Isidre Esteve has successfully passed the first long stage of the 2018 Dakar. The Repsol Rally Team driver finished the 267 timed kilometres through the Peruvian desert in 39th place despite a minor accident involving a dune, which affected the steering column of his BV6 prototype, built by Sodicars Racing. This setback forced him to drive with the steering wheel lower than usual for the remainder of the stage.
The day started off well for the driver from Oliana, as the ASO delivered the good news that he would recover the time he lost in the prologue stage due to the malfunctioning of the GPS provided by the organisation. Although the exact number of minutes to be recovered is unknown, the correction is sure to help propel him forward in the overall ranking and bring him closer to his goal of making it into the top 20 overall and to the podium in his category T1.2, where he is currently in fifth place.
On Sunday, the Repsol Rally Team took on the Pisco loop with the handicap of starting very far behind. The dunes were showing serious wear and tear from the previous drivers by the time the team reached them, and there were even multiple vehicles stuck in the dunes. Nevertheless, Isidre Esteve and his co-driver, Txema Villalobos, managed to complete the stage with an outstanding time of 5h 29:35.
“We were going strong until after the CP1, when we suffered inertia on our second attempt to climb a really high dune. We jumped too soon and hit the dune straight on. I grabbed the wheel so hard I bent the steering column, and the ring I use to brake was touching my legs”, explained driver sponsored by Repsol and Onyx Seguros.
Before starting up again, his co-driver and expert mechanic Txema Villalobos helped him raise the wheel slightly and make sure the steering was working properly. Isidre Esteve confirmed that "the Guidosimplex controls were lower than their normal position, but I had to adapt and keep going. The best thing is that we managed to make it through a really difficult day and complete the stage so the team's mechanics could repair the steering without any problems."
According to the driver from Lérida, this was the roughest day he's had since he started racing in a car. "Not since Mauritania have I driven through a stage as difficult as this one, with short dunes that are really tough to navigate. I love this new philosophy Dakar has taken up because it forces you to be on high alert at all times; you can't let your guard down even for a second. The slightest mistake has drastic consequences, as we saw today with several cars flipped over and stuck in the sand", he said.
Tomorrow, the third stage in Peru begins in Pisco and ends in San Juan de Marcona, with a total of 502 kilometres, 295 of which will be timed. "It's sure to be another trial by fire where the most important thing is to drive with utmost care and not make any mistakes", declared Isidre Esteve.