Friday the 13th. Superstitions about the unlucky date and the worries it raises often scare many. Perhaps, after this year’s Dakar members of the North Bohemia based MKR Technology are going to believe the jinx day. The penultimate stage eleven went south in all possible points of view. Both of the racing specials lost a chance for a solid ranking and there was even some doubt as to either of them will cross the finishing line in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
It was supposed to be a fast WRC-style stage. A track on which the Czech Renaults should have thrived. Technically, the last opportunity to have one’s say in the overall ranking. The pilots were about to tackle the penultimate stage of 754km starting in San Juan and ending in Río Cuarto. The timed special consisted of two sections and stretched over 288km. Both trucks were 100% ready and even the starting position was favourable. Suddenly, things took a different turn. Martin van den Brink stopped before the first checked point already. Pascal de Baar reached it on sixth place, but his machine decided to ‘change its mind’ before the end of the first section. A bad weather day, to say the least. “Pascal experienced sudden problems with the gear-box and engine connection. Why Martin stopped is to be seen though,” commented the team’s chief constructor Mario Kress.
Prior to the stage nothing seemed to suggest that problems of such magnitude were about to come during the last racing day. The crews only had the final transfer to Buenos Aires on Saturday ahead of them. Certainly, the 786km distance was to be taken seriously, but the 64km special was a rather symbolic one. “I tested both trucks myself in the morning and everything was alright. There’s nothing to add to the fact that you have two problems like this occurring during one stage. I never believed in Friday the 13th, but that’s gonna change from now on,” commented the sad Kress, whose only consolation might have been the Andorran pilot Albert Llovera from the Bonver Dakar Project, whose racing with a driving unit built in the constructor’s technological centre. He finished the penultimate stage on nineteenth place.
Whether both Renaults would start in the last stage was not yet clear on Saturday early morning. However, both crews managed to move towards the finish during last night and eventually got there, even if with big time loss. Martin van den Brink on 34th with an eight-hour loss and Pascal de Baar two positions behind him, losing by more than a ten-hour margin. One thing is clear – only one day separated de Baars crew from a fantastic ranking among the best five overall, which would have made it the best Czech truck at this year’s Dakar. After dropping by fifteen ranks, it now concludes the second ten. “I always said that the Dakar is about luck and this time fortune simply didn’t favour us. Anyway, we’ll always be fighting till the last breath. If we stand even the slightest chance of completing the race, we will not waste it,” promised Kress.