Wednesday 15 January 2014
The Dakar 2014 has, so far, proven extremely difficult for all competitors, including Cooper runners Xavi Foj and the Race2Recovery team.
In an opening week fraught with issues, Foj continues to fight back in the T2 class, while both Race2Recovery cars ended their Dakar journey on day two.
Back-to-back winner of the T2 production class on Cooper Discoverer S/T MAXX rubber and Cooper 4x4 ambassador Foj is an expert in the Dakar, but even the cross-country rally aficionado has struggled in what has been widely acknowledged as the most challenging route in recent years.
Foj and co-driver Nacho Santamaría began the rally well, traversing the 629 kilometres of road and a further 180 kilometres of special stage from Rosario to San Luis in good time, to place second, less than three minutes shy of T2 class leader, Nicolas Gibon, at the end of day one.
Day two proved less than straightforward for the Spanish crew; the difficulties of a broken surface and a fast course were compounded when the Foj Motorsport Cooper Tire crew suffered a rollover, 80 kilometres in to the special stage.
Fortunately, both driver and co-driver were unharmed and, thanks to the help of fellow Dakar competitors, the Toyota Land Cruiser was able to re-join the course, falling down the order to third in T2 as a result of the incident.
Yet more ill fate was to follow as the week went on. Foj and Santamaría suffered brake issues on day three, hampering their progress from San Rafael to San Juan, while their hopes of recovering time on stage four were dashed when they became trapped in broken fesh-fesh (fine sand), falling further behind the leading two crews.
Matters went from bad to worse on day five, as the crew suffered electronic issues 17 kilometres in to the special stage, seemingly spelling the end of its 2014 Dakar campaign. But, as day turned to night, Santamaría was able to locate the source of the power outage which had caused the electronic issues, allowing Foj and his navigator to re-join the race, albeit with a significant time deficit.
The tables finally turned on day six and the Spanish crew enjoyed an issue-free day to place second in the timings for the T2 class and the duo began to make up for lost time. In a stage that saw Foj and Santamaría pass a number of vehicles, the pair was confident of the T2 stage win, but were hampered by slow-moving vehicles ahead.
After a much-needed rest day on Saturday, the crew’s success continued, placing third in the T2 standings on day seven, significantly closing the gap on their class rivals, while Monday’s stage proved promising, too, and the Dakar specialist now lies just 55 minutes shy of a top-three class finish.