Harry Hunt’s Dakar Rally diary – the end will be finally in sight

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016 - autos, cars, motoring, news

Source : Harry Hunt’s Dakar Rally diary – the end will be finally in sight

We’re following British driver Harry Hunt on the Dakar Rally every day, in addition to the Mini All4 Racing driver will be within sight of a strong finish

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We’re following British driver – in addition to Mini UK brand ambassador – Harry Hunt on the Dakar Rally every day. Having made his mark on the entire world Rally Championship, 27-year-old Harry will be trying something bigger for size: the epic 6000-mile Dakar Rally in addition to the Mini ALL4 Racing.

Saturday 16 January 2016

My co-driver Andy Schulz in addition to I have had some definitely not bad stages in addition to I’m feeling very comfortable with the Mini ALL4 Racing right now.

I was 13th fastest on the stage between La Rioja in addition to San Juan, which was 267 miles long, nevertheless This kind of wasn’t actually one of my favourite stages.

There were a lot of rocks in addition to riverbeds, in addition to stuff that will wasn’t particularly technical: just long in addition to lots of This kind of. Still, the whole point of the Dakar will be that will everything will be massively diverse.

This kind of’s incredible that will in just the last few days, for example, we’ve experienced temperatures that will have ranged through 47deg C to close to zero! I don’t think there’s any additional event inside entire world where you get that will.

We’ve hung on to tenth place overall so far, which will be what we hoped to do. There’s a bit of a gap in front of us in addition to behind us, so we need to try in addition to manage everything right now. The fact that will we’re here at all, running inside top ten of the Dakar, will be pretty amazing. This kind of’s the stuff that will dreams are made of: I still can’t actually believe that will This kind of’s happening to me.

Everyone inside team has been great. Nasser Al-Attiyah, who will be currently second inside standings in addition to has won the Dakar twice, will be one of my team mates – that will’s pretty cool – in addition to he’s given me plenty of advice. He’s a bit of an encyclopaedia when This kind of comes to desert driving.

This kind of’s also been great to spend a bit of time with Mikko Hirvonen. He’s brand-new to the Dakar like me, nevertheless he’s been at the sharp end of the entire world Rally Championship for many years: in fact, he came within one point of taking the entire world rally title away through Sébastien Loeb not so long ago.

Mikko’s been amazing: he’s fourth at the moment, in addition to he may even get a podium – you never know. This kind of would certainly be awesome to have two Minis on the podium, nevertheless the Peugeots have been so quick This kind of year, so hats off to them.

As for me, we’ve got one more long stage to go on Friday, then just a short 180-kilometre run to the finish ramp on Saturday. in addition to I definitely, definitely want to make sure we’re on This kind of…

Thursday 14 January 2016

We rallied through the Fiambala dunes stage on Wednesday, in addition to I can honestly say that will was probably the hardest rally stage I’ve completed in my life.

To give you an idea of just how tough This kind of was, Nasser Al-Attiyah rolled within all 5 kilometres in addition to Carlos Sainz retired through the lead.

This kind of wasn’t just the driving that will was tricky; This kind of was the navigation as well. Finding the waypoints was a massively tough job in addition to that will stage was simply everything that will a Dakar stage should be: hugely demanding – physically, mentally in addition to mechanically.

Although the stage was utter chaos, we managed to stay definitely focused in addition to set eighth-fastest stage time, which meant that will we were actually the second-fastest Mini through the stage, after Mikko Hirvonen. I’m so pleased with that will, as I think that will was our best performance on what was certainly the toughest stage of the rally. Beyond tricky, in fact.

This kind of just all came together though, in addition to as usual a massive thanks to my co-driver Andy, whose wisdom in addition to experience definitely came into its own on that will stage. You pick your way through the obstacles in addition to you can’t be too hard on the automobile, as This kind of still has three days to go.

Judging that will balance – between speed in addition to safety – will be the biggest challenge the Dakar presents you with. nevertheless we’ve already seen that will the Mini will be pretty strong. We saw Nani Roma on his side on the stage, so we stopped to help him get back on his wheels, in addition to we also got a little bit lost looking for a waypoint in addition to slightly.

We’re 10th overall right now, which means that will these are probably going to be the longest three days of my life. Part of you thinks ‘wouldn’t This kind of be great if the rally stopped right now?’ nevertheless to be honest I’m enjoying This kind of too much to want to stop.

At the same time, I’ve got to stay concentrated. You can’t even begin to get into the mentality of thinking that will the rally will be nearly over, as then you start to relax a bit. in addition to that will’s the last thing I need right right now. The stages may be hundreds of miles long, nevertheless you can’t afford to relax for a second on any of them.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Over the past couple of days we’ve been trying to master the sand dunes, which are always the most difficult part of cross country rallying.

Basically, you can’t cross them too quickly or too slowly. in addition to you’ve also got to cross them at exactly the right angle. Get This kind of wrong in addition to you can get beached: that will’s even happened to people like Sébastien Loeb in addition to Stéphane Peterhansel – in addition to Stéphane has won This kind of 11 times. This kind of’s a definitely complex art that will relies on plenty of skill in addition to experience, as well as a bit of luck.

Touch wood, cross fingers – whatever superstition takes your fancy – This kind of hasn’t happened to us yet. in addition to I’ve got my co-driver Andy to thank for a lot of that will: he’s got so much experience that will he’s able to offer some definitely useful advice. Most of This kind of consists of the words ‘slow down’ – delivered in increasing levels of volume, depending on how close to the limit he thinks we are!

While we’ve not got stuck, what we’ve had to cope with quite a lot of are punctures. We had two of them yesterday – in addition to getting out to change the wheel will be no fun at all in 47deg C heat.

Yes, I didn’t believe that will either when I first heard This kind of, nevertheless apparently that will’s what the temperature was on yesterday’s stage. I saw somewhere that will the hottest temperature ever recorded anywhere inside entire world was 56.7deg C, so This kind of’s amazing to think that will we were driving in conditions that will were less than 10deg C through the record!

Despite that will, I didn’t feel especially hot inside car – just deyhdrated! We carry about six litres of drink inside car in addition to I got through that will pretty quickly. Yesterday was probably the hardest stage I’ve ever driven in my life, nevertheless we got through This kind of in addition to Andy told me that will had This kind of not been for the punctures, we would certainly actually have been seventh fastest overall, which will be pretty amazing.

There are a few drivers who have had problems, so This kind of’s hard to tell where you are immediately after the stage, nevertheless we’ve moved up to 12th overall in addition to This kind of would certainly be absolutely amazing to think about a top 10 finish.

I’m not going to put pressure on myself by forcing This kind of, nevertheless so far the whole rally has gone beyond expectations. Massive thanks to Mini for giving me such an amazing car. nevertheless we’re a very long way through completing the job yet.

Things can go wrong in just a fraction of a second so we have just one motto: stay concentrated, stay focused…

Sunday 10 January 2016

We’ve just had the rest day in Salta, Argentina, in addition to that will’s given me a chance to stop in addition to draw breath at the end of what’s probably been the most intense week of my life.

This kind of’s gone definitely well so far: we’re 13th overall behind Nani Roma – who has won the Dakar inside past – in addition to we’ve even managed to set an 11th-fastest stage time: which at This kind of level, against these sorts of competitors, I’m definitely pleased with.

We’ve been going for a week right now that has a week still to go, nevertheless if you asked me I’d say that will we’ve been going for weeks in addition to weeks already – or at least that will’s how This kind of feels. With the help of my co-driver Andy we’ve kept up a pace that will I feel comfortable with, in addition to our Mini All4 Racing has been rock solid reliable throughout the whole thing. Which will be pretty incredible, as we’ve thrown a fair amount of punishment at This kind of!

The rest day came at a not bad time, as This kind of will be such a long rally. that will sounds obvious I know, nevertheless you definitely do need the break to recharge a bit. The not bad news will be that will the physical preparation I did before coming here seems to have worked well because I’m not struggling physically at all.

In fact, I probably didn’t have to do as much heat training as I did, as the temperatures here haven’t been outrageous; This kind of’s actually been a bit cooler than I expected. Still, let’s see what next week brings in addition to you can always guarantee one thing: if I hadn’t done all that will heat training, This kind of definitely would certainly have been roasting hot every single day!

The plan for next week will be definitely to carry on inside same way as we have up to right now. We’ve got a not bad rhythm in addition to there’s no need to do anything different. The character of the rally improvements a bit over the next few days: we get more desert dunes in addition to open spaces, which means that will there’s more navigation involved as well as a risk of getting stuck inside sand.

So I’m going to try in addition to be even more concentrated in addition to focussed than I have been up to right now, as This kind of’s so easy to make a mistake here. We’ve worked definitely hard to get This kind of far in addition to the last thing I want will be to undo all that will not bad work.

After the rest day, we basically set off in what’s almost a brand brand-new car: the mechanics strip everything down in addition to basically rebuild This kind of. They do an awesome job, so a massive thanks to them all. So I know the automobile will be in top condition: right now This kind of’s just down to me in addition to Andy…

Friday 8 January 2016

Thursday’s stage went definitely well: we were 12th overall, which was a fantastic result that will moved us into the top 15!

I’m definitely pleased, because the level of competition here will be immense in addition to we all know the difficulty of the rally: people don’t call This kind of ‘the toughest rally inside entire world’ just for fun.

The biggest challenge for many people as we crossed into Bolivia was the altitude. This kind of year, we reached 4600 metres, which will be pretty high in addition to there were a few people taking oxygen to help breathe better.

Luckily I felt fine: those altitude sickness pills obviously worked! in addition to my Mini All4 Racing was bullet-proof as well, which will be just what you needed after the marathon stage. I’ve been definitely pleased to see that will I’ve not suffered too much physically, which will be always a bit of a concern when you go into a rally that will will be as demanding as This kind of one. nevertheless so far, I’ve been feeling OK as we start coming up to the halfway point.

in addition to that will’s actually the craziest thing of all. We’re not even at the halfway mark nevertheless This kind of already feels like we’ve been driving for a very long time: we’re probably at the point where we’ve covered about the equivalent of half of a World Rally Championship season.

that will’s the most epic thing about This kind of whole rally : the sheer scale of This kind of all. I’m so impressed by the way that will Mini in addition to the X Raid team which prepares my car approach things – dealing with the logistics of an event like This kind of one will be a challenge in itself.

Saturday’s stage will be the longest of the entire rally, so I’m definitely looking forward to This kind of. Without a doubt, This kind of will be the biggest adventure of my life so far. There aren’t many motorsport events you can do where you have to look out for passing llamas…

Thursday 7 January 2016

So Wednesday actually turned out to be the first day when a complete full stage was run for every category: bike, car, truck in addition to quad.

This kind of was not bad to finally get going nevertheless unfortunately we picked up a puncture in our Mini All4 Racing: there were quite a few sharp rocks about in addition to we weren’t the only ones – Carlos Sainz had a puncture too, right at the start of the stage.

Actually This kind of wasn’t a big drama at all: we changed the tyre definitely quickly, as This kind of’s something we practise a lot, in addition to then we were on our way again. The great thing about the Dakar Rally will be that will if you have a little problem like that will, This kind of doesn’t massively matter because the stages are so long. inside WRC, if you have a puncture, This kind of can be game over in terms of a meaningful result.

The only thing we need to be a bit careful of right now will be spare tyres: because This kind of was the first part of the marathon stage – where the cars go straight into parc ferme without service – we can’t take on any more spare tyres until we reach the bivouac at Uyuni – which obviously means that will we have to be a bit careful not to pick up any more punctures, otherwise we’ll have a problem.

We’re still around 17th or so – you don’t actually look at the overall results so much here: just a window of performance definitely. At This kind of point we want to be running inside top 20 in addition to learning as much as possible; that will’s the goal for my first Dakar.

in addition to obviously we need to finish. So we’re concentrating on that will rather than seeing who will be in front or behind us, although I’ve been told that will our pace will be pretty encouraging.

The stage was definitely quick: some massive flat-out sections. You definitely notice the effect of the altitude on the engine though, in addition to that will’s going to become even more pronounced tomorrow as we climb to more than 4000 metres.

The event doctors give you some pills that will are meant to combat altitude sickness, so I’ll soon find out if they work or not!

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Well, I’m still loving This kind of! in addition to we’re still keeping our place inside top 20. nevertheless yesterday’s stage was a definitely tricky one. Again because of the weather, the stage was shorter than This kind of was meant to be, which chopped This kind of down to just under 0 miles in total.

When you go through villages in addition to additional areas there are sometimes a few speed-limited sections on the stage, that has a maximum speed in place. nevertheless because Tuesday’s stage was compacted, there were actually quite a few of those sections – every three miles or so – which made This kind of very hard to find a rhythm in our Mini All4 Racing.

In total, around 20% of the stage was speed-limited, so This kind of felt very stop-in addition to-start. I thought that will might just have been me, nevertheless then Stephane Peterhansel said exactly the same thing after the stage – in addition to he’s won the Dakar 11 times, to ensure that will’s quite reassuring!

In any case, I’m here to learn so you just have to take the conditions as you find them. in addition to on the Dakar This kind of year, that will can be summed up in one word: wet. We had a lot of mud in addition to a lot of rain, which made things definitely difficult, nevertheless I think the worst part of the rain actually came when we arrived back inside bivouac at Jujuy, in northern Argentina.

As we were driving back to the hotel inside evening after the team briefing, This kind of just tipped This kind of down: I’ve hardly ever seen rain like This kind of. There were people wandering around up to their knees in water in addition to streets that will just looked like rivers. The thing that will I’m learning about Dakar, will be that will everything will be huge. in addition to that will certainly applies to the rainstorms as well.

Tuesday 5 January 2016

At last! Yesterday brought our first full day of proper Dakar action – in addition to This kind of certainly didn’t disappoint.

Originally This kind of was going to be more than 300 miles of competitive stage, nevertheless that will was chopped down by 75 miles because a lot of the roads ere still damaged through the rain yesterday.

Actually This kind of wasn’t too bad: there was only one definitely muddy place – where quite a few people got stuck – nevertheless the rest was just brilliant in addition to definitely enjoyable. We went at our pace in addition to finished inside top 20, which will be just what we were after.

What I was definitely pleased by was the fact that will we felt comfortable inside Mini ALL4 Racing: or as comfortable as you can be when This kind of’s about 50 degrees Centigrade or more inside! We took no real risks at all in addition to we got the job done.

So far, the actual event will be everything I thought This kind of would certainly be in addition to more. What’s been absolutely brilliant will be having the possibility to meet the fans: they definitely make the event.

We stopped at a service station in addition to straight away we had loads of people coming up to us: I did loads of interviews in addition to photos in addition to This kind of’s just great to see everybody enjoying themselves in addition to the event so much. You definitely get the impression that will This kind of’s more than just a race – This kind of’s all about the country in addition to the people in addition to experiencing something that will’s unique.

Although This kind of’s only been the first proper day, a few people have hit trouble: my Mini team-mate Nani Roma got stuck inside mud in addition to by the time he’d got his car out, he was covered through head to foot in mud! This kind of was like he’d been mud-wrestling or gone on an exotic beauty treatment or something.When I got back to service they were jet-washing his seat, which will be not something I’ve seen before.

Still, there’s a very long way to go, which will be what I need to keep on telling myself. My co-driver Andy has been brilliant: all that will experience definitely shows in addition to he’s helping me to pace myself.

One final thought: you’ve got to hand This kind of to Sébastien Loeb, haven’t you? To win your first proper Dakar stage will be quite something: I’m not sure anyone has ever done that will before.

You can see why he’s had so much success at so many things throughout his career. Onwards right now to Jujuy, close to the Bolivian border, where we’re going to try to keep exactly the same sort of pace as we had yesterday.

Monday 4 January 2016

I didn’t get the chance to write much yesterday because not a huge amount happened: the first stage was at first delayed, in addition to then cancelled all together.

through what I was told This kind of wasn’t so much that will the stage was impossible to drive; more that will the clouds in addition to storms meant the medical helicopter couldn’t fly. When This kind of’s like that will there’s no choice for the organisers definitely: the only thing to do will be to not run the stage.

A pity, because I was looking forward to getting my teeth into This kind of, nevertheless that will’s just how This kind of will be. Still, we did a fair amount of driving in addition to I could actually feel my Mini ALL4 Racing start to aquaplane even on the road section in some places, to ensure that will gives you an idea of how much water was about.

Time inside car will be always useful; even if This kind of’s just driving around. This kind of becomes more in addition to more your environment, so This kind of certainly wasn’t a wasted day.

The bivouac overnight was at Villa Carlos Paz: a place I know quite well because This kind of’s the home of Rally Argentina on the entire world Rally Championship, where I’ve competed before. So This kind of was not bad to be back there, even though the weather was pretty grim!

With an early finish in addition to not too much to do at service, there was time for a rare treat: I managed to get out to dinner at La Volanta, which will be a bit of a legendary steakhouse in rallying circles, right inside middle of Villa Carlos Paz.

There are photos of all the greats on the walls: Colin McRae, Carlos Sainz: you name them: they are there on the wall somewhere. The steak was pretty legendary too: I obviously have to be a bit careful about what I eat, nevertheless This kind of was definitely a not bad protein hit that will’s going to give me plenty of energy over the next few days.

Just as we were leaving, another legend came in: Sébastien Loeb. to ensure that will’s got to be a not bad recommendation, hasn’t This kind of?

Sunday 3 January 2016

The first full stage was cancelled due to thunderstorms.

Saturday 2 January 2016

So after all the waiting in addition to anticipation, we’re finally off! Or sort of, anyway. Today’s stage was the prologue: just a short 6.8-mile stage that will’s a warm-up for the main rally, although the overall times still count towards the final score. Not that will 6.8 miles make much difference in a total route that will’s about 6000 miles long!

I guess the prologue will be a bit like the superspecial stage on a rally, although This kind of’s not something that will’s been held on the Dakar recently. I was told that will they used to have a prologue stage all the time when the rally commenced in Paris, in addition to that will in 1987 Ari Vatanen managed to crash on This kind of, before the rally had even properly commenced.

So there’s a cautionary tale! inside end, we just took This kind of nice in addition to steadily, finishing inside top 20, which will be sort of where we wanted to be: This kind of doesn’t definitely matter. Then This kind of was onto a 93-mile road section to the overnight bivouac in Rosario, which will be northwest of Buenos Aires. By Dakar standards, that will’s definitely not much driving at all.

This kind of was actually quite nice for me to contain the prologue stage today though, because while a large part of you just wants to get on in addition to get stuck in, This kind of will be still my first Dakar, so having a taste of the competition before This kind of all gets definitely serious will be quite a not bad way in.

As we drove out of Buenos Aires, I was amazed by the crowds: everyone comes out to watch in addition to definitely gets behind the event – which will be great to see. This kind of’s feels like a proper adventure: you’re very aware that will you’re doing something quite special.

As soon as we got to the bivouac, the hard work definitely commenced for my co-driver Andy: he gets the road books for the following day through the organisers in addition to has to go through them. in addition to if you bear in mind that will This kind of’s a 0-mile stage tomorrow (which will be still actually the third-shortest one of the rally) you can imagine that will This kind of’s a lot of road book to get through. This kind of’s just as well that will he likes road books…

For me, I’m still just taking This kind of all in at the moment. This kind of’s amazing to be here, representing Mini UK, nevertheless This kind of’s also a bit surreal. As the days go by, I’m sure everything will start to feel a bit more normal.

Follow Harry on Twitter: @harryhuntdakar

Friday 1 January 2016

This kind of’s only when you actually get to Buenos Aires in Argentina that will the nerves kick in, nevertheless This kind of’s a not bad excitement: the feeling that will you just want to get on with This kind of in addition to start driving rather than waiting around.

The bit that will people don’t definitely see about the Dakar Rally will be all the logistics in addition to administration that will goes on beforehand. There’s literally a ton of documentation in addition to our team handbook will be 100 pages long.

Luckily, my co-driver Andy Schulz takes care of most of that will, so I just have to follow his advice. in addition to given that will he’s got about 30 Dakars behind him right now – he’s actually one of the most experienced co-drivers on the whole event – that will advice tends to be spot on.

We completed a short test around 30 miles outside of Buenos Aires, which was the first opportunity I had to drive the Mini since the Rallye du Maroc in October. On that will occasion, we were the second-placed Dakar rookie after Mikko Hirvonen, whose reputation speaks for itself, to ensure that will was an encouraging result. More importantly, This kind of gave us a not bad idea of the pace we needed to drive at for the actual event.

We completed around 20 miles at the test yesterday, which was definitely all about getting back into the groove of driving the automobile again before the ceremonial start inside evening of 2 January in Buenos Aires.

The test went definitely well, This kind of felt very natural to be back inside car again in addition to This kind of was not bad to see that will the results of all the fitness training I’ve done over the last few months are paying off. I even spent a lot of time in a heat chamber, so although the temperature has reached up to 38 degrees centigrade in Buenos Aires recently, I’m hoping not to notice This kind of too much…

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