Laia Sanz and Cristina Gutiérrez: suffer today to aspire to great things tomorrow

Finishing the Dakar Rally is already a triumph in itself, but it could not be more true this year in two cases: in that of Laia sanz, which makes its debut in cars after ten editions on the back of a motorcycle, and in that of Cristina Gutierrez, who arrived as a brand new world champion in her category.

Laia, along with the typical mechanical problems that tend to punish cars more than motorcycles, has had to deal with a circumstance that has made the race very difficult, such as the new starting order rules imposed this year on the Rally. Previously, the rules were very clear: first the 30 best of the day started in the general classification and, from there, a ‘slot’ for the best by category. However, here the price to pay began to be seen when, for the first time in its history, the Dakar is now under the regulatory orbit of the FIA and it begins to impose its ‘tolls’.

Laia, victim of the ‘entanglements’ of the FIA

Given that the ‘off-road’ test par excellence is now part of the ‘FIA Cross Country World Championship’, the Federation wants to favor drivers who have registered throughout the championship to the detriment of drivers like Laia, who they only participate in this test. Now all of a sudden pilots who paid the registration became ‘priority pilots’ and poor of the ‘non-priority’ like Laia if they did not enter the top thirty, who send you to the ‘henhouse’ of the starting order, with a hundred vehicles ahead before recovering their natural position in the race.

If you finish the 31st and you are not a priority, they send you as many positions further back“explained the Catalan pilot.” So it is very difficult to compete with the 25th, for example, because going so far behind you find the track destroyed and the dust of those in front, while the 25th has absolutely different and more favorable conditions . And we are talking about six positions of difference. I hope the FIA ​​and the organization will reflect on this and change it, because it is not logical“, argued Laia after facing the problem during several stages.

At the end, Common sense prevailed and the Rally decided to change and extended the starting order According to the previous day’s classification from the top thirty to the top fifty and, most importantly, with the trucks coming out from behind, as they are the ones that leave the roads the most destroyed and compromise the pace the most. Falling out of those first thirty meant for the Mini pilot, as she herself admitted, “to take two steps back after having managed to take one forward.”

No one is going to give Laia back all the time wasted for this circumstance, but in any case he is currently twenty-third and entering the ‘top 20’, which was the objective in his first four-wheel test, is within reach. This Tuesday’s stage was a sample of Dakarian know-how, as it was very detrimental to the characteristics of his car and he was able to avoid many of the traps, especially the very soft sand sections: “It was a very complicated stage, especially on a psychological level“Laia explained at the end of the ninth stage.” We suffered because the sand was super soft. We are glad we were not hooked, which was very easy to happen. With the sand so soft, we would have wasted a lot of time getting out. If we can stay later, we will go for it, but it was not the day to try. ”

Reliability issues for Cristina

The circumstances of Cristina Gutierrez have been very different, because it is beginning to have some seniority in the test, but it is being mentally devastating due to the terrible unreliability of its cars. The new Red Bull Overdrive OT3 being driven by the Burgos is a prototype specifically prepared for the Dakar side-by-side category. A very light 177 horsepower pump which, when it works well, is tremendously competitive. But the problem with its latest evolution is being that ‘when it works well’, because it has shown that it does so very infrequently.

Since the first day, Cristina has had to be dealing with a technical problem, being rare the occasions in which he could finally unleash his accelerator and show how much he is capable. The last straw came this Monday, by losing three hours and, with it, or abandoning almost all hope of getting on the podium in his category: “I think there has been a problem with the injector or a sensor,” Cristina complained. “We have been trying to fix it throughout the stage but it was not possible. It happened 50 kilometers after starting, right between the dunes, when I noticed the engine failure that did not allow us to go from 80 km / h and in the sandy area to 2,000 revs cut the engine, so it has been an odyssey. Crossing all the level 3 dunes has been crazy and, in addition, mentally exhausts a lot because I saw how time passed without being able to do anything … “, he explained.

To put a bit of context, in the most difficult dune areas is where more it is necessary punctually to count with all the revolutions of the engine, so it is not only the despair of seeing how the possibility of the podium moves away from you, but also an anguish similar to that of running tied hand and foot. His teammate, Seth Quintero -which is proving to be one of the sensations of the present Dakar-, he was also left at the beginning of the test with no options for victory and, free from the brakes of thinking about the general classification, is flying at every stage and has chained four consecutive victories.

Seth Quintero is being one of the sensations of the Rally. (Red Bull)

Cristina, the only one to the rhythm of Quintero

The only one who is responding to the American prodigy is Cristina, who in the two stages in which she was finally able to ride free of problems has shown her speed, finishing behind the back of her teammate on both occasions. “The stage has been very positive, especially mentally, because It was the first clean stage we have played“said the world champion.” This is the Dakar and we have to adapt to what comes to us. There was a lot of stone where it was easy to puncture and he had to eat dust when he had to start from far behind because of Monday’s problems. ”

It should be borne in mind that, as we mentioned above about Laia Sanz, when you have to go to the back of the peloton, apart from poor visibility, you find the roads very broken as a result of the passage of the trucks. Even so, the Burgos finished the stage just 2 minutes behind Quintero, establishing herself in fourth place in the general classification of her category. As a consequence of the three hours lost on Monday, reaching the podium in the three remaining stages will depend on the three riders who precede it. suffer mechanical breakdowns, because with the distance they carry it does not seem possible that they risk suffering an accident.

In any case, in the Dakar it is already known that What does not kill you makes you stronger and, thanks to this, both Laia and Cristina will come out of this test very strengthened. Overcoming difficulties like the two of them are doing and showing that when they enjoy normal conditions they have a very good rhythm, is the best omen to know that we can expect great things from both in the future.

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