ALGERIA RALLY : SAHARI RALLY
El Goléa (El Ménéa) – Ghardaïa
Liaison 33.43km – SS 7 178.30km – Liaison 119.03km
Thursday, November 8th 2018
The final race day was a day of speed.
Today’s race started out by a small Erg, then continued on to flat lands until adrars were visible in the distance, before the route took them alongside the mountains. Another day at full throttle, even when crossing the final dunes of the Sahari Rally 2018. Today’s track was very varied, technical and fast; just like all the other routes the FASM arranged for this year’s international challenge.
In a stage like this, the fastest competitors had the advantage as they edged away seconds, or precious minutes. The arrival of the motorcycles at the end of the special was truly spectacular: three side-by-side bikes appeared at the bottom of a valley racing at 150km/h. Alexandre Azinhais from Portugal whizzes alongside Alessandro Ruoso and Jonathan Blackburn, who won today’s stage.
Their travelling together was a tactical way to approach the sand and resulting dust, but also an excellent way to challenge each other up to the final meters of the Rally. Formula One-like racing and speeds amongst the cars today too.
Algerian champion Fodil Allahoum was the fastest, followed by Daoud-Lahbaki. Allahoum, navigated by Giacomo Tognarini, made it to the top step of the podium in the proto category of the Sahari Rally, and is in the head of the general rankings also. Paolo Ceci and Sara Bioli were slowed down by a timing belt breakage but made it to the end of the stage and won the rally in the SSV category.
The general rankings in the motorcycle category were disrupted overnight due to penalties due grievous irregularities, especially to the Algerian pilot.
Italian Alessandro Ruoso is first in the general motorcycle rankings. In the M1 category, Jonathan Blackburn is the winner, followed by Laurent Weibel and Alexandre Azinhais respectively. Alessandro Ruoso is first in the Open category (+650).
In the M2 (+450) category, Algerian Abdelkadel Mebarki takes home the prize, as does co-national Mustapha Himadouch in the quad category; while in the truck category, Libyan squad captained by Arakh Diet came in first.
LEE SALT, UK: This was a difficult rally, it is not for everyone and it is unforgiving. The type of terrain is adept to professionals who are well weathered and have lots of rally experience. You always have to keep track of different things and use your head, consulting the roadbook and paying attention to the ground. It is definitely not a rally for amateurs.
JONATHAN BLACKBURN, UK: Starting off today was not a walk in the park. It was a fast day crossing large plateaus, with a good mixture of CAP and navigation. Basically, a good track in true Dakar style, which ended with a nice, long spring to the finish line. All this in a single day. I’m pleased to have completed the Sahari Rally.
PAOLO CECI, Italy: In my opinion, this rally has enormous potential which has not been truly taken advantage of yet. Last year we tried to give some feedback and advice, this was not incorporated into this year’s race. This race was a great test for us, we learned a lot as we are inexperienced in the car category, but we’ll use our mistakes to get better. Sara had fun and proved she is a good navigator, although I never had any doubts.
LAURENT WEIBEL, France: For starters, I am happy the rally happened. After the death of Chihab Baloul, that was not a given. It seems the organization made some improvements over last year, thanks to the Stella tracking system. If I had to make a criticism, it’d be that we didn’t cross the most beautiful parts of Algeria. We always had the impression that the most beautiful places were right next to the track, but that we’d never make it to them.
Paola Picone photos APPhotosport