Today was the longest of the 2012 Sonangol Africa Eco Race as crews travelled some 770km between As Sakn and Dakhla in the south of Morocco, but despite what Rene Metge predicted the stage did not produce many surprises in the leaderboard. Jean Louis Schlesser again won the car class while Oscar Polli and Elisabete Jacinto took the honours in the motorcycle and truck categories.On the eve of the rest day in Dakhla, the last stage held in Morocco could have thrown up some surprises, but despite the navigation being very complicated it seems the co-drivers listened well to Rene Metge's briefing and there were no major incidents on the 348km stage. So it is a relaxed atmosphere tonight in the camp located on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. In the motorcycle category, Oscar Polli, the overall leader, took another stage victory, but the Italian came very close to the disaster as at km161 he and André Lenoble collided. One was checking the GPS and the other just didn't see... and they fell heavily. Fortunately though, the damage was limited to a bruise on Polli's hip and broken instruments on Lenoble's bike. Oscar Polli was able to get back on track and was accompanied over the line by Xavier Moreau. Behind, although running without GPS and therefore having to depend only on the roadbook Joseph Palacios took a fine 3rd place, just over 3 minutes behind Moreau. However concerns remain, however, to Norbert Dubois who is suffering from a bad stomach bug and struggled through more than half an hour behind Polli. Still, he was pleased to have finished the stage and is now looking forward to hunting down his rival in the Mauritanian stages.
In the car class, Jean Louis Schlesser and Cyril Esquirol once again won the stage, although only 1'27'' ahead of the MD Rallye Buggy of Regis Delahaye and Konstantin Zhitlov after a 'nice fight'. Separated by 11'04'' the two buggies seem to have control over the race as for the second stage running Jacky Loomans and Frits Driesmans had problems in their Overdrive Amarok. After hitting a rock and then getting a puncture they finished only 9th and are now over an hour behind the leaders. Performance of the day goes to Philippe Porcheron and Cedric Rivet in their MD Rallye Buggy, and this even after stopping for 10 minutes to help the Fromont family. Hubert Auriol and Jean Paul Forthomme were fifth in their W01 Buggy and it was a day to remember as it was the first stage so far that they completed without having problems! Hubert "The African" is now in 16th position overall.
The honking of the horn and the big smile on Elisabete Jacinto's face as she got out of her MAN told the story of her day as she took 13 minutes back from the TATRA of Tomas Tomecek and Vojtech Moraveck. Elisabetta gave credit to her navigator José Marques who followed the route perfectly and returned them to withing 25 minutes of the leader. The third truck to finish was the MAN of Belgians Noël Essers, Marc Lauwers and Peter Belmans, who are in 3rd overall.
Tomorrow, after a morning of rest in Dakhla, the convoy of the Sonangol Africa Eco Race will cross into Mauritania. On the 4th of January will be a long stage made up of 100% sand.