The penultimate Moroccan stage of the 2015 Africa Eco Race saw a big descent towards Southern Morocco with a very technical leg between Assa and Oued Aarraid.A very violent wind was sweeping the finish line not far away from As Sakn, when Pal Anders ULLEVALSETER crossed the line in 1st position as he has done everyday since the beginning of the Rally. But, he nearly got beaten by Robert THEURETZBACHER who edged closer and closer to him just after 100km of stage.
After the refuel of CP 3, ULLEVALSETER made a navigation error but THEURETZBACHER alsogot a bit lost and finally finished 7’25’’ behind the Norwegian and being passed by Italy’s Stefano PELLONI on his HONDA. The Italian had good day beating numerous KTMs after a difficult stage the day before when he had to change the engine of his motorbike. One of the special features of the Africa Eco Race is that you can continue the race even if you have such problems.
A nice comeback from Vadim PRITULYAK saw him 5th on today’s stage finishing 15’58’’ behind the leader and 21 seconds in front of Namibia’s WALDSCHMIDT who has done a fantastic job since the start of the rally. Young french-senegalese, Julien SANCHEZ created the surprise of the day by entering the top 10 with his YAMAHA.
The biker who lost a lot today is Gilles VENDERWEYEN finishing only seventh, 27’17’’ behind the leader after he got lost during the stage. As a result, the Belgian lost his 3rd position to THEURETZBACHER. Nobert DUBOIS also had a few problems of which losing the rear of his KTM about 40 km before the end of the stage.
Finally, David FRETIGNE continues his journey on his 1200 SUPER TENERE YAMAHA, finishing 17th, just in front of Bernard MONTAZ and his 650 XR HONDA.
In the Auto category the battle developed in the top ranks between the 4WDs hounded as usual by the ‘small ‘ X18s PREDATOR Buggy of Mathieu SERRADORI, once again 2nd the day’s stage, 5’43’’ behind Miroslav ZAPLETAL.
The Czech started the day in 7th position this morning in Assa, pushing as hard as he possibly could at the wheel of his H3 evo to beat Jackie LOOMANS and his TOYOTA and cross the line in 1st postion.This victory puts him 1st in the general car ranks, 6’27’’ in front of Kazakhstan’s Yuriy SAZONOV once again in the top and LOOMANS 19’12’’ behind.
Kanat SHAGIROV and his TOYOTA Hilux finished in 4th position. This makes a total of four 4WDs cars at the top of the standings followed closely by the two buggies of Mathieu SERRADORI and Jean Antoine SABATIER who unfortunately lost more time today.
A fine performance from Belgium’s Erwin IMSCHOOT proved he is learning a lot at the wheel of his TOYOTA Hilux to finish 8th on today’s stage, just in front of Russia’s Anton GRIGOROV and his 03 OSCAR. The reliability of IMSCHOOT puts him in 7th position in the general ranks.
In the T2 category ( stock ), the VDJ 200 TOYOTA of Pawel MOLGO is still unbeatable, winning again even though he nearly crashed before crossing the line. Behind him follows Marc AIVAZIAN and his KDJ 120 TOYOTA signing a very nice performance, even if he had few problems at the beginning of the race. Marat ABYKAYEV and his NISSAN Patrol completes today’s podium. In the general standings, MOLGO has over 2 hours advance on JUCHAULT and his KDJ 120.
Problems in the truck category with two of the top machines ot finishing today’s stage.
Elisabete JACINTO partly broke the suspensions of her MAN Truck whereas Miklos KOVACS gearbox broke down. It is now obvious that if they decide to continue the Africa Eco Race, it will only be for fun. Anton SHIBALOV dominated today’s stage in his monsterous KAMAZ as he finished 4th in the scratch, only 11’15’’ behind ZAPLETAL’s car.
The second truck home of the day was Tomas TOMECEK and his TATRA finishing 9th at 43’28’’. The Czech finished in front of Gregoor BOUWENS at the wheel of his IVECO and the other KAMAZ ( gas powered ) driven by Sergey KUPRIANOV only 4th because of a puncture. In the general rankings, SHIBALOV is 1st in front of TOMECEK and his TATRA at 49 minutes and KUPRIANOV third at 1H30.
Saturday, the last Moroccan leg will take the participants of the Africa Eco Race in the suburbs of Laayoune. The stage will be 225km long before a very long liaison of 532km on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean to reach Dakhla, where they’ll find a beautiful bivouac for the resting day of Sunday.