The Repsol Rally Team driver is very happy with how his new Toyota Hilux Overdrive is performing, which he will be driving at the next Dakar.
"It's an incredible result, but the best thing is we have been able to be competitive in a low-level race in a car designed to race over sand dunes".
Isidre Esteve already knows what it feels like to be among the best. In the Andalucía Rally, the big test before the Dakar 2021, the Repsol Rally Team driver has shown the enormous potential of his new Toyota Hilux Overdrive. He finished eighth, without even having to take any risks. This is a historic milestone, as it marks his best overall result in an international rally since he started racing cars, after suffering a spinal injury.
The fourth and last stage of the Andalucía Rally is 178 kilometres long. Isidre Esteve faced the stage with the same philosophy as all the others: drive smart to get a feel of the new prototype and try things out ahead of the Dakar. Despite this, on Saturday, he finished in twelfth place with a time of 2 hours, 28 minutes, and 31 seconds. He finished less than a quarter of an hour behind the winner Carlos Sainz, but he received a 4-minute penalty for going over the maximum speed limit, leaving him with a time of 18'12”.
“We started out at a good pace, but at kilometre 80 we let Al-Rajhi pass us, he was going faster than us, and we ate a lot of dust. And in the final section there were slow, urban, concrete and asphalt areas where we chose to be more careful. There was also a complicated section with speed cameras where we made a mistake, and that cost us a penalty”, explained the Repsol Rally Team driver.
In the overall ranking, after four intense days, Isidre Esteve finished eighth, with a total time of 9 hours, 50 minutes, and 22 seconds. If it wasn't for today's penalty, he would be two places higher in the ranking, and would have climbed to sixth. Even so, it's a historic result, as it is an improvement on his ninth position in the 2018 Rallye du Maroc. It becomes his best performance in an international rally since he decided to race cars in 2012 after suffering a spinal injury.
“The result is incredible, but the best thing of all was how good I felt behind the wheel of the new Toyota. We were able to push hard without taking any risks in a low-level race in a car designed to race over sand dunes. But we were able to go fast and have fun,” said the Repsol Rally Team driver.
Never before has Isidre Esteve been seen so close to Nasser Al-Attiyah, Carlos Sainz, and Stéphane Peterhansel; first, second, and fourth overall, respectively. On Friday, the driver from Lérida was fourth and only these three Dakar legends were able to beat him on a day to remember. His times make him very optimistic for the next Dakar, this project's ultimate goal which has got Repsol, MGS Seguros, KH-7, and Toyota Spain all very excited.
“We did a great job at the Andalucía Rally and created a great team dynamic with the Overdrive engineers. The finishing touches have been to try out the new gearbox and the differential, and we can now say that the car is ready to race in the 2021 Dakar, where we are confident of getting a good result,” said an excited Isidre Esteve.