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This is the single-news section of the news "Offroad & Motorsports". To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.

Budapest-Bamako: Beautiful first stage.

The night before the first stage was very short for some of the competitors. The last to arrive in Camp Erfoud, situated right at the feet of the erg, was the Czech Hummer Racing Team – at 04:30 am, 2,5 hours before the briefing of the first stage. Because of the late arrivals, the briefing was postponed to 08:00 am.

During the briefing a strange noise drew the attention of the participants: a motor hang-glider circulated above them. The hang-glider has a safety function, to help the competitors in case of an accident or to find lost crews.

At 09:00 am a part of the racing vehicles finally started the long awaited stage 1 of the rally. The first surprise came very soon: the bad weather and the rain of the past days turned the small dunes into soft mud which was really difficult to pre-estimate. Wet sand and yellow mud – the two look much alike from above... The sun hided itself behind clouds and also ice cold wind made the competitors task harder.

And to make things worse, after the first vehicles started the stage, the muddy track became even harder to drive on and about the half of the competitors got stuck. First of all the ‘strange’ vehicles (among others a VW Passat Syncro, a Fiat Ducato 4x4 and an Iveco Daily 4x4) decided to quit the stage already here and continue on the tarmac road to the next camp in Foum Zgid.

The others faced a stage which was no easier than any of the Dakar stages and at an amateur rally should be recommended only for ’experienced’ crews. But this is not a real amateur rally, but an amateur adventure rally. Will the competitors succeed?

400 kilometres of offroad, 600 kilometres altogether to cover, and the description of the stage said “light offroad and small dunes”. The day was extremely varied. At the beginning the route lead through small oases and palm-groves, driven on offroad routes, through small hills and innumerable bends. With the last ‘village’ ended the until then pleasant journey – after that the route lead on old, worn and sometimes muddy ‘tracks’ which reminded only optically on trails.

Like the past days, the main focus was again on the navigation. There is no normal roadbook, but an information booklet, in which some of the GPS points and also the tasks are to be found. But often there was a slight difference between this and the directions which the crews actually take – well, if you chose the right one, the road was closed. It was also very difficult to take photos of the participants: although the press stayed on the original route, they didn’t meet almost anyone.

The track lead in long valleysbetween gigantic rock walls, on gravel or through small, sandy passages. In the middle there was a small dune field which actually was not to cross. But the timing was good: as the vehicles reached the dune field a heavy sand storm started and the range of vision was only 100 metre. The dunes became impossible to cross, so back to the old track and avoid them through 100% offroad. This proved to be extremely brutal. Through 50 kilometres the participants drove through a 2 kilometre wide stone field, in which there was only one beaten track.

Those who didn’t find this, had bad luck. Because instead of small stones these were at least 30 centimetre high, in the best case round, but mostly very sharp. Practically there were rally crews repairing punctures everywhere. But the worst case was, when the car itself run on a bigger stone.

So, like a classic Dakar stage, long, hard, beautiful, but sometimes really brutal and ‘car-killing’. And – believe us – if this track would be on the Dakar, at least one of the factory cars would join the list of withdrawals, because of the stones and the wadis which were at certain places 1,5 metre deep to step. But in the BB there was no withdrawal, even when some of the competitors drove fast, the majority were cautious.

After the end of the special there was another 180 kilometre of transfer section, so the total for the day was almost 600 kilometre. The participants today got nothing as a present, in spite of the fact that this is an amateur rally. So the last teams arrived in the camp late in the night.

On Thursday, as a reward, a light stage awaits the participants, like a ‘half rest day’. At the beginningthe crews have to cope with some small hills, with a task at the top. After that they continue on old Dakar tracks: wide sandy fields which can be driven at high speed. The finish is the small town of Assa, 450 kilometre from Foum Zgid.

2009/01/23 | 00:40 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Rita Konya

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