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SA man smashes Dakar in fastest truck

2014-01-20 12:38


FASTEST IN TRUCKS: Pretoria's Albert Johannes Geel was the co-driver in this rapid response truck that set the fastest time in the Dakar 2014. Image: Dakar.com

South African truck driver Albert Johannes Geel was co-driver in the fastest truck in the 2014 Dakar.

The 27-year-old Geel from Pretoria spent a punishing 227 hours and 33 minutes in the shaking bucket seats of a converted Mercedes-Benz racing truck (No.566) with French driver Arnaud Missagia and mechanic Pierre Hurtault. They were - get this - 43 hours faster than the second-fastest rapid assistance T4 truck and 115 hours and 37 minutes ahead of the third T4 truck on the podium.


In their Merc, Geel and his team had to follow and support Team Imperial Toyota's racing Hilux bakkies. As co-driver, Geel's main job was to ensure Missagia did not get lost through the deserts and dunes which the 2014 Dakar crossed but his second job was to help with any repairs, which ranged from replacing suspensions to just passing water to de-hydrated drivers.

On the back of  their truck, beneath the panels over the special roll cage, they carried more spares than most small-town truck dealers stock, as well as their own kit and a huge diesel tank. (Racing trucks do not worry about consumption and using only one litre of diesel/km is considered good going.)


While Geel's crew officially supported the Imperial Toyota racing Hilux bakkies, Dakar rules stipulate that all racers must stop to support any stricken racer and they ended up helping a variety of bikers, quad-bikers and drivers along the longer than 9500km route, which included more than 2500km of special stages.

Second place among the rapid response trucks went to a Tatra truck (No.575) driven by the two-man crew of Robert Kasak from Slovakia and Chris Watman from Australia.

Third place went to a MAN (No.568) driven by family members Ahmed and Samir Benbekhti, with mechanic Jean Martinez, all from France.

Of the 75 trucks that entered this year's Dakar, only 50 finished, including truck brands from Eastern Europe that we South Africans do know, such as Ginaf, Maz, Tatra, Kamaz and Liaz. Expect to hear a lot more of these names in next year's Dakar, however, as rally watchers agree that the most spectacular racing in this year's race was all done by the trucks at the back.
The Russian teams in their Kamaz trucks took four of the five top positions in this year's racewith Andrey Karginov (38), co-driver Andrey Mokeev and mechanic Igor Devyatkin narrowly beating into second place the Iveco of the 2012 Dakar truck champion, Dutchman Gerard de Rooy (34).

The dour De Rooy had on the penultimate Stage 12 drily told Radio Dakar that the Czech and Russian truckers were taking crazy chances and literally cutting the corners too fine over the dunes, adding he would continue driving a steady pace and not be forced into doing something stupid.

At the finish Du Rooy did manage to trail the Kamaz's dust by only 3min11 with Belgian co-driver Tom Colsoul from Belgium and mechanic Rodewald from the Netherlands in the Iveco's cab.


What de Rooy seemed to have forgotten is that Russian drivers treat the gruelling two-week Dakar rally raid as a bit of a summer holiday with just some gentle sand driving in a nice, light little truck - nothing at all like the flooded river crossings and steep river escapes they routinely have to do in giant 8x8 Kamaz and Tatra trucks back home in icy Mother Russia.
2013 truck winner Eduard Nikolaev, co-driver Evgeny Yakovlev and mechanic Vladimir Rybakov followed De Rooy to the podium in third place. The Russians were 90 minutes slower than the time set by their countryman Karginov.

The truckers' race proved a lot more visceral than the big yawn produced by the fleet of turbo-charged 4x2 Minis, which on the last two stages ended up driving sedately under controversial team orders and even waited for each other to cross the finish line together.

In the top five Minis, only South Africa's Giniel de Villiers and co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz were able to take the battle to the Minis up to the finish line, despite struggling in their non-turbo 4x4 bakkie through the thin air up there during the stages that were three kilometres above sea level.
Read more on:    toyota  |  dakar 2014  |  argentina  |  rally

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