The Maxxis Super B Dakar Team once again proved to be a team of winners. At the finish of the Dakar 2014 all remaining members captured special awards. Seb Husseini was on the rostrum in the quad category, finishing third overall. Robert van Pelt won the malle moto class (motorbike riders without assistance) and Kees Koolen made history by being the first one ever to reach the finish in every race category.
He came to win the Dakar, but in the end Seb Husseini was more than pleased with finishing third. “This was a really though Dakar and making it to the finish was an exploit already. Ending up on the rostrum is a big achievement and I am very happy with that.” To celebrate his trophy Husseini gave the crowd in Valparaíso a big show with his quad, having a dance with team mate Tim Coronel.
Husseini was right. Only 15 out of 40 quads that started the rally made it to the finish. The gaps in between were huge. After his disaster day (stage 5) in which he lost hours due to a broken axle Husseini placed his hope in the sand and dunes in the second week. He made the race by hunting down his rivals and winning a stage with supremacy. Until disaster stroke again, this time with a broken wheel bearing. It took Husseini time to repair and after that he needed to drive slowly. Still he hadn’t gave up hope to be on the rostrum. “If this can happen to me, it can happen to one of the others as well. From now on I’m not taking any more risks. I want to bring the quad home safely.” And again he was right. In stage 11, the topper of the Dakar, Segio Lafuente had to withdraw due to a broken engine. Husseini moved up to third and held on to that position.
He did it on a bike (2009), in a buggy (2012) and on a quad (2013) and now Kees Koolen was on the podium for finishing the Dakar with a truck. No one ever before managed to start let alone finish in all four racing classes. Koolen did and thereby wrote history. Nevertheless this was the first time he wasn’t ‘solo’ but accompanied by Jurgen van den Goorbergh and Gijs van Uden.
Making it to the finish didn’t go all by itself. Allready on the second day the team ran into trouble after the turbo blew in the early stages. They only made it to the dunes after dark, making it a lot more difficult. In the end they decided to take the penalty, skip a few waypoints and get out safe. The consequence was they were abreast of things already early in the event, meaning they had to start in the back and drive on smashed up terrain. Luckily both Koolen and Van den Goorbergh had seen worse in the past years; Van Uden was in the race for the first time.
Day by day the team learned more about the truck and how to use it and things went easier. They almost toppled over on a dune but were saved. In the topper of the Dakar, stage 11, they even got their best result of the Dakar. After finishing in all categories Koolen assessed the truck as the easiest. “With a truck you can get through a lot of different areas and terrain that are impossible to cover with a quad or a buggy. All the other categories demand a certain fitness, but in the truck you don’t have to work that hard. No offence to others, but I found racing with the truck somewhat of a holiday.”
He only made one mistake and that was underestimating the state of the truck. “This one was too old already and gave us trouble every day. The engine overheated too often, the cooling system didn’t work well, the system to let air in and the tyres wasn’t functioning properly. That made it more difficult. But we had to deal with it and so we did.” And now what? What’s left after having finished in all categories? “Not on the bike anymore, unless a sidecar is allowed. Maybe once more on the quad: I liked that best. But the most serious thought for next year is to go in a 4x4-T1. If I do that, I’ve had 5 different subcategories.”
Robert van Pelt managed to win the malle moto class in the bike category, although he almost messed up in the final stage, from La Serena to Valparaíso. In the short (157 km) but challenging stage the chain of his bike broke. Van Pelt was desperate but got some help of fellow Dutchman Henk Knuiman who gave him his toolset. Reparations took him over an hour, with the clock ticking louder and louder and Van Pelt got even more nervous the longer it took. Finally he managed to ride again and took his bike to the finish line which he crossed in tears. There he found out he made it just in time to stay ahead of Brett Cummings by only 16 minutes.
The malle moto class (malle means chest) is designed for bikers without a team, the real amateurs. Only they are allowed to work on the bike. Whereas riders in a team have the assistance of mechanics and access to spare parts , the malle moto riders have to do everything themselves out of one chest with all their belongings – no space for spare parts – which makes the Dakar even more exhausting and challenging.
Van Pelt, only 20 years of age, showed what he is capabel of with scoring a 7th place in stage 5, which proved to be the toughest stage for the bikers because of the heat and soft sand. In the final general rankings he finished in 27th position. As a comparison: only 78 out of 174 of the bikers (45%) of which 7 out of 15 malle moto riders made it to the finish line.
Pictures Marcel Vermeij / Rallymaniacs