Tuesday 15 January 2013
As the Dakar Rally reaches its midpoint, Cooper Tire leads the T2 cross-country production vehicle class thanks to Spain’s Xavi Foj. At the same time, the sole remaining Cooper-supported Race2Recovery Wildcat has boosted the team’s morale by reaching its first target, as the crew of Major Matt O’Hare and Corporal Phillip ‘Barney’ Gillespie made it to the halfway point of the world’s most gruelling rally.
With eight stages completed, Foj, who is using the acclaimed Discoverer S/T MAXX tyre in the 9,000-kilometre rally, leads the T2 class by over 40 minutes and also lies 31st in the overall car standings. Foj took the lead on stage four with an impressive class win before claiming a second consecutive class victory on stage five, expertly striking a balance between the caution needed on the soft surfaces and the outright speed required to hold onto victory.
A second-place finish in stage six was followed by another, altogether closer second-place finish on stage seven. Foj coped well with the high altitudes of the seventh stage, which saw the competitors travel 4,000 metres above sea level in the Andes mountain range to finish the ‘quick’ stage just one minute adrift of Frenchman Nicolas Gibon. The eighth stage was cut short as heavy rain created treacherous conditions and flooding across much of the course, but Foj’s consistency throughout the rally means that he remains on course to repeat his T2 title victory of 2012.
Also contesting the Dakar Rally on Cooper rubber is the Race2Recovery team. Faced with an early exclusion and beset with mechanical issues, only one of the four Wildcats running on Cooper Discoverer STT tyres remains in the running. The team, made up of injured servicemen and civilians, is now putting all its efforts behind the remaining Wildcat of O’Hare and Gillespie, as the team celebrated making it to its first target – Sunday’s rest day.
Race2Recovery Team Manager, Andrew ‘Pav’ Taylor, has led the team through an extraordinarily challenging week and commented on just how tough it has been, saying, “Introductions to the Dakar come no tougher than this. It’s been hard, but we’ve kept going.