In the wake of his Dakar 2016 win, an elated Gerard De Rooy, of Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco, tells GIANENRICO GRIFFINI that it all came down to a good team, a good truck and being able to relax …
Ending this year’s Dakar, your team numbers were impressive: four trucks in the top ten, three in the top five, a huge gap between you and Ayrat Mardeev [who placed second in his Kamaz] and, moreover, a strong and steady team performance stage by stage. What are the reasons for this result?
A new set-up of the team with three race drivers in the Powerstars – all capable of winning the Dakar – very good drivers in the fast service trucks (Trakkers) and a team of mechanics with redefined roles and responsibilities. The new set-up was applied for the first time at our private test event in Morocco, further improved during the Oylibia rally and fully applied during the recent Dakar rally.
Can you detail “your” Dakar?
My 2016 Dakar was a rally in which I could really focus on my job; namely racing for victory. The new set-up of the team allowed me and my race crew to focus day by day on the race itself.
The rest – like maintenance and repair of the race trucks, logistics, catering and so on – was no longer my concern and was dealt with by team management. This gave me peace of mind and created a much more relaxed atmosphere.
What were the most difficult stages and the major turning points in the rally this year? Was it say, Stage 8, when you took the lead in the general ranking, or Stage 10, when you were surprised by the huge gap with the Russian drivers?
After the rest day, I knew that Kamaz was going to push. Nikolaev was really fast on the Salta – Belen special stage; I could see that when I saw the tyre tracks, so I started to push from the beginning of the special. In the end, I won by 2,5 minutes.
I think the Kamaz team got a mental “punch in the face”. During the next two days they took too many risks. They were pushing too much. During the Belen – Belen special we didn’t have any problems at all – which added to the huge gap.
You said on your website that, in a Dakar, nothing can be taken for granted until the finish line. When did you honestly feel your second victory in the rally was at your fingertips?
The Dakar rally is so unpredictable. Anything can happen … mistakes are easily made. During the Friday special, which was on the last day of the event, I felt I had my competitors “under control” and victory became a reality.
Usually, you prefer to drive on sand and dunes, but this year you had to face extremely slippery conditions, too. How did you feel?
The first week it was really strange with the wet weather conditions. Wet conditions are not my favourite, so I didn’t push on these days. Finally, we lost only a few minutes per day. We didn’t risk anything … Some teams pushed a lot and gained only a few minutes.
In a previous interview, you said you are a relaxed driver, with a strategic view of the race every time. Did you change your driving style in any way this year, or, conversely, did you stick with your “philosophy” that to finish first, you first have to finish?
This year I had a fantastic, very professional navigator; Moi (Torrallardona). This gave me peace of mind and total confidence, which allowed me to focus more on the driving. In fact, being more relaxed made me faster.
What are the main technical features and best qualities of your Iveco Powerstar?
The most impressive thing is, of course, the engine. The team hasn’t had a single engine failure since I joined. The power and torque produced by the engine make it, I believe, the best engine in the field.
Petronas has supplied lubricants that have benefited the brilliant performance of these engines. Furthermore, the drivability of the truck and the level of comfort (relatively speaking, of course), seating and steering wheel position, together with excellent shock absorbers and the Goodyear tyres, make it a winning rally truck.
What did you change on the truck, compared to last year’s model?
Honestly speaking, nothing. As I said, I am very happy with the driveline; no changes required.
During testing, we were focusing on the set-up of the shocks in combination with the various terrains – sand versus rock; that sort of thing. Furthermore, our cooperation with Goodyear helped us understand a lot about the behaviour of the tyres under all the different circumstances.
The De Rooy legend, from an ITOY perspective
Brothers Jan and Harry de Rooy were both active in rallycross in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Both started haulage companies; Jan started De Rooy Transport and Harry established De Rooy Logistics.
“Not much can be found on Harry’s career, but Jan’s is well documented. Despite never being European Champion, he was Dutch champion for a few years and drove well in European championships. He is well known (in fact famous in the Netherlands) for his participation in the Dakar Rally, and his no-nonsense character,” reports Arjan Velthoven, from Dutch publication TTM.nl.
“Once upon a time, I think it was in 1969, I raced rallycross in a Saab 96 V4. Among the international competitors were two De Rooy brothers, driving the “rubber string” (variator drive line) DAF,” recalls ITOY jury member Klaus Bremer, from the Finnish magazine Auto, Tekniikka ja Kuljetus.
“They were very fast and I think one of them even won the European Championship, which was remarkable as there were, among others, very fast British and German 4×4 Ford Escorts,” he adds.
“After Jan retired, his son Gerard took over the management of De Rooy Transport and the Dakar Team. Jan is, however, still present every day to oversee things,” Velthoven continues.
“For a very long time, De Rooy Transport operated mainly DAF trucks, but nowadays the company chooses its trucks to match their tasks. Brands in the stable today include Scania, Volvo, Iveco and DAF.”
More information on De Rooy Transport can be found on its corporate website – www.derooy.com .
As regular readers of FOCUS know, this magazine has been appointed an associate member of the International Truck of the Year (IToY)! FOCUS is the sole South African and the sole African magazine to have joined this prestigious body. One of the advantages of this association is access to exclusive ITOY events, such as Dakar.