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Grand Erg: Many participants still in the dunes, following stage cancelled.





Rallyreport by Joerg Russler: Day 5. It is 5 minutes to 12:00 (high noon). Soon the signal, which has been postponed, will sound for the fifth stage of the licence-free Tunisia-rally "Grand Erg". However no one of the since yesterday missing participants has returned from the sea of dunes to the outdoor camp.

Only the five teams, which had made it to the finish, are now rolling towards the inflatable castle, the rally’s legendary starting gate... But wait, what is that?

Stage Report SS04 Ksar Ghilane - Ksar Ghilane

A cloud of dust is on the horizon. A participant’s vehicle. It’s closing in very quickly. The miracle is easily identified as soon as the yellow cover on the loading area is in sight. Here come the Kastners from Austria in their HZJ Toyota.

The cheers are load in the camp, as the two Austrians roll to race control one minute before the race starts. The two had in fact slept the night in the desert without a tent. While rally boss Joerg Russler explains to the two silted desert foxes, that, due to the huge rescue operation, today’s stage is shortened to about 60 km of gravel track, a sign similar to disappointment is visible in their eyes.

"That’s going to bore us" the junior explains with a grin on his face. Breathed deeply briefly, filled the diesel supply and off they go to the start. There is still sand sticking to the corners of their eyes from yesterday. However this does not disturb these "thoroughbreds".

Neither does the fact that the fan wheel of their water cooler has taken leave. At night they quickly unscrewed the air cooler fan and attached it to the grille with cable fasteners. "Works amazingly well," Georg Kastner senior said. Then the two zoom off into the desert.

Shortly before the end of the launch window at around 13:30, the Ford Maverick of Paolo Fantini and the Pajero of Tobias Teichmann actually arise from the dunes. "Seven minutes left," organizer Joerg Russler yells and runs towards them carrying the new road books.

And as a matter of fact: instead of recovering from the strain and the improvised emergency night camp, both go to the start of this stage. A short route description in front of the cars in the sand is made. And then they disappear again as a cloud of dust on the horizon.

There is enough dust for those left behind in the afternoon. The gusts are getting stronger and so is the wind blowing the sand into camp and thus not only emerying the nerves but also the technology of the organisers. Cooking, repairing and organising are just not doable, in fact impossible under these weather conditions.

About an hour before sunset the decision was made. Unhappily Joerg Russler steps forward and says:"Due to the difficult rescue situation, the unpleasant weather condition and the few teams, tomorrow’s stage from Tembaine to Zmela will be cancelled." A murmur went through the crowd. "Who wants can return to the Hotel Touareg in Douz to lick their wounds."

Probably the majority craves for a pool, electricity and sandlessness. Only skeleton staff stays behind in the sand storm to dismantle the camp. The rest flee as a caravan to the city, which lies two hours away.

2012/04/26 | 22:03 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/HS/RUSSLER











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