When Draa rhymes with the Chegaga…Dunes

The first day of 2010 was definitely not a rest day, even though a tasty programme was in store for the competitors… The first twenty kilometres took place in a magnificent plain on a good track, but which was often twisty.  Reaching some low mountains, it was important to keep a close eye on the navigation…

A rocky, rough pass with a number of depressions came before the wide open spaces.  A fast plateau, a rolling track and a big saline lake towards the mountains made up the rest of the day’s programme.

At the 240 km point, it was time to get down to the serious business, with small dunes, often broken, interspersed with small flat saline lakes. ..

The last part of this third special stage went through the Draa wadi, the major Chegaga dunes and finally the Iriqui Lake… a magical panorama !

 

Down to serious business !

Although Jacky Loomans set off in first position this morning, it did not take long for Jean-Louis Schlesser to first catch, and then overtake him. François Lethier soon did likewise.  Without a tyre deflating system, and forced to go through the dunes with great care, the ‘Desert Fox’ did not lose his head, although he did give himself quite a scare by stopping dead right at the edge of an enormous dip.  Having avoided a catastrophe, the driver of the blue Buggy stormed towards the finish line, claiming his first stage win ahead of his team-mate François Lethier, who was delayed by a puncture and a blocked jack. Jacky Loomans, yesterday’s winner, lost some precious minutes after a puncture and becoming beached on top of a dune.  In the overall classification, the Belgian driver is lying third, approximately four minutes behind the new leader, Jean Louis Schlesser, who leads ahead of his team-mate.

Today’s big loser was Jérôme Pelichet. After a brilliant performance which would certainly have given him the stage win, the Bowler Wildcat driver saw some worrying blue smoke coming from his bonnet.  Having added oil, the Franco-Swiss team continued carefully towards the finish line, where they discovered a broken piston.  Team Raid Lynx is not giving up, however, and will do everything they can so that Jérôme and Eugénie can continue tomorrow morning.  A fine performance from ‘Mido’ should also be mentioned, as he set the 5th fastest time today, despite a small navigational mistake in the dunes, which took around 50 km to get back on the right track.   The sand, softer than expected, surprised all the competitors, who, despite a few problems, found the stage magnificent, once again.  Among the unluckier competitors,  Rudy Goeminne suffered a pierced radiator on his Audi Buggy, Karim El Zanaty, had a broken distribution cable pulley bearing, while the unfortunate Mohamed Asloun, driving the Ch’ti Kangoo, once again suffered electronic problems.

Among the trucks, it was a bad day for Elisabete Jacinto, who is now ten minutes behind Miklos Kovacs, who is still in the lead.  The Portuguese driver first suffered a rear right puncture, and then became stuck in the dunes… a tough day.  Noel Essers also suffered a few misadventures.

On two wheels, finally, the Italian clan suffered today.  Alberto Dottori pulled off his fuel tap before breaking down. This evening, Marco Capodacqua was leading the category.

 

Atmosphere

Jean-Louis Schlesser – Buggy Schlesser

«  We were very careful as we didn’t have a tyre deflating system and I didn’t want to get stuck.  The stage was really not easy… »

Jacky Loomans – Nissan Navara

« I must admit that I had fun today. Over the first 20 kilometres, which were very fast, it was impossible to follow the Schlesser Buggies. We caught up with them later on, but by being too careful, we got stuck on top of a dune.  In terms of navigation, it was still not easy !»

Jérôme Pelichet – Bowler Wildcat

« A broken piston !  It is even more disappointing as we were on the same pace as Jean-Louis. We felt that something was not quite right, and when we arrived close to the Iriqui Lake, we had to stop.  We then drove carefully to reach the finish line.  The special stage was magnificent, René has spoilt us again ! It was really not the best day for Team Raid Lynx… Edmond drove the last 200 kilometres without a terratrip or radio, while Kubicek suffered a broken transmission.  The mechanics are going to be really busy tonight ! »

« Mido » - Desert Warrior

« The special stage was excellent.  There was a bit of everything…  However, we did spent almost eight hours behind the wheel and this fifth position is really pleasing. The alternating fast and technical sections gave a perfect rhythm to the day.  Despite a small mistake which added about 50 km to our day,  we are satisfied.  But the rally is far from over…  »

Gilles Florin – Buggy Cotel

« These first dunes were not that easy.  We had a few problems with overheating while going through the wadi, but all is well ! »

Miklos Kovacs – Scania

«As the road-book told us, the day was difficult, but my co-driver was perfect and did not get lost once.  Despite a puncture, our gap over Elisabete is more ‘comfortable’ now… but Dakar is still a very long way away, so… we have to take care ! »