Tuesday the 12th of July was a day like any other, the weather was slightly above average, but nothing special really. However I had taken a day off of my summer job because the day would change into a day unlike any other day: I would get a passenger ride in the Dakar winning Team De Rooy Iveco Powerstar.
Disclaimer: Team de Rooy wanted to have me as a passenger so badly, Iveco organised an event for business relations, to which Team de Rooy could also invite sponsors, one of these sponsors in turn invited my dad, whose schedule didn’t allow him to go, so he arranged for me to go in his place. This isn’t complicated, right?
A little intermezzo for those less familiar with the Dakar rally, or with the Truck participating in it. The Dakar rally is a roughly two week rallyraid through South America, in which bikes, quads, buggies, cars and trucks participate. While all of these machines are equally fascinating, the trucks are truly mind boggling fast and extremely capable on a surface not even closely resembling tarmac. So from this it becomes quite clear why I was this stoked to be able to be a passenger in such an amazing vehicle.
Back to the Event. After driving some 50-ish kilometers to a lake near Tilburg, the Netherlands, I immediately knew I was in the right place, due to the vast arrays of Iveco demonstration vehicles parked at the entrance of the ‘Experience Island’. Experience Island is a lakeside event locaton which organises several activities like quad driving, offroad courses and other outdoor activities. However, for the Dakar demonstration they had tweaked their offroad course a bit, including some wide jumps in order for the Iveco to catch a little bit off air, or at least show how the suspension takes a beating, as can be seen in this slow motion video:
I was welcomed by the crew running the event, got some coffee and a muffin, after which it was time to walk over to the Team De Rooy paddock. Where not one but two of the rally trucks were waiting for us, however we found out only one would be driving us around, since Dakar winner Gerard de Rooy had an injury, leading to the doctor to forbid him to drive a rally truck for a while, in his place Ton van Genugten, who cam in fifth in the previous Dakar, so he is no slouch either, would give us a ride in the Powerstar. As you can already see in the photo below, the weather wasn’t that above average anymore, and a small thunderstorm started when we arrived at the tent in the paddock. This however allowed the team manager and mechanics to give a nice explanation about the truck and about running the team. They even parked two of the service trucks in such a position to resemble a portion of their service area in the Dakar Bivouac.
Here I learned just what kind of a home built monster this truck is, with it being a fully custom built chassis, with the best parts cherry picked from all over the industry, which are then improved at their workshop in Son. All this leads to a 1000 hp and 5000 Nm (~3700 lb-ft) truck, capable of crossing the most gruesome deserts, while reaching a limited top speed of 140 km/h, mainly posed by the tires and safety. Also the cab on this truck is a-typically located in the middle of the chassis, leading to less harsh blows to the crew during landings. Gerard de Rooy pioneered the return of these cabs to the Dakar, due to his repeated back injuries.
When the weather cleared it was time for us to get ready for the lap, put on our helmets, and line up in the queue. Once it was my turn, I got into the tight racing seat, which got quite comfortable once I had been strapped in, just as I had been told by one of the mechanics, and was good to go. I can try to describe the feeling, but this hand held shot video does so much better.
The smile couldn’t be removed from my face, the reason of which is so hard to describe, but I’ll try, the truck accelerates way faster than you would expect, even with the driver probably only going at 60%. Although this cab placement is said to be more comfortable, even all the small bumps are still felt through the whole truck, leading me to hit my head on the roll cage a couple of times, luckily I was wearing a helmet. Also it felt like the truck has very precise steering, since Ton van Genugten was even able to kick it into some mad sliding action before the final jump.
After everybody had taken a turn, it was back to the main building for some presentations, after which a BBQ was had. We got lucky since the whole of Team de Rooy was there that day for a meeting, so they joined us for some nice meat. Also there was a DJ booth only an Italian company could rent, a old 500 covered in mirror glass, like a disco ball.
After this it was time to go home, with a fully stomach, and an everlasting memory.
I’d like to thank my Dad, Team de Rooy, Iveco and ifm for this opportunity, also I’m very glad how these photos turned out, despite all being taken with my iPhone 6S.