|Africa Eco Race: Rally started with first stage in Africa after long Europe-liasion.|
After a 1000km tarmac liaison section from St-Cyprien to Almeria the competitors of the "Africa Eco Race" boarded a ferry which docked in the Moroccan port of Nador at 5am Thursday morning. Straight away the organisers, consisting of 120 people and 40 set off to open the first stage, 622 km, including 277 km of special.
The route headed south on alternating sides of the main road following a tough route designed to showcase the best of the driver's and co-driver's abilities, a technical track to drive and many changes of direction to test the navigator. Although Rene Metge considers today's action to be just a warm up.
KTM 690 No.101 lost time today and finished second behind Frenchman Norbert Dubois, also on a 'big' KTM. The third biker to cross the finish line in Talhari was Xavier Moreau on his KTM 450, but is over 25 minutes behind the day's winner.
In the car class Jean-Louis Schlesser and his new co-driver Cyril Esquirol the triple World Enduro Champion, had his baptism of fire in the co-driver's seat by opening today's stage. The Schlesser Sonangol Buggy took second today, beaten by 12 minutes by the Franco-Russian crew of Régis Delahaye and Konstantin Zhiltsov. Schlesser and Esquirol are going to have to learn fast how to work together! Behind them in 3rd 3'54'' back, is the team Overdrive Pickup of Jacques Loomans and Frits Driesmans.
In the truck category,Elisabete Jacinto, with José Marques and Marco Cochinho, started on the attack in the Portuguese MAN taking 5yj overall. The bttle of the giants looks set to be intense as they were only just a little more than two minutes ahead of the Czech TATRA of Tomas Tomecek and Moravek Vojtech.
And so it was an exciting first step... but also a hard one. Stéphane Henrard and his new Beetle didn't make it to the end and Egyptian Abdel Hamid Abouyoussef experienced mechanical problems. Also Hubert Auriol, "the African" drowned his buggy in a deep river.
Tomorrow, after a night in the bivouac situated on plateau where the temperature should drop below zero the second special stage of the Sonangol Africa Eco Race will take the competitors Mhamid with a special of 375 km... although it is promised to be 'less challenging'.
2011/12/30 | 11:38 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/AER