This Saturday, Isidre Esteve took on the first stage of the Morocco Rally with a new Dakar prototype. The Repsol Rally Team driver, however, had a difficult début in this, a race that counts towards the World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies: a fire outbreak in his BV6 prototype with adapted controls on the steering wheel put the vehicle's integrity in serious jeopardy, but, thanks to a job well done by co-pilot Txema Villalobos, the team was able to resume the race and cross the finish line in 30th place.
The organisers had decided to shorten the first stage, beginning at Fez and ending at Aoufous - a total of 226 timed kilometres - owing to the presence of solar panels on the track. Despite this, the first time staged proved highly challenging for participants, particularly Isidre Esteve and his co-driver Txema Villalobos, who have returned to the competition after taking part in the previous Dakar Rally.
His initial suggestion was to avoid rushing the start, with a view to gradually gauging the competition and regaining their racing rhythm along the way. But these initial plans had to be changed very quickly. "We were enjoying the stage a fair bit, even though we were being cautious, because we were facing technical areas with lots of rocks, until, roughly 100 kilometres in, the car stalled and we saw smoke come out at the rear," the Repsol Rally Team driver explained upon arriving at the camp-site.
Quickly, Txema Villalobos went for the fire extinguisher to put out the flames and avoid further damage. “The battery cut-off was burnt, but Txema prevented the fire from spreading. Thanks to his extensive knowledge of mechanics, he was able to repair the damage in less than half an hour and we were able to resume the race and finish the stage without further problems, and even with positive sensations," the driver from Lérida optimistically recounted.
Despite this incident, the Repsol Rally Team impressively finished the day in 30th place, after racing a total of 4 hours, 18 minutes, and 25 seconds, a little over an hour more than was taken by the Toyota Team winner, Nasser Al Attiya. "This has only just started. We saw many people who experienced problems on the track today, which tells us it will be a long, harsh, and difficult rally for everyone. It´s days like this one that confirm that having come to Morocco was a great decision, as we prepare for the next Dakar," Isidre Esteve underscored.
The second stage of the Morocco rally will span the distance between Erfoud and Aoufous, a total of 386 timed kilometres and an additional 49 liaison kilometres. “The positive part is that we're still in the race and are very eager to push forward. Personally, I've felt very well and Txema has been a perfect co-driver. If we work together as we always do, we will no doubt be happy with our performance at the end," concluded Isidre Esteve.