ERJ staff report (TP)
Rosario, Argentina to Valparaíso, Chile − The Dakar 2014 has, so far, proven extremely difficult for all competitors, including Cooper runners Xavi Foj and the Race2Recovery team.
In an opening week fraught with issues, Foj continues to fight back in the T2 class, while both Race2Recovery cars ended their Dakar journey on day two.
Back-to-back winner of the T2 production class on Cooper Discoverer S/T MAXX rubber and Cooper 4x4 ambassador Foj is an expert in the Dakar, but even the cross-country rally aficionado has struggled in what has been widely acknowledged as the most challenging route in recent years.
Foj and co-driver Nacho Santamaría began the rally well to place second, but day two proved less than straightforward when the Foj Motorsport Cooper Tire crew suffered a rollover, 80km in to the special stage.
Fortunately, both driver and co-driver were unharmed and, thanks to the help of fellow Dakar competitors, the Toyota Land Cruiser was able to re-join the course, falling down the order to third in T2 as a result of the incident.
More ill fate followed with brake issues, getting trapped in ‘fesh-fesh’ (fine sand), and electronic issues. After Monday’s (13 January) stage the team sit 55 minutes shy of a top-three class finish.
Meanwhile, the Cooper-supported Race2Recovery team suffered heartbreak as both Land Rover vehicles, running Cooper Discoverer STT tires, were forced to retire from action on day two.
Up until then, both crews had been running well, with Tony Harris and Quin Evans storming through the field. But their vehicle suffered roll cage damage, rendering it unsafe to continue, while Barney Gillespie and Ben Gott encountered a mechanical failure which, ultimately, proved terminal.
Race2Recovery driver, Harris, said: “We’re clearly very disappointed that we’ve had to retire two race vehicles. Our race preparations had gone very well but this year’s experience just goes to show why they call the Dakar the toughest race in the world.”
Marketing Communications Manager for Cooper Tire Europe, Sarah McRoberts, added: “The Dakar is infamously challenging, as demonstrated by our Cooper competitors. We’re naturally saddened that both Race2Recovery cars were forced out of the rally so early on, having shown so much commitment, but it goes without saying that they should be extremely proud of their efforts – the progress that the team – particularly Tony and Quin – was making was quite astonishing, so it’s a shame for them to lose out so early.
“As for Xavi – no-one knows the Dakar better than he does; despite setbacks, he and Nacho have managed to battle on. Hopefully their misfortune is now behind them and they will be able to continue the fightback in the T2 class. There’s still a long way to go and anything can happen in the Dakar.”
The 2014 Dakar Rally is the 35th running of the event and the sixth successive year it has been held in South America. The event started in Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina on 5 January and will finish in Valparaíso, Chile on 18 January after thirteen stages of competition.
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Press release from Cooper Tire