|Aïcha des Gazelles: Hamilton/Beavis working hard to regain Top 10 ranking|
Stage 5 of the "Aïcha des Gazelles" rally in Morocco consisted of seven CPs which took teams through a 200 km course from Ihander to Ouald Driss - a lengthy estimated completion time of 10 hours, 45 minutes.
Riding on the coat tails of an exhausting two-day long Marathon Leg, the big challenge of the day was distance. Surroundings were wide open and rocky without any major navigational difficulties requiring methodical planning.
Early on CP3 had many top contenders checking in, including Team 147 and 136. Bethany Hamilton, driver for Team 136 whose vehicle suffered a broken tie-rod as well as 4-wheel drive the previous day, stated in the morning, "It feels like the 4-wheel drive is working - the truck is driving sturdy and strong; however, we're still not sure if it's functioning properly. We'll have to wait and see."
Beavis added: "The 4-wheel drive problem could have been the result of a busted CV which might have overheated the center differential. We’re not sure exactly how it happened but we are moving forward according to plan."
Team 136 moved up three spots to 10th place. However, as of late today they were bumped to 11th in the standings as the results became official at noon which is the deadline for all teams to return to the bivouac.
Beavis stated, "Someone in the top right now would have to make a really big mistake for us to move back up as we are fairly behind points wise. We'd love to be in the top, but the dunes are going to be tough - they are soft, difficult to navigate and sharp. We plan to be very smart about our lines."
Team 107 Lerner Reina, whose pace picked up yesterday and moved up the rankings, are pleased with their comeback. The team made all 7 CPs with precise sharp lines from Reina - going on her 2nd day without a Terratrip.
Reina stated, "It's forced me to modify my navigation methods, but I also think skill and instinct play a role in navigation. We are a focused team and drive at a planned, good pace."
Team 178 Hall/Howells arrived to the bivouac late Tuesday evening, with Howells lines improved significantly. Given the broken chassis on the vehicle, the team's performance today was impressive, hitting 5 CPs.
"The length of the day was tough," stated Hall. "Driving back at night down a steep narrow road can be intimidating, but I felt confident with our truck. I put it in 4-low and let it do all the work."
Team 182 Klishevich/Chiadmi - Klishevich, an experienced driver off-road, had a smooth ride during this stage as Chiadmi continued to grow in her navigation skills. The first-time competitors look forward to the upcoming Marathon Leg which includes the Chegaga dunes.
Team 185 Barone/Meddows had a great run today with Meddows's experience in her second Gazelle Rally shining through in carefully plotted lines. The team arrived just behind Team 178 and Barone felt confident in her driving skills.
The upcoming 2nd Marathon Leg, which includes the tedious terrain around M'Hamid and famed Chegaga dunes. The leg runs from the morning of the 27th through the evening of the 28th finishing out the rally in the village of Foum Z'Guid.
It will require strength, nerves of steel, and endurance - truly weeding out the competition. Here teams push themselves to the limits, and the race is ultimately decided in these last two difficult days.
2013/03/27 | 17:09 CET | ARTICLE: MR/HS/KUHN