Stage 5 Al Ula-Ha'il Special: 353 km
Liaison: 211 km
The Spanish duo, elated after finishing a very tough fifth stage with flying colours. The Madrid-born driver and his Galician co-driver praise their Korando DKR’s performance in the first special in this Saudi edition made up of many kilometres of sand and dunes.
For the second day in a row, SsangYong Motorsport finishes a stage in the 29th position and keeps the 24th spot overall, in a tight fight to enter into the top 20.
“It’s been a very tough stage and we’ve done it very well. The Korando DKR is really daring. We took it to the limit at full throttle, every second, and it didn’t complain at all.”
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“Today we’ve raced a hell of a stage.” Happy, smiling and satisfied, Oscar Fuertes and Diego Vallejo shook their hands as soon as they finished the fifth stage of Dakar 2020, with a broad smile and their helmets still sitting on their laps. Such an image sums up way better than a thousand words the amazing understanding inside the SsangYong cockpit between the Madrid-born driver and the Galician co-driver. They are highly satisfied with their performance and the way the Korando DKR is behaving, just like fish in water, though this time on the sand.
The SsangYong Motorsport duo took 5 hours and 2 minutes to complete this Thursday’s 353 km-long difficult stage, slightly over one hour behind the stage winner, Carlos Sainz. For the second day in a row, Fuertes and Vallejo have finished the stage in the 29th position, an outstanding result that keeps them in the 24th spot overall, in a tight fight against a group of drivers to enter into the top 20. The Korando DKR retains the fifth position in the T1.3 category (petrol two-wheel drive modified vehicle), and its drivers are the third best-classified Spaniards in the race, only behind Sainz and Fernando Alonso.
In the first special of this Saudi Arabian Dakar Rally made up of many kilometres of sand and dunes, Oscar Fuertes’s driving has been “epic” – as Vallejo describes his partner’s performance – while Diego Vallejo himself has excelled at navigation in the third stage of the rally in which drivers have received the roadbook in the morning on the same day of the race. “I’ve told Oscar this is the best stage we’ve raced in the three Dakar Rally editions we’ve been into. We raced this special really ‘smoothly’, without stepping out of the car at any moment, and above all, enjoying it a lot,” explains the Lugo-born co-driver.
Besides, racing on the sand played down the unpleasant inconvenience of the suspended dust. “For the first time, the dust has given us a break,” states Fuertes, who has praised the “Dragon’s” performance on the sand. “It’s been a very tough stage and we’ve done it very well. The Korando DKR is really daring. We took it to the limit at full throttle, every second, bump after bump, and the car didn’t complain at all, not even a bit,” explains the former Spanish rally champion.
Fuertes and Vallejo have already put in 23 hours, 47 minutes and 39 seconds in the first five stages of the race, an average of almost five hours’ racing a day. “We’re having a lot of fun, basically because the Korando DKR is awesome. The truth is we’re exhausted, because it’s been many hours and you feel tiredness building up from the previous days. However, after such a great stage, we’re very happy,” assesses the Madrid-born driver.
The Dakar Rally does not stop and the sixth stage will be raced this Friday between the cities of Ha’il and Riyadh, covering 830 kilometres from which 477 km will be a timed special. It will be the longest stage of the race so far, the prelude to the well-deserved rest day in the Saudi capital (Saturday 11th), and a new episode in SsangYong Motorsport’s epic and untarnished adventure in the toughest race of the world.
Made in Korea
SsangYong cars are manufactured in South Korea by SsangYong Motor, which is 75 per cent owned by the Indian engineering conglomerate Mahindra & Mahindra and imported into the UK by SsangYong Motor UK. Established in 1954, SsangYong is Korea's oldest vehicle manufacturer and only 4x4 and SUV specialist producer. There are currently some 65 SsangYong dealers covering England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with new locations being added to the network all the time.
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