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Budapest-Bamako: Competitors hit City of Monte Carlo

From Sunday to Tuesday – the participants have three days to complete the super marathon stage between Brescia in Italy and Merzouga in Morocco – because on Wednesday morning the real rally starts there! But also on their way to Southern Spain the crews had some tasks to solve. For the Tourist category it was a bit easier, they had only two official stops before Morocco.

With the ferry cruise from Almeria (Spain) to Nador (Morocco) 2.740 kilometres had to be covered – under the given circumstances a challenge even for the most experienced teams! Although the transfer was/is only transfer, there was a little ’trick’ in the route to make their lives harder. Instead of using the wonderful seaside motorway from Genua to Nizza the competirors had to choose a passage through the Alps to solve a task. But, as organiser Andrew Szabó Gál warned in the first video, this could be a problem...

And, of course, it was – because of the snow. “It’s possible that because of the snow the passage will be closed”, informed the caravan Gál on Saturday evening. And, to shatter the hopes of the teams, yes, it was. So they had to switch to plan B and drive in the ‘luxury’ way: on the motorway on the seaside.

And if they were there… The motorway leads near Monaco’s fabulous capital, Monte Carlo. Among motorsport fans it is a common wish to drive on the legendary Formula 1 track at least once in a lifetime… Moreover, despite the snow and freezing weather, in Monte Carlo pleasant 16 degrees and bright sunshine welcomed the caravan.

What started as individual ideas of the competitors, ended up as an ‘invasion’ in the luxury city. Rally vehicles parked on every corner, crews taking photos beside Ferraris, Bentleys and Rolls Royce… Even the ‘high society’ noticed that something special is going on: beside the guests of a luxury wedding even pop star ‘Jamiroqai’ greeted the Bamako competitors at a red traffic lamp from his black Ferrari.

The concierge of the legendary Casino and also the policemen dressed in their traditional uniform proved to be understanding: they let the rally cars to be parked on the exclusive parking places in front of the Casino and ‘Hotel Paris’ and even seemed to be happy about the colourful ‘invasion’. “Oh, Budapest-Bamako, le petit Dakar! Welcome to Monaco!” They knew the rally already.

But after Monaco, fun was over. The crews set on the motorway and headed directly towards Almeria in Southern Spain. They could have a stop in Montpellier, France, but the ‘tough’ ones opted for go directly to the port to be aboard the first ferry of the three booked for the rally.

Unfortunately we have to report about another withdrawal. Three times winners of the Budapest-Bamako, Slovakian Juraj Ulrich and Daniela ‘Danka’ Ulrichova (Nissan) had to quit the race after Danka’s leg was injured. This meant a bitter disappointment for the couple from Bratislava and the end of their hopes to win the rally for a fourth time in a row.

Only a few of the rally vehicles were able to board the first ferry on Monday morning. As a reward, now finally they have a normal amount of sleeping – after about 3000 kilometres on the motorway.

2009/01/20 | 23:04 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Rita Konya

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