Wednesday 9 January 2013
Competitors on Cooper Tires continued to progress well as the Dakar Rally entered its third day, with Xavi Foj moving up the overall rankings after a strong third stage. Heartbreak hit in the Race2Recovery camp however, as confirmation filtered through that Tony Harris and Cathy Derousseaux had failed to reach the required number of waypoints on stage two, and had therefore been excluded from the Dakar Rally.
Spaniard, Xavi Foj, who is using Cooper Discoverer ST MAXX tyres in the 9,000-kilometre rally, hit the ground running on day three, overcoming the harsh terrain and sand dunes to complete the 343-kilometre stage in three hours and 50 minutes. Early on, the dunes proved particularly demanding, but the dune expert negotiated the challenges without complication.
With tyre pressure proving key, the Spaniard adjusted the pressures throughout the day to ensure that he received the optimum performance from his ST MAXX rubber. Foj was then able to use his cross-country rallying experience to deal with the Peruvian fesh-fesh, climbing up the order to finish 39th in the car class in his production-based Toyota Land Cruiser 155. Foj’s strong efforts on day three mean he now lies 45th in the overall car standings.
With a decision pending on Tony Harris and Cathy Derousseaux’s status after a gruelling second day, all four Race2Recovery Wildcat entries were permitted to continue on their extraordinary journey on Cooper Discoverer STT tyres. Justin Birchall and co-driver Tom Neathway were the first crew to complete stage three, crossing the line in a respectable time of six hours and 40 minutes to record the 113th best time of the day in the car class. Team-mates Ben Gott and Mark Zambon ended the stage less than 30 minutes adrift of the leading Race2Recovery duo in 118th, overcoming a major gearbox problem with the help of their team-mates Birchall and Neathway.
Birchall and Neathway move up the overall order to 110th, with Gott and Zambon in 112th in the car class.
Despite a successful third day for Harris and Derousseaux, a committee of race organisers deemed that, based on evidence from stage two, Captain Tony Harris and his co-driver, Cathy Derousseaux, had not reached the necessary way points, and were therefore deemed unable to continue the rally.
Speaking after official confirmation of Harris and Derousseaux’s exclusion, Team Manager, Andrew ‘Pav’ Taylor, paid homage to Harris and Derousseaux’s efforts and determination, saying: “Tony and I have been involved in the Race2Recovery project since its inception and without him, we simply wouldn’t be here. Having driven so brilliantly in stage three, it’s doubly disappointing but we all accept the organiser’s decision.
“Tony’s taken the news with the dignity and mental fortitude that we’ve come to recognise over the past two years and it’s a measure of the man that within minutes of being told, he was talking to me about how he and Cathy can help the team reach our common goal of reaching the finish.”
Stage four will see the teams face their longest day yet as they tackle the 429-kilometre course as the Cooper competitors continue their journey down through Peru, travelling from Nazca to Arequipa.