|Grand Erg: Long day Monday - lot of participants stuck in the Chott El Jerid.|
Rallyreport by Joerg Russler: Day 2. The start is postponed for two hours. Two hours of precious sleep for some and two hours of extra repair time for others. At 09:00 the convoy starts straight through Gafsa to Chott El Jerid on one of the hugest salt lakes in North Africa.
At 12:00 sharp Harald Wurmbrand and Tim Krause dart through the sand in their Land Rover Discovery on first place. However after not even 10 minutes the special stage lives up to its name.
Shortly after the start of the first actual rally track, as the participants just want to give their lavishly prepared darlings their spurs for the first time on the broad and flat track, a treacherous sump awaits its tin food.
And plenty it gets within the next minutes. One after another underestimates the desert’s white carapace and hopelessly sinks in mud. Just yesterday it had been raining here. Now only half of the almost 30 teams escape the evil trap. The rest is stuck. Even cooperativeness is mercilessly punisched by the morass.
So it devours even Walter Schneider and Christof Brass in their Mercedes Unimog truck till over both tyres. They had wanted to save the Tarzan team of ErwinMueller and Heinz Hofstaetter. It hits Ina Klaumann and Michael Oswald quite hard. Upon entering the wetland their jeep’s radiator and fan wheel abandons them. They are towed to the next accommodation in Douz.
Though they aren’t the only ones demanding help today and getting penalty time. Both recovery towing-vehicles have got all their hands full, getting stuck as well again and again. The finish at sunset? Forget it! This is going to be a long day!
Stage Report SS01 Gafsa to Chott El Jerid
The teams were hungry for this stage, some however too hungry. Then at the end not the drivers used to success scored, rather the father/son team Kastner/Kastner. "It was nice", was driver Georg Kastner jun.’s dry comment to today’s victory. Even the colleague’s mud bath left the Austrians unimpressed. "We drove past that bit, it was no problem. The stage was quickly driven. Only the motor gave us some problems."
With a big grin Harry Wurmbrand, today’s birthday person, raced as second over the finishing line. "The track was super, the sand was super, although we didn’t navigate properly twice, and we still caught up with everyone." The rally experts barely denied themselves to participate in the mud party. "We didn’t sink in too deeply, but we almost managed to make a complete mess of ourselves."
Third place was made by completely relaxed Swabians. Their tactic is no secret: "We’re taking it easy at the beginning, so to not damage the car", the driver Martin Kern revealed. Congratulations, job well done. "Yes great, it went really well. In fact we were in the sand morass as well, where the other three had already been stuck in, but we made it with skidding and swerving" Martin Geis the navigator said.
The gold medal for this stage went to the truck team Britz/Britz for extraordinary learning ability. In 2010 they had sunk in the salt lake, this time the truck slipped through, left numerous teams behind and made it in as eighth. "It went well today, no damages and we got lost only twice", Jutta Britz said happily eyeing the good result.
The last place award goes to Christian Muehlbach and Thomas Bergler. By all means rally director Joerg Russler had seen them as fellow competitors for the overall victory. However 1 km after the start, the party was over. The torsion bar connector was broken and the vehicle limped to Douz. After missing control stations and timekeepers, the team got extreme penalty time, which leaves least space to hope for a place on the podium.
2012/04/26 | 12:55 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/HS/RUSSLER