|Grand Erg: Sand, sand - and more then half of competitors slept in dunes.|
Rallyreport by Jörg Russler: Day 4. Tembaine, outdoor camp at Grand Erg. It’s 21:00 hours. The desert is ruled by darkness. A clear starry night lies over the dunes of Grand Erg and the extravagantly prepared outdoor camp. The scenery couldn’t be any more peaceful.
However appearances are deceiving. Since the sand released again only five teams today. The remaining 23 sand knights have to spend the night in the middle of the desert. They had been fighting their way through the sand one hill after another all day long.
Stage Report SS03 Chott El Jerid - Douz - Camp Zmela - Ksar Ghilane
The task was clear for the first ones already early in the morning: digging, digging, and digging. Even secret favourites as the Kastners in their Toyota HZJ, who were fighting for traction under their tyres, had to admit defeat. It hardly seems to be the question of technology.
After all Ralf Britz’s black 8x8 monster had its share of problems with the huge dune belt as well. Although they make it over the finishing line on time. Just as Ulrich Mueller with his Defender reconstruction, although he loses his radiator hose in the thick of it and has to sacrifice his complete water reserve for the motor cooling. As that happened, he still had over 100 km of dunes in full heat ahead.
The accommodations in the dune field just about fully booked. Although the teams are not alone out there as two teams from the organisers and one medical team have gathered them into two groups.
However spending the night under the starry sky isn’t as romantic as it sounds. There isn’t much space in the vehicle for depositing luxury goods such as tents, sleeping bags or even thermal mats. The amount of food is rather minimal. Furthermore only 12 of the stranded teams will resume driving the stage early in the morning and will have the opportunity of starting the fifth stage, if they appear at the start on time. The remaining six need to be salvaged due to damaged vehicles.
In the end, the fastest ride over the chain of dunes was accomplished by team Britz. Thanks to their MAN "KAT" they were not to be defeated, despite time-consuming assistance operations in the sand. "Yes, we had towed out a vehicle twice and three times we had to dig ourselves free, but we still managed to drive on quickly. The "KAT" is just super," navigator Jutta Britz swoons.
Second place went to the winners of the day before. Martin Geis, the driver, who had won the same stage three years ago and had been three hours faster at the time, couldn’t figure out where he had lost time: "It was all that different either".
"The sand was probably softer", Joerg Russler director of organisations says. "There was one point on the route, at which many got a technical damage and the sand was especially crappy."
On third place were Christian Muehlbach / Thomas Bergler, they had shown after their short performance from day 2, that they haven’t given up on the contest. On the other hand Sabine Merz, on fourth place, was really happy that they had reached the finishing line after all. "The trip was indeed intense, but in hindsight it was fun." Fifth place went to Uli Mueller, who "wants to finish at least once as first" in 2012.
The day’s last place award goes to the girls’ team in the VW Golf II Country. Their green baby was somewhat vigorously dragged through the dunes by the grey eminence - Klaus Malzer’s Unimog. Bad for the bull bars, this took their leave after dune number 3. Finally the rescue over the wavy sea was done by the rear. The bitterest flavour of the day was tasted by Simone Kamin and Heike Elfenthal.
2012/04/26 | 22:03 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/HS/RUSSLER