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Trucks from MKR Technology won 2 stages at the Dakar


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Trucks from MKR Technology won 2 stages at the Dakar Four podium finishes and two stage wins. This is this year's total of North Bohemian trucks from the MKR Technology workshop. Nevertheless, a certain frustration prevails in the team after the jubilee 45th year of the legendary competition. It was not possible to achieve the goal of attacking the overall result and being in the top five. Despite this, the team performed a plethora of exhausting performances and thus confirmed that they can compete with the absolute top.

"We've been home for a few days now and we have time to think a bit before the trucks come back to us. This year was really frustrating for us. I have no other words. Our team worked hard all year, we tested a lot, but we still didn't do as well as we hoped. The goal was to prepare a reliable engine with good performance. That worked. Competitively, we were good enough to be in the top three, but new problems came up, which after all the testing we can't explain why has happened to us. That will still be a subject of analysis as soon as the technology returns," chief designer and head of the MKR Technology team Mario Kress still has mixed feelings.

Kress's team prepared a trio of Renault racing trucks for this year's Dakar. They were piloted by the Dutch riders of the Riwald Dakar Team - Gert Huzink, Pascal de Baar and Adwin Hoondert with quick assistance. Everyone was able to fight their way into the top ten with their truck. The first two won one stage each. The exact total of the trio of Renaults from the MKR Technology workshop in the individual stages of the Dakar Rally was as follows - fourteen times in the top ten, seven times in the top five, four times on the podium and two stage victories. Two of the three trucks made to the finish line in Dammam. "The team worked very well. Hats off to everything we managed to overcome. It is in this context that I am sorry that everyone's efforts did not receive the appropriate recognition. We have what it takes, but we also need a good dose of luck. This is more than important in Dakar and we simply did not have it. But we are doing everything to make it as possible," notes Mario Kress.

This year, the Dakar took place for the fourth time on the Arabian Peninsula. The crews agreed that it was the hardest race ever in Saudi Arabia. The competition started already on New Year's Eve with a festive prologue. On New Year's Day, the race started with the first sharp stage. In total, the crews had to manage fourteen of them with one free day. The demanding two weeks began at Sea Camp on the shores of the Red Sea and ended on the opposite side of the peninsula on the coast of the Arabian Gulf. In total, they traveled over seven thousand kilometers and the timed sections were almost four and a half thousand kilometers long. "It was a very difficult Dakar. The race started with more than fifty trucks, but at the finish of the main competition there were slightly more than ten. I don't want to make any excuses because if you want to ride on the podium, everything has to be perfect. But it's not just about the car, but about the team and the connection of all circumstances," pointed out Mario Kress.

At the same time, Gert Huzink, who had the highest ambitions, drove the opening eleven-kilometer prologue the best. He finished eighth, followed by colleague Pascal de Baar. The first stage brought the first troubles. Huzink got stuck in the dunes for an hour. As a result, he lost second place and dropped to thirteenth position. Pascal de Baar's oil pipe broke after less than twenty kilometers after hitting a rock. The oil ignited and caused the truck to catch fire. The crew put it out, but the engine was badly damaged, so the truck had to be towed to the bivouac. Adwin Hoondert then turned over sideways in the dunes.

In the 2nd stage, a turbo failure eliminated Gert Huzink from the main competition. After the first two intense days, it was clear that the fight for the overall results would not happen this year. But there was still an opportunity to shine in the stage rankings, and Huzink managed to do that in the third stage. But the victory was recognized only after a significant time gap. The organizers shortened the stage due to heavy rains and storms.

After the joyful victory, however, a cold shower came again in the 4th stage. Gert Huzink driving in second place damaged the compressor and stopped in the dunes. De Baar, on the other hand, bent the connecting rod and fell to the 7th place. Gert Huzink did not start in the 5th stage. Mechanics were hard at work in Arabia looking for a cylinder head. That day, Pascal de Baar made the team happy with his fifth place. He was classified as seventh in the following 6th section. The mechanics did a great job for this truck when Gert Huzink started. Despite the exhausting and painstaking work of the mechanics, which did not sleep for two days, sand got into the engine during the stage, the truck stopped and the race was definitely over for the Dutch driver.

But since then Pascal de Baar's star began to rise. He finished just short of the podium in the 8th stage. This was followed by a one-day break in Riyadh, where tried to recover and get strength for the next part of the Dakar. De Baar managed to enter the second half with flying colors. He won silver in the 9th stage and if it wasn't for a flat tire at the end, it would have been his first gold. However, he got his reward in the following 10th stage, which he won superbly. He then got a great bronze position in the marathon's 11th stage, where the crew's went deep into “Empty Quarter” - world's fourth largest sand desert. Everything seemed to be running like great, but a surprise came in the morning on the way to the start. De Baar noticed an overpressure in the cooling system. “Through good analysis, the guys found that the culprit was the compressor head gasket, which needed to be replaced. Because of this, the crew arrived nine minutes late for the start and could no longer start the stage," Mario Kress described the unfortunate situation that took place on Friday the 13th. That day, however, Adwin Hoondert made it to the top ten for the first time, driving with a quick assist. Hoondert drove on ninth position.

Then in the 13th stage, Pascal de Baar was able to get close to the podium again, finishing fourth in the penultimate stage. The explosion of the hose to the "turbo" stopped de Baar's truck in the final stage for more than quarter of an hour. The crew reattached it using new clamps. The crew finished the stage in sixteenth place. Therefore, the number of podium positions did not increase in the last fourteenth stage.

The overall winner in the truck category was the Dutchman Janus van Kasteren, also a former North Bohemian Renault pilot. Czech Martin Macík defended silver behind him, followed by father and son Martin and Mitchel van den Brink in third and fourth place. Adwin Hoondert finished the race just a little behind ten in twelfth position with a quick assist and after all the hardships Pascal de Baar was fifteenth. "We have got our share of troubles. We encountered a number of technical problems, but we also showed that without them we are able to compete with the best and fight for the podium," recalled Mario Kress.

And what will happen now? The teams are waiting for the equipment to return home from the Arabian Peninsula. "We want to improve and prepare as best as possible for the next season. Now we have to analyze what and why actually happened to us. There will definitely be a few changes in the team, as our aim is to prepare the most reliable cars possible, so we also have further discussions about ambitions for the future. We will do everything in our power to be even stronger and to get the much desired Bedouin. Therefore, a big thanks goes not only to all team members, but also to partners and fans. Keep your fingers crossed for our project. We hope that luck will be on our side," Mario Kress concluded the jubilee 45th anniversary of the legendary Dakar rally competition.

45. Dakar 2023 – overall results:
1. van Kasteren (NLD) Iveco 54:03:33
2. Macík (CZE) Iveco +1:14:34
3. Martin van den Brink (NLD) Iveco +2:40:22
4. Mitchel van den Brink (NLD) Iveco +4:02:29
5. Valtr (CZE) Tatra +5:06:09
12. Adwin Hoondert (NLD) Renault Trucks +25:40:34
15. Pascal de Baar (NLD) Renault Trucks +56:03:56
DNF Gert Huzink (NLD) Renault Trucks

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