The ultimate Moroccan stage of the AFRICA ECO RACE 2019, made up of a special sector of 420 km and of a 214 km liaison towards Dakhla, will have been more intense than what we would have been able to plan. Especially on four wheels where the battle between Buggies raged. Some are relieved to get out of Morocco. Others are worried about what is awaiting in the Mauritanian desert. But all are decided to take advantage of the rest day on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean to Dakhla to get back strength after practically 2000 kilometers of special stage in Morocco.



BOTTURI leaves Morocco as leader

On his YAMAHA, Alessandro BOTTURI was not lying this morning about catching up Pale Anders ULLEVALSETER who opened the track with his KTM. Once the Norwegian was caught up by the Italian, both men drove together for 400 kilometers until the finish line, swept away by strong wind. In the end, BOTTURI was ahead of ULLEVALSETER by 1’23’’ and in the overall ranking, 7’26’’. Behind both strong men of the rally, in front of the KTM of Felix JENSEN, driving an Austrian machine, Martin BENKO takes 3rd place today and therefore 3rd place overall in front of Simone AGAZZI. The Italian preferred playing it safe until he feels comfortable behind the wheel of his HONDA, furthermore that this special stage was fast and needed serious navigation skills. It is due to that today, that we saw several competitors driving in small groups, in order to collaborate and not risqué to lose or arrive late in Dakhla. The surprise of the day was the ranking of the Italian Domenico CIPOLLONE who takes 6th place on the special stage as well as on the overall ranking, in front of Francois Philippe CAVELIUS. Great performance also for the Spanish pilot Juan Jose CAMPDERA LOZANO, 7th on the scratch and first in the malle moto ranking, drivers who compete without assistance, in which the leader is the French Stéphane HAMARD with an 8th overall.



KUPRIANOV leads the battle of the Buggies

When Dominique LAURE and Christophe CRESPO came out of their OPTIMUS around 2PM, they were as satisfied as the previous days. And the reason is because a few minutes later, David GERARD and Pascal DELACOUR arrived at the finish line. This moment, it was sure, they wouldn’t win their 5th special stage in a row as Jean-Louis SCHLESSER did in the past. Especially when they saw Sergey and Aleksandr KUPRIANOV pass the finish line barely after the AFRICA ECO RACE TV production started interviewing David GERARD. Knowing they departed in 6th place, everybody understood that OPTIMUS of the Russian did well and had just won the special stage, 33’’ in front of the TAREK of Patrick MARTIN and Didier BIGOT. A very small difference considering the 420 km of special stages disputed at over 110 km/h. Another OPTIMUS completes the podium of the day. It is the one of Jean-Nöel and Rabha JULIEN who end at 1’48’’ and take third place of the overall auto-truck category. The overall ranking is still dominated by Dominique LAURE and Christophe CRESPO, 22’30’’ ahead of Jean-Pierre STRUGO and Francois BORSOTTO. In a different category, before the entrance in Mauritania, in the SSVs, Rudy ROQUESALANE, Vincent Ferry on CAN AM are running the show, same as Gérald MOGNIER and Pierre ROUBIN in the OPEN category with their Buggy PEUGEOT, Francois and Stéphane COUSIN in 4×4 and Kenjiro SHINOZUKA & Cathy DEROUSSEAUX in T2.



Elisabete JACINTO imperial in the truck category

The large smile of Elisabete JACINTO when she got out of his truck was satisfying to see. The Portuguese driver, perfectly assisted by Jose MARQUES and Marco COCHIN, won first place in the truck category by getting the 7th time of the day at only 10’06’’ from auto leader. Taking into account that the MAN team stopped 8 minutes after 3km for some mechanical problems in the intercooler, we can say it’s an impressive performance. A result that enables them to take the lead again of the truck overall ranking, also due to the clutch problems of Tomas TOMECEK TATRA, towed to come out of the track. Good deal for Igor BOUWENS, Tom DE LEUW and Ulrich BOERBOOM, 10th with their IVECO and this, even though they had a problem with their turbo. The Belgiums are ahead of the Holland team Johan ELFRINK and Dirk SCHUTTEL who place their MERCEDES on the truck podium for the first time since the start of the AFRICA ECO RACE. In the overall ranking, Nöel ESSERS, Marc LAUWERS and Johan COONIX are now in second place ahead of Igor BOUWENS, who clearly has the best progression.



This Sunday 6th of January 2019, the competitors of the AFRICA ECO RACE will benefit from a day of rest in Dakhla, this sand bank in the Southern extremety of Morocco where temperatures are around 25 degress. A well deserved rest to reboot along the Atlantic Ocean before the second week in the Mauritanian desert.



Alessandro BOTTURI – YAMAHA – ENERGY & SORRISI RALLY TEAM – Italy: 1st of the stage and overall moto

It was still a very nice special with lots of navigation. I quickly caught up with Pal Anders ULLEVALSETER. Then he followed me. I did not make a navigation mistake and we drove very fast. This first week ends very well on this magnificent rally. I am ready for Mauritania where I hope there will be no issue to continue and enjoy.

Martin BENKO – KTM – SLOVAKIA RALLY TEAM – Slovakia: 3rd of the stage and 3rd of the overall moto

I really liked this stage where we had fun while riding together with Félix JENSEN. The desert of Morocco is beautiful when it is green as it was the case today. I am happy to arrive at the day of rest in Dakhla because I am very tired of the efforts made in Morocco with big difficult stages.

Sergey KUPRIANOV – OPTIMUS ® – MD RALLY SPORT – Russia: 1st of the stage and 8th of the overall Auto-Truck

I am extremely surprised to have won this stage. This is my first victory on the AFRICA ECO RACE. The navigation was very complicated but considering this success, I think we managed to find the right track. I am really happy and I hope that I will have the opportunity to do this again in Mauritania.

Elisabete JACINTO – MAN – TEAM BIO-RITMO – Portugal: 1st of the stage and 1st of the overall truck

What a joy to win today! Especially since we were forced to stop after 3 kilometers to put a hose intercooler dislodged because of a crampon that broke off a tire. We lost 8 minutes but I attacked a maximum throughout the stage and Jose navigated perfectly. I leave Morocco, which is my favourite field, at the head of the race. I hope everything goes well in Mauritania where we can waste a lot of time in the dunes. In the meantime, we will enjoy the day of rest to work even further to improve the truck so that it is perfect next week.