
"We have seen some really stark contrasts. In just two days we've gone from driving along the coast to the dunes, and then into snow-capped mountains at an altitude of 4000 metres. But despite all this, the hardest part was the fast road section at the end, which was muddy and rainy. We kept up a good pace and didn't make any mistakes or run into problems", explained a satisfied Isidre Esteve after crossing the finish line in 35th place with a time of 3:47:41.
The driver, who is sponsored by Repsol and Onyx Seguros, said he was "very happy with the first week. It's been difficult but really great. The outlook is positive despite the difficulties we've experienced along the route, which hasn't been kind to us. But most importantly we haven't made any mistakes in our driving, my co-driver — Txema Villalobos — has done an amazing job with the navigation, and the car has performed really well on the dunes".
Tomorrow (Friday), Isidre and Txema will enjoy a well-deserved rest day, while the Repsol Rally Team roll up their sleeves to perform a thorough check of the prototype and get it ready for the second week of the race through Bolivia and Argentina.
The Oliana-born driver is looking forward to the difficult challenge that lies ahead, but he is also realistic. "The coming stages will be very complex, both the marathon just after the rest and the other stages in Argentina, where navigation will be key. I'm confident that our experience will be of great help. I think that, from this point onwards, the route will be easier for us, but we're aware we're up against some tough competition. We need to be better than them to bag a spot in the top 20, but that doesn't necessarily mean we need to go faster", he said.