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Grand Erg: Sand-free day on SS06 - but a very difficult 213 kms navigation.





Rallyreport by Joerg Russler: Day 6 and 7. After before’s slightly shorter stage, let’s get straight down to the nitty-gritty today: 213 km of special stage around Zmela. Today is actually the first partly sand-free day as well; therefore the navigation will have a lot to offer.

As mentioned during the briefing, there are very few GPS coordinates but more road book pictures ("It can happen that your GPS arrow points to the rear" quote by organizer Joerg Russler) and the checkpoints are as always unknown beforehand, so as to pin the participants down on their trip master.

The routes will be a mixture of everything that Tunisia has to offer other than sand: tough trail passages, manoeuvrable slalom tracks, free driving across wide plains, washboard tracks and plenty of dust.; high speed as well as rock crawling, challenging the driver, navigator and the vehicle.

Stage Report SS06 213 kilometers around Camp Zmela

The first timed vehicle starts at 09:00; the fastest finishers will be expected around 14:00 that remains to be seen...

At least there are 19 teams starting again today after the lost competition days: "A very material-intensive stage," says Michael Braun from team Teichmann. "Russi (rally director) has listed 90 per cent of the holes in the road book, but the 10 per cent that appear unexpectedly gnaw at the material."

And fact is the nice plain presents itself as extremely rugged lunar landscape. Ernst Ruebsam felt best there. He finally comes in once as first. Although he has been working on his vehicle a lot, he hasn’t been seen on the track very often. For his co-driver Carmen, this is the first Grand Erg assignment. And immediately she navigates the team to the day’s victory.

"Absolutely awesome. My first navigation. Ernst drives fast but very safely," she explains. "We only ploughed through the vegetables twice. The road book was extremely difficult today, so a junction can be lost on the way."

Yet again their Jeep Grand Cherokee has problems. "The Panhard rod took its leave," Ernst comments. "We couldn’t drive straight ahead properly for the last 30 kilometres; we had to drive small semi-circles." At the end it was enough though.

Martin Kern’s navigator Martin Geis (third place today) emphasises the degree of difficulty as well: "Very exhausting for the navigator. In the dunes I can specify a point a few hundred meters away to my driver, here I have to give very often direction changes or route information quickly."

The eco award goes to team Seib. Olaf and Alexandra enjoyed most of the sunny day tour in their Defender 90 on the salvage belt of Walter "Watson" Schneider’s Unimog. It went well for the Kastners, who were second fastest in the finish. "The tour was a lot of fun," according to junior behind the wheel. "We were given quite a good shake." And the senior said: "From my point of view there wasn’t enough sand on the track".

The rookies in the group, Sebastian Billinger and Philipp Klopf, had less fun today. On the gravel from hell their two rear tyres burst simultaneously. That’s stupid, as they only took one spare tyre with them for this stage.

So back they went in single file to camp Zmela - pumping up again and again. "Besides we forgot a helmet somewhere. We’re driving out again to look for it." This really earned them the last place award of the day.

Team Tarzahn had to return immediately after the start. Their mechanic had thrown in the white towel for this edition of the Grand Erg. "We can roll till Douz, but a rally is not possible with that motor anymore." The atmosphere is tense.
The crew can be encouraged during the hearty evening program in camp Zmela. Food is served outside, camels circle the fire and dancers put Grand Erg’s baggage train in the right mood for the definitely last night in the desert.

2012/04/30 | 18:30 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/HS/RUSSLER











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