BUGGYRA Returns Home, What Was Dakar 2014 Like?
Rosario/Valparaíso - For the first time in history the North Bohemian truck racing team fully participated in the most difficult long-distance motor competition in the world, the famous Dakar Rally. In a joint project with the Kopřivnice automobile factory Tatra Trucks the Buggyra technology centre built a brand new racing special. Despite certain risks, always involved in any pilot concept, the ambitions of the whole project team were high. And justly enough, for if it were not for certain unpredictable defects, the Tatra 815 Buggyra truck would probably have struggled for the top ranks. We will do better next time, can be heard from the bowels of the racing team.
"The truck worked excellently, I was much satisfied with how it worked. We were up to a fantastic result, but sometimes you suffer completely unpredictable defects and plays of circumstances that make you feel helpless. I have always said that Dakar is not only about the pilots and the technology but above all about good luck, and we did not have enough this year," said the pilot Martin Kolomý.
The best Czech pilot of last year ´s Dakar Rally Martin Kolomý together with the brothers René and David Kiliáns of Plzen formed the tested crew of the engine called Fat Boy. The revolutionary trambus Tatra arrived in South America with a lot of new developments - an air suspended cab which was completely new to truck races, like disc brakes on the front axle. The unique chassis with independent suspension was driven by a modern racing engine Gyrtech Rally Power MK14-3EC, precisely a 13liter, 6cylinder engine produced by the Buggyra technical team. The advantages of the aggregate are countless - lightweight, more powerful, electronically controlled, more economical and adjustable exactly to the racing engagement.
This 36th year of the Dakar Rally was one of the most difficult in history, according to the organizers as well as the racing crews. The track covered over nine thousand kilometres, of which over five thousand were measured. The high mountain stony roads as well as the dunes difficult to ride and the very treacherous fine grit fesh fesh were just a few of the traps waiting for the crews along the route from Rosario to Valparaíso. A record number of crews did not pass the sieve, including many predicted leaders. The competition was quitted prematurely also by the double world champion in rally races Carlos Sainz of Spain.
The Tatra Buggyra Racing team started the race in the truck category excellently, even equalling with the opening interim times the lead of the race, including the Dutch De Rooy, the second interim rank holder. The very first stage of the race already brought about two forced stops, one for the burning tyre and the other for the broken steering cooler after a hard hit. Kolomý lost something over half an hour, passing the finish line on the thirty second rank. For the start of stage 2 the team made use of a wild card and started from the more advantageous eleventh position. After a wonderful ride the crew ranked fifth. In stage 3 the fat boy improved its rank again, ranking 4th in the finish of the stage, as well as of the following 4th stage. But the Dakar was so demanding that at the end of stage 4 Kolomý, ending for a second time right below the longed for podium rank, collapsed in the finish out of physical exhaustion. In the course of day 5 Kolomý as the best Czech pilot was virtually placed to the interim sixth overall rank above Aleš Loprais. Then the crew suddenly received a hard blow. In an inaccessible mountain section of the race the air compressor broke out. "Without the compressor you cannot brake, change gears, blow tyres and use suspension. We were cut off completely," commented the navigator René Kilián.
But the crew did not give up the race. They reached the finish with a loss of nearly eleven hours and to be able to continue in the competition they had to head for the next 6th stage right after the sleepless night. The stage also brought real trouble. When overtaking another truck Kolomý ´s vehicle was pushed off the track and hit a boulder by the road, which literally knocked off the right front wheel of the racing special including the brake and the axle-driving shaft. Mere seven kilometres before the finish of the stage the team decided to complete the day on three wheels, which brought them worldwide admiration and media attention. Kolomý was nicknamed in the bivouac Mr. 3wheel, "Three Wheeler". But because of the axle repair the crew were late for the bivouac, which earned them another more than six hour penalisation. However, all wanted to continue, although it was becoming clear that to struggle for the overall podium would be a super-human task. But still there was a chance for a stage victory. Luckily the agenda included a free day next day, giving all the chance to rest and regenerate forces. In stage 7 Fat Boy achieved tenth best measured time, by which the crew ended the Argentine section of the Dakar Rally. Before the beginning of the Chile part of the race further plans were thwarted by a profound technical analysis of the racing special, which revealed multiple cracks in the front axle. The mountainous nature of the following stages would thus have represented non-commensurable risk for the crew in the case of a related technical defect. In the night before stage 8 a hard decision was made - to withdraw from further competition. "It was an extremely hard decision and we took several hours to reach it but eventually we all agreed on it. We had all done the maximum. To the last moment we tried to find an alternative solution. But as Niki Lauda used to say, no victory should be paid for by excessive risk. I have two small children, David has three. Nothing would be worth having a crash somewhere. At that moment this was a useless hazard," said Martin Kolomý with heavy heart.
This year included another five crews with Gyrtech engine support, made by Buggyra. The engine was mounted in three trucks of the Bonver Dakar project driven by Tomáš Vrátný, Arthur Ardavichus and Jaroslav Kazberuk. Further engine support was provided to Jaroslav Valtr of KM Racing, to whose teammate Vlastimil Vildman the Buggyra team adapted his Deutz aggregate. All of them finishing the last rally stage in Valparaíso ended with decent rankings in the second ten. A surprise was the overall thirteenth rank of Vlastimil Vildman, whose performance throughout the competition was well balanced. Ardavichus ranked right behind him and Tomáš Vrátný ranked seventeenth.
The overall victory in Dakar was only decided in the final 13th stage. From the second racing day the interim lead belonged for nine days to the Dutch pilot De Rooy, in 11th stage replaced with the Russian pilot Karginov. In the course of the final measured section of the whole rally the two pilots looked for a while to be heading towards another exchange of ranks. However, the Russian pilot resisted the pressure and his Kamaz will be entered in the Dakar history tables. Aleš Loprais with two victorious stages finally ranked sixth. Kolomý ´s last year fifth overall rank was therefore not overcome by any Czech pilot this time.
Although the race ended prematurely for the Tatra Buggyra Racing team, the team followed the race till the very end. In the course of the remaining stages the team made use of the reputation won by their tours de force among the Dakar audiences and prepared several individual events to spice the racing programme and entertain the audiences, including the practical joke in the form of a private "race" with Jaroslav Valtr. This year ´s valuable experience obtained by the team in the course of the rally should become the foundation stone for next year ´s success. "When several months ago I was invited to participate in Dakar, I hardly knew was I was up to. I had only perceived this monstrous event through the media before. After gaining the first personal experience I can say I was enthusiastic with the atmosphere. I did not know how many people were involved. I raise my hat to the performances of the pilots, their mechanics and the accompanying staff and also to the marketing strength of the event. Dakar is a huge challenge and such an instrument for promotion of the Czech Republic is unrivalled. Thanks to all this I have finally understood the statement: either you will not arrive at Dakar any more or it will become an inseparable part of your life!” summarised the hardest automobile race in the world Miroslav Forman, advisor to the Buggyra Extreme Dakar project and at the same time member of the Management Board of the Czechoslovak Motorsport, working throughout the competition as a special reporter with the aim to promote strategic cooperation for Dakar 2015. "I am looking forward to the assessment meetings after a couple of weeks back in the Czech lands, where we will evaluate all the knowledge and experience acquired and I believe end up with a project of our participation in the next Dakar Rally with a clear aim to succeed in the hard competition…"
The Tatra Buggyra Racing crew will return from South America on Tuesday 21 January. Their flight with an interim landing in London will end a the Prague Václav Havel airport at 2 pm. "The technology has already been transported to the Valparaiso harbour from where it will sail for about twenty days to the French harbour Le Havre, where we will collect it and take home," detailed the return the co-pilot David Kilián.