The Toyota Hilux pairing have overcome some of the worst weather conditions ever experienced on the event in South America to hold 33rd overall at the event’s traditional rest day at Salta in northern Argentina.
Heavy rain, flash flooding and thunderstorms have forced race officials to cancel, shorten and modify several of the first week’s special stages through Argentina and Bolivia, but Jerie and Moscatt have persevered and stayed clear of trouble to deliver consistent stage performances.
They were 48th on the Prologue and 34th through the first of the Argentinean stages, before slipping back to 41st in Jujuy. Jerie stopped on the first of the Bolivian stages to assist fellow DMAS South Racing driver Xavier Pons, although he finished the special in 36th overall. He then improved a further three places into the Salta rest day.
Rally.com.au caught up briefly with Dale as he was catching up some much needed rest ahead of the second week of the marathon event. “An amazing experience so far!” he exclaimed.
“First impression is probably of just the sheer scale of this event, the number of competitors and officials, media, teams and logistics just boggles the mind!”
“The weather has been insane. Obviously it started in dramatic fashion with Day One’s stage being cancelled and us re-diverted on an equally enormous road section to that nights bivouac in Rossario. Although we didn’t actually turn a wheel in anger we still spent a full day behind the wheel and drove in some insane rain and road conditions,” Moscatt continued.
“In saying that the conditions were horrible but the tens of thousands of locals that line all the road sections and towns were still out in force so it was a memorable experience.”
“Day two we then got to put the Hilux through it’s paces and once again the rain came and we found ourselves having to constantly switch between race pace and just plain survival mode.”
“We then had the two marathon stages where our teams left us and we had to back to back two massive days with no assistance, even to the point where the road sections were purposely made tight so we couldn’t do much ourselves between the two days and the cars were in Parc Ferme overnight. We drove smart on these days and didn’t put a mark on the car and that had us in good stead as we arrived into Bolivia.”
“The stages into, during and back out of Bolivia were insanely tough both physically on us inside the car as well as mentally. We were competing from 3500-4700 meters of altitude, so quite often just below Everest base camp heights, and it really does take its toll on you. We stopped and jumped out of the car to help our team mate Xavier Pons, and towed him back to the bivouac, and it’s staggering how big bursts of energy hit you so quickly and how long the recovery time is.”
“The other thing to mention about Bolivia was the passion of the beautiful people there. The numbers of people at the end of the stage was insane and then all the 35 kilometres back to town. We then drove over a special Podium in Uyuni, still towing Xavier I might add, and they were giving us gifts, traditional Bolivian winter hats, a Bolivian Dakar trophy, it is really is something that has to be seen to be believed.”
“So anyway we then completed Day 7 with a split stage starting in Bolivia, neutralizing in the middle to cross the border back into Argentina and then taking off again for a further 100 odd kilometres. We’ve stuck to our game plan all the way to the rest day here in Salta and are very happy to be in 33rd position overall in the cars.”
“The real dunes and traditional Dakar stages start tomorrow and we’ll see how we get on there but we’re happy with how things are going both with the car and team as well as our own performances out on the stages,” Dale concluded.
The first of the remaining six special stages gets underway from Salta on Monday morning and takes crews to the town of Belén, via 393km of competition and liaison sections totalling 373km.
A short loop stage around Belén follows on Tuesday and then the route begins to head across Argentina - via La Rioja and San Juan - and returns to the town of Villa Carlos Paz. A short final stage on Saturday takes the survivors to the city of Rosario, where the ceremonial finish will take place in the afternoon.