|Grand Erg: Shortened sand-stage on Sunday, stagewin for Bergler/Muehlbach.|
Rallyreport by Joerg Russler: Day 8. After placing Tunisia’s complete menu of off-road pleasures on the table in Saturday’s stage, we’re going to serve a meal consisting of all kind of courses on Sunday.
On the way from camp Zmela back to Douz with altogether about 100 km of special stage, first task is to overcome the high dunes barrier, which cuts through all of south Tunisia from the north.
Then a long dunes passage with rich greenery changes in ("You feel more like driving through the TV series Daktari than in Tunisia, absolutely strange landscape: Large dunes with bushes and trees as high as houses. You constantly expect that an elephant will be in your way. Awesome!", rally director Joerg Russler reported).
Next there are a bit tougher tracks and tricky navigation; after that we’ll drive again from Ksar Ghilane almost the beeline to Douz, through the "no can do" dunes from day 3, although it’s a few km towards more difficult.
To end it all a lot of high-speed tracks again, some of which are multi-tracks, so that there should be some interesting neck-and-neck races and the finish will be after the last Sabria white soft sand dunes in the camel stadium of Douz. We‘re looking forward to the bratwurst (fried sausage) after the finish line!
Stage Report SS08 Camp Zmela - Douz
Departure back to civilisation. And as the sweeper trucks are still freeing the mortally wounded from the sand, Joerg Russler, the rally director, abstains from driving through the thick belt of dunes again today. Spontaneously he changes the road book and lets the followers of participants drive a detour of 30 km, which is easier to cope with.
So now it’s mainly about performance under the hood and a watchful eye to find the fastest way through this labyrinth of piles of sand. Just the right terrain for former race driver Ernst Ruebsam in his 300 HP Grand Cherokee Jeep.
"The motor doesn’t run really well - doesn’t have full power", he says. Considering that, he is still extremely fast, drifting around every mini dune. While racing on the ultra fast gravel track at high speed just outside of Douz, a wishbone at the front axle breaks and he can barely prevent a bad accident.
So that was it with a double stage victory. On top of all a powerful sand storm is incidentally approaching, that reduces the sight to only a few metres and makes repairs under the car impossible. So the complete starting field passes him today.
In the meantime, the team, which is going to be released first by the sand storm on the horizon, is being awaited eagerly.
Team 200 races through the finishing line with the day’s fastest time. Despite of the visibility conditions, navigator Christian Muehlbach and driver Thomas Bergler had a lot of fun: "It was so awesome, but windy as hell. Tracks, finding the tracks, the tracks lead somewhere, the wind really fantastic, only 20 metres of sight."
Team Kastner drove relaxed and casually to second place, although the consistent problems with the motor cooling did let the team work up a sweat.
"We had tailwind and the cooler only works with headwind, so at the end in the dunes it was very soft and wet." As "very exhausting but wonderful", the two described the route and that they were able to keep third place in the overall ranking was the icing on the cake for this stage.
"We always have fun." With a mile Martin Kern and Martin Geis race through the time gate "it was super. However a very nasty sand storm, getting out of the car was no fun today. Unfortunately we got stuck once and had to get out and shovel a lot." Nevertheless still a very good result: "arriving in third place is excellent." At the end of the day they drop to fifth place, as other teams (e.g. Britz) receive time credit for voluntary rescue operations.
The last place award of the day goes today to team Holz. Torsten and Manuela were heading safely for the navigation point for the second passage control, which was hidden behind a hill. But what is that? Within sight of the yellow sign with the stamp on it (marking for the entrance) they make a sharp turn to the right, into the vegetables.
Penalty time for a missed stamp? Not at all. Five minutes later they drive back quickly and go through passage control according to the rules. That’s tough luck! A scrap of comfort: their broad tracks in the landscape are followed by team Rosenberger, team Bernnholz as well as the eight-wheeler of team Britz.
2012/05/02 | 15:24 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/HS/RUSSLER