The ninth stage of the Dakar 2021 was not very pleasant. The route took Tim and Tom Coronel up into the mountains, through valleys and over winding, rocky paths, making it “bumpety-bump and breathing in dust” for nearly 465 kms. By driving smart and above all remaining patient, the twins managed to take another 25th place and won two more places in the general standings.
“It was a day to make mistakes,” Tim said at the finish in Neom, where the stage had also started. “Because you drive in the dust all day, you have to take risks that you really don’t want to take. Those who wanted too much where slammed in the face.”
True words, as with both the bikes, cars and trucks, the day was filled with crashes, punctures and a lot of other damage. Tim and Tom brought The Beast to the finish almost unscathed. The only problem with the car was the tire pressure system again, this time on the right rear. “But we already knew that at the start, so we disconnected it,” said Tom. “We put the pressure on an average that allowed us to drive through both sand and stones, if careful. In all left turns I shouted “Be careful!”, in all right turns “Gas!”. It was a small handicap, but we managed that well.”
The pace wasn’t too high anyway and maybe that was a good thing. The dust lingered for a long time in the valleys that the participants crossed. Tim: “I noticed that others could drive towards us, but also had to drop down again. At one point we were behind two trucks and a car and actually had nowhere to go.” Tom: “In a narrow canyon where a car could just pass, we drove in the dust and with the sun right on the windshield. We couldn’t drive any faster but 30 where we normally could do 160.”
In areas where less dust remained, it came down to navigation. The fact that the brothers have now crawled forward a bit makes navigation more complicated. “There are fewer tracks, so we can no longer just follow the tracks on sight,” noted Tom. “Then you really have to navigate yourself. That was difficult in the dust, but we didn’t miss a single waypoint. Once I was just too late and we made a big jump. I didn’t say it to Tim at the time, but it was in the road book. I just hadn’t seen it in time.”
Not only today, but also in the coming days it is important to be patient and not make mistakes. The differences in the standings are small – 3 minutes gap to 24th place, only 2 minutes gap to 26th place – and Tim and Tom realize that they can only win places thanks to mistakes made by others. “And a mistake is easily made”, Tom knows. “We have to prevent that by driving smart and staying calm. There is still a lot to come in the next days, so we should not be tempted into thinking that we are almost there.”