|Africa Eco Race: A review - Some words from a happy organizer René Metge.|
The fourth edition of the Sonangol Africa Eco Race was exceptional in many ways. After celebrating competitors on the banks of Lac Rose on the 8th of January, René Metge, the Sporting Director, comes back on the highlights of the event, and congratulates the winners of each category. A 2012 edition difficult and demanding which saw also great human adventures.
The 2012 route, once more created by René Metge, in collaboration with former naviagtor Jose Maria Servia, was not a simple walk in the park. Apart from the original difficulties of the route, competitors had to deal with hard weather conditions. Relatively low temperatures in Morocco and sandstorm in Mauritania, the competitors had to adapt as Rene Metge explains.
By René Metge: "On paper, we knew that this fourth edition would be difficult... and it was. The important thing was to warn the competitors, what we did. Thus, it was a minor surprise when they had to face the first difficulties. What we did not anticipate, it was the weather, especially in Mauritania, where the sandstorm began to blow before we arrived and remained so for quite ten days. The Mauritanian desert was then totally changed.
Although I know the route by heart, I saw that some places became invisible and many of dunes appeared where a few weeks ago, there was nothing... The top of the dunes, usually hard on a width of about two meters, had become incredibly soft. But I must say that competitors have remarkably well navigated in these circumstances. From the helicopter, it is easier to observe the changes of direction and I must admit I admire their reactions. Well done to all of them! They never gave up!
This bad weather forced us to cancel one leg. This is never fun but I think everyone has enjoyed this break. In Mauritania, we had hard stages and competitors were beginning to run out. After several days of stress everyone was very tired including vehicles. The cancellation of the special stage between Akjoujt and Tenadi allowed them to start on the last Mauritanian leg with energy.
Oscar Polli, who won this year's the bike category, pointed out that the strong navigation during the stages had the effect to avoid big falls because requiring more concentration to the riders. For me, this is very satisfying because security is and will remain our first concern. Regarding bikes, I noticed a lot of solidarity and a positive spirit. The riders were fighting every day on track, but they helped each other when necessary.
In terms of ranking, I am very satisfied with the position of the trucks and the one of Salim Kamoun. We were not waiting for him on such a good position (third overall of the cars). I think he proved that a car, certainly well prepared, but not too developed can take its chance on this type of terrain and on the rally. Congratulations to the SSV crews, which were just amazing.
The Morin-Vermeloux crew did a very good job, and in terms of classification, was far from being ridiculous. This is very encouraging for the future because it proves that this kind of vehicle has to be on rally-raids.
Regarding regulations, I am delighted that our choices allow a maximum of competitors to reach Dakar. If they face a problem on a stage, they can continue. I do not forget the raiders who have faced difficulties with great determination. All seemed to have a lot of fun and will certainly not forget this experience.
The 2012 edition was a difficult issue but with valuable competitors. Concerning the route, I think the direction we took is the right option. Dense race, "serious" navigation and intense crossing but not too long. In Mauritania, no need to go for very long distances, the area in which we race is the best. We tried to have a minimum of rocky terrain all along the way but in Morocco, for example, it is quite impossible to avoid any rocky area.
I am already planning next year’s event and I know there are still tracks to renew the route. Year after year, we are improving the organization of the bivouacs. Again, I think we are on right way, thanks to the efforts of everyone.
Finally, a big thank for choosing to share this African adventure. Our greatest wish, see you next year on the fifth edition of Sonangol Africa Eco Race!"
2012/02/02 | 15:34 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/AER/METGE