WEDNESDAY 7TH OF JANUARY STAGE # 8: AZOUGUI / AZOUGUI: 404 km TRANSFERT: BIVOUAC / START OF THE STAGE: 6 km STAGE: AZOUGUI / ATAR: 358 km LIAISON: ATAR / AZOUGUI: 40 km
Even if the day was difficult for a lot of people on Tuesday, only three vehicles did not make it to the bivouac in Azougui on Wednesday morning - Noel ESSERS and his truck are still stuck in the dunes as well as David FRETIGNE and Bernard MONTAZ who have their bikes on the balai truck. 11 participants arrived way to late to be at the start of the Azougui loop ( stage 8 ), so they spent the day repairing and resting to charge their batteries in order to get back in the race Thursday. As a result, only 21 bikes and 28 auto/truck took the start at 8am Wednesday morning for one of the nicest stage of the 2015 Africa Eco Race.
Once again, the bikers are the ones who managed the difficulties best as only 3 of them were missing at the finish at 5pm. Austria’s Robert THEURETZBACHER who started in 2nd place managed to catch Pal Anders ULLEVALSETER. This brings the Austrian to his second stage victory in the 2015 Africa Eco Race. A situation which the Norwegian did not really expect, even if he is still leading the general standings, he advised THEURETZBACHER to clean his air filter for tomorrow! The Austrian answered back, saying that by following him, he would reduce the error margin and therefore keep his second place in the general ranks!!
There was a wait of nearly 13 minutes to see Ingo WALDSCHMIDT, 3rd of the day, cross the line in front of Gilles VANDERVEYEN 21’53’’ behind the Namibian. Vadim PRITULYAK finishes 5th whereas Stefano PELLONI is 9th after losing himself after CP1. A shame as he had caught up on the leaders. Anastasiya NIFONTOVA ends the day 10th and with a large smile on her face even though she was marked by the effort.
On four wheels, the day was way more complicated than for the bikes. Why? Because of dunes,.A lot of the participants got stuck and had a very hard time to get out. Due to this, the spreads are becoming quite impressive as apart from the top 5, all the others finish over an hour behind - and only about 20 arrived at the bivouac and stamped their end of stage. The big winner of the day was Jean Antoine SABATIER who’s BUGGA ONE ended the 357 km long stage in slightly over 5 hours. At the end of the stage, the French-Moroccan paid tribute to the quality of the Didier HAQUETTE’s ( SERRADORI’s co-pilot ) navigation. Indeed, the Predator of Mathieu SERRADORI opened the track but due to a puncture, SABATIER found the way to pass him around km 60.T
But he still leads the overall standings as SHIBALOV and his KAMAZ made some errors and ended the day in 5th position.
The only 4WD car to cope well was the OSCAR of Anton GRIGOROV, 3rd of the day at 24’11’’, in front of the KAMAZ of Sergey KUPRIANOV.
Superb performance from Patrick MARTIN and his VW TAREK as he finishes in 6th position in front of Kazakhstan’s SHAGIROV and SAZONOV.
This type of stage is a good way to show how some drivers can perform in difficult conditions. Jacques BRUN is a perfect example as he ends the day in 11th position at the wheel of his BOWLER in front of Thierry MAURY and his NISSAN pick up and Marat ABYKAYEV 13th overall and 1st in T2.
In the trucks category, Apart from the two KAMAZ of Sergey KUPRIANOV, 4th with a time of 28'43" and Anton SHIBALOV, 5th with a time of 39'46", and the MAN of Elisabete JACINTO finished 9th within 2 hours. The SCANIA of Miklos KOVACS was placed 10th more than 2 hours while Tomas TOMECEK, who is a specialist when it comes to the sand stages, only taking 14th place at about three and a half hours.
Today, Thursday, the 9th stage of the Africa Eco Race will bring the competitors from Azougui to Akjoujt on a 367 km long stage, very similar to the previous two stages.