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15 January 2017

'We know what we can do, and we know what we want to do'

BUENOS AIRES – During the final stage of the Dakar Rally 2017, the two trucks of Mammoet Rallysport both passed the finish line of the South American monster rally. After a lot of technical setbacks, Martin van den Brink and Pascal de Baar were able to finish the last stage of the race under their own steam. During this final stage, Martin managed to obtain 15th position, while Pascal finished 20th.

Van den Brink and De Baar bring Mammoet trucks to the finish line

After a night of hard work, both of the Renault trucks arrived at the start of the 64 km final stage. “The service crew have outdone themselves once more,” says Martin van den Brink. “Fifteen minutes before the start of the race, Pascal's truck was up and running again.”

The Mammoet team’s technical staff had patched up the Renault Sherpa earlier that night. The rear differential was replaced, rendering the truck strong and fast enough to finish the race. The Renault K520 was equipped with a new gearbox. “The mechanics were able to do all of this within the available time. What's more, it was the first time in three years that the Renault's gearbox broke down. That says  something about the durability of the parts.”

The last stage was not very challenging. Thousands of Argentinians came to watch and enjoy the spectacle. There was nothing to be won for the Mammoet team. “It was a fun stage for the audience. The spectators were very excited. That's encouraging for the drivers as well.”

Martin van den Brink had to start the long sprint across 64 kilometers in 32nd position. “That's when you know things are bound to get difficult. But we were able to overtake quite a number of people, we passed eight trucks. We managed to keep up a good pace without taking any risks.”

The final result of this stage gave the drivers reason to be satisfied, especially when the dusty conditions were taken into account. Pascal de Baar and his co-pilots finished the stage in their signature style – at a steady pace. They managed to achieve 20th place without running into any difficulties.

After the special stage, all of the drivers were required to attended a gathering at the parc fermé. “We have to wait for an hour. After that, we will be able to leave again. Everyone knows at what time they have to be in Buenos Aires based on their finish time.”

The men from Mammoet expected to arrive at the podium around midnight local time. The drive back to the Argentinian capital will be almost 700 kilometers. The contestants have to drive their vehicles across the finish line - passing the finish line on a service team truck is not allowed.

“It will be another challenging stage. We will be visiting the importer, Volvo Group Argentina, along the way. We will also be able to clean the trucks there,” says Van den Brink, who drove as much of the race as possible himself. Navigators and mechanics can drive the truck during the connecting intervals. “I prefer driving myself,” says Martin.

The 46-year-old Dutchman looks back on the race with mixed emotions. “We have not been able to attain our goals. We were aiming for a top-10 position. But we know what caused it. If you take all of the problems of the past year into account, and if you look at the short time frame in which we had to arrange everything, then we can be very satisfied.”

On a competitive level, Mammoet Rallysport demonstrated that the men in the Renault trucks are a force to be reckoned with. “We arrived at the finish with two trucks, we won two stages, and we competed for a top-5 position. We should be satisfied - we gave it everything we had.”

Van den Brink is clear on what has to happen next. “We know that we are doing well in terms of speed. The drivers are excellent. The service team is superb, they are really good. That has really helped us get across the finish line. The truck is great to drive - we just need to improve its reliability. The technical aspects will be a real focus for our attention this year. We have to do more testing and replace certain parts, so we can make it across the finish line without running into any trouble. During this Dakar Rally, we have gathered enough input to work with. We will keep raising the bar. At Mammoet Rallysport, we know what we want and we will continue to work on attaining that.”

Martin is happy with the medals that he, Marcel Blankestijn and Daniel Kozlovský will be picking up in Buenos Aires. “I didn't get a medal in 2010 or 2016. I know what it feels like when you don’t make it to the finish. You can try your best and give it your all, but it is still the Dakar. That means that you can end up in a ditch or in a collision when it's not even your fault. One ditch can change everything. If your wheel is broken, you are out.”

After the ceremony in the Buenos Aires city center, the men from Mammoet will be ending their Dakar adventure 'appropriately'. “Everyone worked really hard. I think that the guys on this great team deserve a beer,” Martin van den Brink chuckles.

On Monday morning, the team will be returning to the Netherlands. “We will be departing at 17.00 hours Argentinian time. We hope to be back on Tuesday afternoon at 12.00 Dutch time.”

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