Dakar Blog 2: Light and shadow at Peugeot

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Dakar Blog 2
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C arlos Sainz was in a bad mood. When he came to the camp by the lake in the holiday town of Carlos Paz with his Peugeot 2008 DKR on the evening of the first day, he just grumbled: 'I'm more or less satisfied.' He makes a face as if he wanted to emphasize the 'less' above all. And very decided.

Peugeot 2008 DKR with room for improvement

There was actually nothing to complain about on the surface. He was eighth. The ambitious Spaniard was only two minutes short of the day's fastest - a piece of cake at the Dakar rally with a total driving time of 70 or 80 hours. But Sainz really got going and was talking himself in a rage.

'We have to improve', he demanded in an interview with 'auto motor und sport'. And where exactly? 'Everywhere,' he said, 'in the engine, the suspension and the transmission.' Sainz continued to moan: 'I don't have the right confidence in cars.' The 2008 DKR leans too much to the side in corners. It goes without saying that the drivers are then afraid of a role. A mishap that allegedly happened to Sainz twice during test drives.

But Carlos Sainz wouldn't be Carlos Sainz if he didn't defy all adversities and squeeze the maximum out of every car. He also showed a strong performance on the second day and finished eighth. This despite the fact that he was struggling with a lot of problems that had less to do with the car than with the circumstances.

Firstly, this Monday was extremely hot - with temperatures well above 40 degrees . Second, the organizer packed all the difficulties into the 518 special stage kilometers that the terrain south of the provincial capital San Luis has to offer: Extremely hard gravel, long sand passages with poor visibility and, at the end, a 30-kilometer section with long waves , which caused a lot of participants to feel uncomfortable including visiting breakfast.

Peugeot drivers not yet at the top

Sainz finished seventh, and how hard he drove is shown by the small accident damage at the front of the 2008 DKR, which resulted from enemy contact with the Mini of the Dutchman Erik van Loon. Fate was not so good with his teammate St├ęphane Peterhansel. The eleven-time Dakar winner hit a hard-to-see tree stump in the soft sand with the front wheel of the 2008. The tie rod bent, Peterhansel and his passengerJean-Paul Cottret, a trained mechanic, had to replace the defective part in the desert.

Peterhansel described how this type of work is done: 'I just give Jean-Paul the tools. I can't do anything like that break something.' Bad luck for the two French that the Peugeot did not want to start after the work was done, the starter was broken. They had to wait until a competitor took pity on them and dragged it in in 2008. So a gap of more than an hour for last year's runner-up - at that time still in the Mini - was together: 22nd place in the intermediate classification.

While the star drivers from Peugeot were licking their (mental) wounds, Peugeot's head of sports pulled Bruno Famin a positive interim conclusion. 'All three cars at the finish line, that's very good.' This was not necessarily to be expected. 'During the tests we had enormous problems with the drive shafts,' said Famin, and added with a laugh: 'We just magically removed these problems in December.' There could be no question of reducing the suspension travel from almost half a meter to 35 centimeters, as was speculated.

Willingness to help the Dakar is waning

The second day of the Dakar 2015 showed that morals are getting tougher and the willingness to bail out others is decreasing. The adventurous romance of the early Dakar days in the eighties is perdu. This rally has become tough business - with egoists behind the wheel.

So Peterhansel had to wait half an hour before a good-natured competitor finally took him on the tow rope - a matter of a minute. It got worse for Robby Gordon. The American lost three and a half hours. 'I had to brake in the soft sand because a motorcyclist had fallen, I was in the wrong gear and got stuck. One after the other drove past me for more than three hours without helping me,' he complained.

The decline in morals and friendly manners can also be observed at Peugeot. In front of the French camp in the large bivouac, a bad-tempered security guard in a Red Bull T-shirt is always on duty, who immediately shows all visitors the door. If need be, he does so with the charm that is commonly said of former Foreign Legionnaires. This is absolutely unusual in the Dakar camp. But it shows how tense the nerves of the French are. Sven Quandt's huge X-Raid team is much more relaxed.

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