• Saudi Arabia

We take a look back over the week’s events in the Saudi Arabian desert.

Mammoet Rallysport has made impressive progress throughout this week as this year’s Dakar Rally builds to a climax later today, with a place in the top ten all but assured. On Tuesday at Neom, Mammoet Rallysport achieved seventh place in the ninth stage of the rally. Martin van den Brink consolidated his eighth position in the general classification. The Mammoet team capitalized on the misfortunes of their competitors, extending a gap of almost an hour and a half over their rivals in 10th place.

We saw Casale and Soltys [of team Tatra Buggyra Racing] standing still. They had technical problems and possibly a flat tire”, said van den Brink after the 465-kilometer stage. “We have consciously taken it easy again. I was running at 80% today. Partly because of this, we have had no technical problems or flat tires”.

After a rough experience through stage eight, the team was looking to take things steadily. However, the course in the ninth stage was not really ideal for recovering from all the physical discomfort. “It was a tough stage physically. We drove a lot through riverbeds in the mountains. That means many paths with many deep holes, bumps and many stones. That is certainly not pleasant for a battered body”.

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The following day brought the rally caravan to Alula. This special stage covered "only" 342 kilometers, covering many sandy valleys. Using all of his experience, Martin van den Brink made sure to spare both man and machine as much as possible; with an eye firmly on the final – and not the stage – result.

The stage was a fast one. Winner Martin Macik raced the 342 kilometers through the mountains and stone-studded trails in 3 hours and 13 minutes. Van den Brink needed 19 minutes and 41 seconds more to complete the tricky course, coming home in 10th place.

It was quite tough and unpleasant again today. Especially the first part produced many painful moments. I deliberately drove very quietly again. especially to spare [navigator] Wouter's injured limbs”, observed the driver.

Yesterday I was in a lot of pain”, agreed Wouter, “which made Martin take his foot off the gas. Partly because of this, we had no problems and we made no mistakes. Martin knows better than anyone that we can only achieve a high ranking by staying out of trouble”.

In addition to the physical discomfort, the team had to deal with a flat tire for the first time. "We drove about 150 kilometers with a flat tire," said Martin just after the special. “Fortunately, we were able to keep the tire at 3 bar”.

In the footsteps of Martin van den Brink and his co-pilots, son Mitchel continued his way undisturbed to the big goal: the finish in Jeddah. In the tenth stage, the debutant came in 21st - without problems and on time.

On the last day as an 18-year-old, the debutant was able to complete the test in daylight. “I am very happy with this result. Our perfect cooperation also put us in the top twenty of the rankings. I would never have dreamed that beforehand. We don't do crazy things, keep the Volvo intact and try to drive at our own pace”.

The longest stage in the Dakar rally came yesterday, at 511 kilometers. Martin van den Brink finished eleventh in the eleventh stage. “We focused on the end result. The daily classification is now of secondary importance."

In the special from Elula to Yanbu, which was shortened slightly due to the poor condition of part of the course, Martin had to fight against the elements and Wouter de Graaff had to fight to stay focused. The end result is sacred to Martin and his men. In the overall ranking, the Harskamper has a "safe" margin of 1 hour and 7 minutes in eighth place over the Czech, Martin Soltys.

As this article is released, the drivers are speeding toward the finish line. However, the last stage is more than a formality. This special stage is "only" 200 kilometers, but the riders who think they are already there may be disappointed. There is another series of challenging dunes on the menu and the paths full of coarse stones can cause serious damage.

Martin van den Brink is on his way to his best performance in the monster rally. In his thirteenth appearance, the Harskamper has a top ten classification for the first time. "Everything is aimed at crossing the line in eighth place."

In the Dakar Rally of both 2011 and 2013, then still in South America, Martin took eleventh place. In his debut year, 2009, the Mammoet Rallysport team owner finished twelfth. The hunt for a place in the top ten ends now, as all competitors race towards the finish line in Jeddah.

A place in the top ten is the reward for our entire team. Just like in previous years, they have again done a fantastic job. We would never have achieved this without the professional efforts of our amateur team”.