- Fifth place for Despres
- Ten chastening days in the Peruvian desert
Expectations were high for the X-raid MINI JCW team at the start of the Dakar 2019. However, Peru was a big challenge for the team from Germany. After ten stages and roughly 5,600 kilometers, France’s Cyril Despres and Jean-Paul Cottret finished fifth in the MINI John Cooper Works Buggy. Carlos Sainz and Lucas Cruz (both ESP) ended the 2019 Dakar in 13thplace. Stéphane Peterhansel and David Castera (both FRA) retired from the race yesterday.
Although the Dakar took place solely in Peru this year, the history books will look back on it as one of the toughest challenges in the history of the marathon rally. Plenty of sand, lots of dunes and a high percentage of off-track sections made the stages very challenging indeed.
Despres was able to maintain a top-ten position in the overall rankings throughout all ten legs. Although the daily stages threw up a number of problems, he almost always managed to finish amongst the ten fastest crews in the Car standings. Only on stage eight did gearbox problems mean they had to be content with finishing 17th.
“This was our first day without any mistakes or problems,” said Despres at the finish. “There was a nice flow and we cruised around. We knew it was going to be a hard Dakar, but it was even harder than we expected. It is not just about the driving and having experience, you also need a bit of luck. It is a different race to what I am used to. We had a little trouble with the inflation system, which made it a really hard race in the sand and dunes.”
Sainz and Cruz lost a lot of time on the third special stage after damaging the front suspension in a ditch. They had to wait for the race truck to assist with their repairs, falling back to 36th place in the overall standings. They climbed back up the overall standings over the following days. They returned to the bivouac with broken power steering at the end of the eighth leg. The team then had to work into the small hours to get the car back in working order, and Sainz and Cruz had to push back their start time the following day. Despite being extremely quick, the penalty of nearly three hours pushed them back to 15th place overall.
“It was a difficult rally for us – especially after day three,” said Sainz. “After that it was just a matter of continuing. We had some small issues, which cost a lot of time. They are important things to fix looking ahead. But we have learned from this. I want to thank the team for their efforts.”
For long periods, Peterhansel and Castera were involved in the battle for a podium finish. The French crew held down a place in the top three and recorded two stage wins in the MINI John Cooper Works. However, Castera suffered a contusion of the spine after they landed heavily on a dune during stage eight, and the duo was forced to retire.
“This Dakar has been one of ups and downs for me,” said Peterhansel, summing up his rally. “I was really happy with the performance of the MINI and the job that David did. Unfortunately, I made too many mistakes, which cost us too much time. I don’t know why. It was definitely not an easy Dakar, we spent a lot of time completely off track and there were a lot of dunes. I’m a little bit disappointed, but the most important thing is David’s health. We were disappointed to stop yesterday, but the result would not have been what we wanted anyway. We lost maybe second, third or perhaps fourth place. In the end, however, we were not able to challenge for the victory, which is a little bit disappointing. But I’ll focus on the positive point – the good feeling in the team. There was a great team spirit between us, Carlos and Cyril.”
The podium ceremony is scheduled for this evening in Lima, and gives the teams and drivers the opportunity to celebrate together. The vehicles will all be returned to the port in Lima today and tomorrow, and will then be shipped back to Europe, where they are expected to arrive at the end of February.