"We really wanted to complete a day without any problems to be able to demonstrate our true pace." This is how Isidre Esteve expressed himself at the end of stage 8 of the 2019 Dakar, where he achieved 22nd place which becomes his best partial result since competing in a car. The Repsol Rally Team driver also climbs to 22nd place in the provisional general ranking, with only two days remaining until the end.
The stage started early in the morning from San Juan de Marcona, where Isidre Esteve commented that “Today is going to be a good day, for sure,” just before leaving for the start of the special. His words have been premonitory, since the driver from Llerida and his co-driver Txema Villalobos put in a brilliant performance, with outstanding times at all waypoints.
“We set a strong pace from the beginning and, finally, we had a clean day, except for getting stuck twice in the dunes, where we lost very little time, thanks to the great work of Txema,” summed up Isidre Esteve upon his arrival at the Pisco camp.
The special, divided into two sections of 159 and 200 kilometres, was less complicated than expected for the Repsol Rally Team, despite the high temperatures that sometimes exceeded 40ºC and hundreds of kilometres of dunes. "The first part was on tracks and fesh-fesh, and the second part had many dunes, although harder sand than other days. We didn't have any navigation problems and the car is perfect, thanks to the fantastic mechanical work of the whole team. It's great driving like this, if it were up to me, I would do it every day,” explained the driver from Llerida with satisfaction.
His time of 5 hours, 26 minutes, and 39 seconds has placed him in 22nd position which means he has improved on the 23rd place he managed in the 13th stage of 2018 and which, until today, represented his best result in the Dakar since competing on four wheels. In addition, today he finished as the second best Spaniard in a car, second only to Nani Roma (MINI) and ahead of Carlos Sainz, winner of the last edition of the Dakar.
In the general ranking, Isidre Esteve has gained two positions and has climbed to a provisional 22th place, with a cumulative time of 44 hours, 14 minutes, and 34 seconds. With two stages left and 425 kilometres against the clock in total, he is very close to the top 20.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, the penultimate day of the race, starting and finishing in Pisco. Participants must complete 409 kilometres: 96 liaisons and 313 against the clock. The dunes and navigation will share the protagonism of a day that will surely bring new surprises. “We will try to repeat today's performance with the conviction that in the end we will have raced the Dakar that we wanted,” said Isidre Esteve.