SONANGOL AER : LEG 8 - BOULANOUAR / AKJOUJT Wednesday 4th of January 2012
Boulanouar / AkjoujtStage : 425 km -Liaison : 10 km
A "SUPER" STAGE !
One thing is certain, this 6th stage of the Sonangol Africa Eco Race between Boulanouar and Akjoujt, will be remembered by competitors of this fourth edition. Once again Jean Louis Schlesser in the car category and Oscar Polli in the bikes were the best, while in the truck class, Tomas Tomecek won by finishing second overall. But for many competitors, this 425 km long special has turned into an endless session of shovelling sand.
When he crossed the finish line, ten kilometres from the bivouac in Akjoujt, a village 300 km east of Nouakchott, Jean Louis Schlesser looked tired. After more than 6 hours of struggling to get his Sonangol Schlesser Buggy through the particularly soft white dunes his fatigue was warranted. Race Director René Metge said that this stage would be hard and he was right as it was two hours after Schlesser had passed that the next competitor came into sight. Probably no one would have guessed that it would be Erwin Imschoot and Werner Zoetaert in their T2 land Cruiser, especially after they barrel-rolled it 5 times a few days ago.
Four-wheel drive was the order of the day today as third were the Tunisians Salim Kamoun and Driss Sofian in their Toyota LRM 79, a pick-up used by the armies of the Maghreb countries to operate in the desert. The same was for the Bowler of Eric Radet and Thierry Coste were came in just ahead of the Russian buggy of Sergey Savenko and Denis Maltsev. Another notable performance came from the MD Rallye Megane of Jean Noël Julien and Frédéric Vivier.
As for Jacky Loomans, he awaited the Mauritanian sands with great anticipation, the Belgian driver was highly ranked after CP 2, but he had to repeatedly deflate the tyres of his pick-up to pass the dunes. He finished the stage nearly 2 hours behind Schlesser, but still managed to jump up to 2nd overall as the MD Rallye Buggy of Régis Delahaye and Konstantin Zhiltsov is not yet out of the stage at 19:00, Mauritania time.
In the results of the Sonangol Africa Eco Race, cars and trucks are classified together and rightly so as today the giants of the desert were on a par with and even dominated the cars with Tomas Tomecek and Vojtech Moraveck finishing 2nd overall. Elisabete Jacinto though, who freely admits that he truck doesn't like the dunes so much, got stuck several times and came in only 9th overall, loosing over 2 ½ hours to the leader.
On two wheels, Oscar Polli was once again the hero of the bike category of the Sonangol Africa Eco Race but making a faultless stage on his KTM 690 and at the stage finish was obviously delighted to have widened the gap with Norbert Dubois, his closest opponent. But Dubois himself was happy with 2nd 32'01'' behind Polli but nearly an hour ahead of Xavier Moreau, whose "little" KTM 450 suffered in the sand. Thierry Hervé did really well again today in his first major African rally. On his Yamaha 450 WRFhe finished fourth on the stage, 1:43 behind the winner. Overall Oscar Polli now has a little over an hour advantage over Norbert Dubois.
Thursday, all crews will return to the camp in Akjoujta after a loop of 413 km, again 100% sand. To finish, a quote from Rene Metge. It's only difficulties that make heroes!