A tough stage for a start on the Africa Eco Rally

Tuesday December 30th 2014 STAGE N° 1: NADOR / JORF EL HAMAM: 645 km LIAISON: NADOR / HASSI BERKANE: 66 km SPECIAL STAGE: HASSI BERKANE / MSOUN: 117 km LIAISON: MSOUN / JORF EL HAMAM: 462 km

Temperature was reaching just above 5°C around 9.45am when the first bike crossed the finish line of stage 1 of the Africa Eco Race 2015 set near Guersif in the west suburbs of Nador. As expected, Pal Anders ULLEVALSETER didn’t make a single error in the bikes category, as well as Jacky LOOMANS in the car category and the surprising Miklos KOVACS did the job for the truck category. But already some of the participants who were favourites for the podium considerably reduced their “JOKER” during the 116km of the first special stage.

René METGE: “This first short stage is close to Nador on purpose in order for everyone to go south in Morocco by day. It will not be easy and could hide some surprises”. The Sporting director’s words were confirmed as accidents occurred on two and four wheels.

First of all in the car category with the spectacular crash of Balazs SZALAY at km 24. This accident required the evasan by helicopter of his co-driver, Laszlo BUNKOCZI who was taken to the Nador hospital for medical checks. Luckily, it was the only crash of the day, but Mathieu SERRADORI as well as Yves FROMONT lost a lot of time due to mechanical problems.

The day was not easy for the bikes. Indeed, many bikers were handicapped by a track with low grip and Jean Antoine SABATIER finished 5th position after having lost nearly 10 minutes. Conditions suited the H3 HUMMER, starting with Andrey CHEREDNIKOV, 2nd, 4 seconds behind LOOMANS. Yuriy SAZONOV finished 3rd at 5 minutes and finally Miroslav ZAPLETAL ended the day 4th a bit under 9 minutes. Some navigation errors also happened meaning that gaps are already significant.

The big surprise came in the Truck category with a nice stage victory for Miklos KOVACS who managed to overtake the 3 time winner TATRA driver Tomas TOMECEK and the KAMAZ of Anton SHIBALOV. This superb result was due to the excellent work of Peter CZEGLEDI, the navigator of the SCANIA truck.

On 2 wheels and for his return in Africa, Pal Anders ULLEVALSETER had a nice stage, not making a single error in navigation even though he was the track opener.

The Norwegians were a force to be reckoned with as John Olav LINDTJORN, finished 2nd at about 8 minutes behind whereas Gilles VANDERWEYEN ended 3rd just in front of Austria’s Robert THEURETZBACHER, who had some navigation problems. Stefano PELLONI from Italy was the only HONDA bike to be in the top 5 pack surrounded by KTMs.

The last of the “big” names having problems on this year's Africa Eco Race is David FRETIGNE, who’s dashboard completely dismantled itself after only 19km, obliging him to end the stage with a temporary solution and by riding slowly to the end. But he will for sure find the opportunity to recover some of the time he lost until the end of the race.

Today, for the last day of this 2014 year, the competitors of this seventh edition of the Africa Eco Race will reach the first Moroccan dunes and 377km long stage between Jorf el Hamam and Tagounite.


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