The twelfth stage of the 2023 Dakar Rally was all about tire management. Push too hard and the car got stuck in the sand or couldn’t top a dune, too soft and they could blow or spin off. Tom Coronel proved himself to be an excellent tire manager in these 185 kilometers, to the delight and satisfaction of Tim, who was able to make full use of his steering skills as a result.
“Tom really did a super job on that. I didn’t have to ask for anything”
Tim Coronel – Dakar Driver
The competition test of stage 12 was not long, but could cause more than enough problems. The speed on the chotts (dried-up salt flats) demanded more pressure in the tires, while the powder-soft dunes called for low pressure and more tread. This listened closely and required concentration, as well as a good feel for the car, traction and the terrain.
“I do have that,” Tom Coronel knew. “Being a driver myself, I know what I feel and how it should feel. As a navigator, I also see what kind of terrain is coming and I can anticipate that. I understand that game.”
Constantly adjusting the tire pressure helped Tim tremendously. “Tom really did a super job on that. I didn’t have to ask for anything. It was right before I knew it. That allowed me to fully concentrate on steering and the right pace to get over the dunes. They were soft, big dunes. And because we were riding around noon and the sun was high, it was hard to see where the holes were. But we didn’t get stuck once.” Only in the last 15 kilometers did Tim and Tom have to get out of the car briefly because the front left tire drain system stopped working and the tire went flat. “We unscrewed the system,” Tom says. “That took about 20 minutes. Too bad, because we were driving around 20th place and things were going really well.”
In addition to managing tires, Tom had also emerged as an engine manager in the marathon bivouac by fixing the engine failure. With help from Brian Baragwanath, factory driver and test driver for Century. “We put in another management program,” Tom says, as if it were something he does every day. “It turned out to be the shifting sensor, so we put in a different mapping. Problem solved.”
After two rather tough stages and a night without the care of mechanics, both the car and Tim and Tom were in need of service. An early finish of the stage – Tim and Tom were at the finish of the test around 12:30 a.m. local time – provided the opportunity for that as well. Saturday marks the penultimate stage of this Dakar, from Shaybah to Al Hofuf over 669 kilometers, 154 of which count for the race.