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Oman Desert Express: French Amateur Dunerally ends on Friday.

For the competitors of The Oman Desert Express Quest 2006, the transition from February to March was comensurate with a change in landscape, this Tuesday. But the temperature is still quite pleasant with 30°C in the shade and a relatively cool evenings. Yesterday morning, after having driven about fifteen kilometers along a superb beach, the last view of the seen Indian Ocean, the course took a sharp turn towards the interior of the country. Farewell to the sea and hello to mountains then the desert of Rub Al Khali, famous for its gigantic dunes.

Even as the mountains made their apppearance, it was clear that the keenest of the competitors had no intention of conceding even the merest kilometer. Making a beeline right for the "way-points", neglecting the winding tracks which could cause an increase in mileage, some event undertook to climb impressive cliffs, to gain a few, all-important metres. Team n° 2 (Debanne/Lardeau-Pomart/Fieujan and Florence Bourgnon/Alejandra Di Andia) were the most effective at this crafty game, regaining 5km on the Russian team n° 8 (Gadasin/Kuznetsov-Mironenko/Palevich) which had set out as leader after the teams regrouped at "Bora-Bora".

After crossing the CP at Haima, the incursion into the desert of Rub Al Khali was on high-speed tracks, with, to end the day, some rather awesome dunes to cross. The difficulty of this stage lay in the fact that this part of the course was a regularity section, with the need to average a speed of 60km/h over a distance of more than 300km. Leaving Haima very early team n° 13, composed of the Omani crews Soomar-Al Jabri and Al Touki-Al Wardi finished the 317km in 5h25, that is 8 minutes later than the assigned time, which meant they picked up a small penalty of 1,6km (200m for each minut late). "It was very difficult, with very high dunes", explained the Omanis, obviously impressed by their own country!

With an obligatory stop time at 16h30, in this second part of The Oman Desert Express Quest 2006, only three crews, having left Haima earlier than the rest, had reached the Al Gabah CP. The other cars started the section much later in the morning. They therefore had to stop in the dunes, making camp amidst the splendid, sandy surroundings. Some were already visibly impatient and eager for the morning to arrive. The question is, who will come closest to the imposed average on this section and hence be penalized the least? Many will spend the night beneath the stars dreaming about it...

2006/03/02 I 13:50 CET I Editor: Burg

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