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DAKAR 2023


by Motorsport Media - 8 January 2023

What: Dakar Day 8 Report

Where: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

When: Sunday 8 January 2023

Community: International

SA-built race cars starring in Arabian Desert epic

South African rally raid carmaker Century Racing is quite literally on top of the world after the first half of an epic 2023 Dakar Rally. South African factory team driver Brian Baragwanath and his navigator Leonard Cremer lead the T1.2 4x2 class in their CR6-T Audi. The duo currently lie in eighth overall going into the rest day on Sunday evening.


After rolling the car late in Thursday’s stage, which had the team working through the night to right the mostly superficial damage on their CR6-T, Baragwanath and Cremer enjoyed three relatively trouble-free days to storm back into the overall top ten through Friday and Saturday.


“We had a good last few days,” Brian Baragwanath reported. “Our clutch started slipping on the last 100 km on Friday, so we backed off, but we still suffered a puncture only a kilometre from the finish. “We lost maybe 5 minutes to end up tenth and move back into the top ten overall. “Lucky the clutch didn't fail completely.


“We replaced the clutch and serviced our dampers overnight, and Saturday went well! The CR6-T enjoyed the fast, sandy tracks to end in fifth and pick up two places overall. “Sunday was tough, we tried too hard not to get puncture and still got two in the first 80 km. We hardly pushed from there, but finished to fight another day. “Now we look forward to come back even stronger next week!"


French Century Factory teammates Serradori and Minaudier also enjoyed three positive days in the other CR6-T. “All good, no problem,” Serradori confirmed. “We lost time in the dunes and had to try three times to get over the big one and ended up eighth on Friday. “The car was flying on Saturday, and we had no problems to seventh.”


“On Sunday Brian and Leonard told us they had no spare wheels, so we followed them, but then we also had a second flat, so we just kept our cool from there. “We are now just 19 seconds outside the top ten, so we’re really looking forward to the second week!” 


Both Century Factory crews have been most competitive in pure overall pace, and both ran strong in the top ten in the first week. Both however also suffered teething problems early in the week. Those cooling and accessory drive belt issues were perhaps to be expected, considering the cars were in essence only shaken down before the start at Dakar’s Saudi Arabian Red Sea Beach Camp.


“Our Factory cars have ran very well later in the first week,” team principal Julien Hardy explained. “We are getting to know these new Audi biturbo V6 engines and systems far better now, so it’s less learning and more looking at performance as we progress. “We have had our challenges , but I am so proud of our team for the massive effort that’s gone into keeping the show on the road.


“The camel grass has been crazy, the rain has turned the tufts into literal concrete blocks and the flat light makes them hard to see, so the dampers have worked very hard. “We take them off every day to check externally and sometimes internally. “The plastic spring guides melted on all four rearmost shocks on Friday, so the oil temperature inside possibly reached 150°C or more.


“Traditionally, Dakar was a race of two halves with the rest day to do most of the big maintenance. “This year has been different, with nine stages in the first week and six shorter distance ones in week 2. “We have already serviced or replaced critical items like the clutches. “Our heavy repair workload has also had an impact on any schedules, but we cannot take a chance with lifecycle components.


“Our team, the Astara crew, and the Coronel lads have put in a few all-nighters with all our technical development challenges as well as having six cars roll in seven days. “Astara has been burning the candle from both ends since the start, so even with our cars sorted early Saturday, some of us went to help them. “None of the guys have had much sleep in this cold, wet and miserable first week in Saudi.”


Of the rest of the Century entries, former World Superbike champion Carlos Checa and Marc Sola Terradellas’s clean-fuelled Astara car is best placed of the six Corvette V8-powered CR6 privateer teams racing Dakar 2023. Despite rolling twice en route, the Spanish crew has enjoyed a tidy run to sit 21st overall after placing in or about the top 20 most of the week.


36th overall, impressive privateers Antoine Galland and Yannick Demay have also enjoyed a relatively consistent Dakar in their ORC CR6. The same cannot be said of former Dakar bike legends, lady star Laia Sanz and Maurizio Gerini’s second Astara CR6, or Dutch twins Tom and Tim Coronel.


Sanz and Gerini were said to be out of the Dakar after their monster crash on Thursday morning. But an epic effort by the crew saw Laia and Sergio live to see another Dakar day. The duo fixed the car, and with the help of fellow Century crew, rookies Sergio Vallejo and Mario Gozalez Tome, brought it back to the team in the bivouac for a freezing wet all-nighter. They were 39th overall Sunday evening.


The Coronel twins suffered a heavy roll that ripped the front suspension off their CR6, only 5 km from Saturday’s finish line. While they were able to repair the car overnight, they incurred ten hours of penalties for exceeding the two hour service time and more for driving on a public road on three wheels. That dropped them from a fine 15th overall down to 43rd by Sunday evening.


French crew Yannick and Valérie Panagiotis’ FJ CR6 lie in 44th, whilst Spanish rookies Valeggio and Gonzales Tome were happily still in the running in a provisional 49th after a most adventurous first week of the Dakar.

* Century Racing Factory Team is proudly sponsored by Fortinet, SRT, R53 Suspension, International Race Supplies, AP Racing, ALDO, CEMS Consult, Trollope Mining, ATS  Racing Supplies, OMP, Mecad - Solidworks SA, Sadev, Ekoil, Caltex Havoline SA and Houss.

Issued on behalf of Century Racing

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