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Oman Desert Express: French Amateur Rally´s last dunes were "super"

Yesterday there was a growing sense of expectation as the finish line approached and the competitors began to draw near to Mascate, the end of The Oman Desert Express Quest 2006. Two teams, the Omanis (N°13) with Khalid Soomar/Rashid Baluski and Ahmed Al-Zadjali/Ali Arfy and Team Dessoude (N°5) with Andre Dessoude/Géraldine Deshayes, Marc Etienne/Jacky Dubois, reached the CP at Ibra, located at 250km from the Oman capital Mascate, before 16h30 (the obligatory stop time for all vehicles).

The CP at Ibra marked the end of any dunes, of straight-line erg crossings and of any regularity sections. In short, the end of the competition. This is the last time the stewards will note down the numbers from the vehicles' milometers and the last 250km running into Mascate will not be taken into account for the final ranking. This liaison portion of the race should provide the greatest pleasure for all the competitors on this Oman Desert Express Quest 2006 rally. A fully fledged tourist trip including a tour of the fortress of Nizwa, followed by a 2,200m moutain pass before plunging into Mascate.

But the final last line of dunes contained one more trap, judisciously included by Jean-Louis Dronne (course designer and race director). "There were four almost vertical downhills in the dunes; really very impressive", explained one of the Omani drivers of team N°13 (Khalid Soomar/Rashid Baluski and Ahmed Al-Zadjali/Ali Arfy). "The last dunes were really super," added André Dessoude (N°5). All were tired but very happy, with the wonder of the sumptuous landscapes they had crossed during the course of the race still shining brightly in their eyes.

But The Oman Desert Express Quest 2006, has a serious twist in its tail as finishing first is no guarantee of overall victory. At the last reliable verification, at the CP in Haima, team N°4 (Debanne/Lardeau, Pomart/Fieujan and Di Andia/Bourgnon) had fought their wat to within 2km of the leaders, the Russian team N°8 composed of the Gadasin/Kuznetsov and Mironenko/Palevich crews. They had taken the lead yesterday and waited this morning for several hours at the CP in Al Gabah for Debanne (N°4) and his acolytes joined them.

The goal being to keep them in sight until the finish if the race. The only notable incident of the day was fortunately without gravity. The car of team N°3 Gélineau/Fromaget (two French living in Dubaï) overturned on a dune and landed on its roof. Fortunately, the crew is ok and the following support vehicle, which arrived very quickly on the scene, put the car back on its wheels. In spite of a broken windshield, the vehicle runs fine and should have no problem getting to the finish in Mascate.

Today, the first competitors should be in the hôtel Majan in Mascate, the end of this Oman Desert Express Quest 2006. As for the last finishers, they should get there on Saturday 4th March 2006. Then the final calculations will be made and we will finally learn the identity of the winners of the Oman Desert Express Quest 2006. Check in tomorrow to know more!

2006/03/03 I 14:35 CET I Editor: Burg

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