Issue #7:January 14, 2024
From January 11 to 12, the Dakar Rally 2024 proceeded with a new undertaking called “THE 48H CHRONO STAGE” near Shubaytah in southeastern Saudi Arabia. Running over two days with a 547 km SS (competition section) set in the Rub' al Khali Desert known as the "Empty Quarter", most of the road surface is soft sand. The stage includes a series of complex sand dunes that must be crossed, a serious task for a production car - this was literally the ultimate challenge of the rally.
TLC's Land Cruiser 300 cars, which are competing in the Stock (Production Car) category, boldly took on this grueling stage; Car #500 with Akira Miura and Mayeul Barbet finished 104th overall in the Car category and 1st in the Stock category. Meanwhile, it was sunset when Car #501 with Ronald Basso and Jean-Michel Polato were still competing in the stage, and they decided it was too dangerous to continue over the sand dunes in the dark. The vehicle and crew are doing well, and they plan to start again once the sun comes up tomorrow.
The course began with a 110 km liaison (transfer section) to the start/finish line east of the bivouac in Shubaytah. The SS is a sideways figure-eight loop close to the border with the UAE to the north and Oman to the east. The course consisted of steep sand dunes, and many sections with difficult climbs, so the overall pace didn’t pick up and it took some time to clear the stage.
This time, one stage was held over a two-day period, so Break Zones (simple bivouacs) were set up at seven points along the course. After 4-4:30 pm (the time depended on the car’s location) participants were required to stop at the first Break Zone they reached and spent the night there. The next morning, cars started again in the order of their arrival on the previous day and headed for the finish line.
After completing the SS, Car #500 returned to the bivouac in Shubaytah and departed for Riyadh with the assistance vehicles who had been waiting. On the 13th, the team will have a rest day in Riyadh and totally refresh the car for the second half of the rally.
Miura (driver): We had no prior experience with this challenging new stage - it was a real surprise. Myself, the car and all our preparation - we gave everything we had, but it was still tough. I was extremely happy when we made it to the finish, but this is just the end of the first half. We will continue to do our best for the second half.