The sun is finally back in Mauritania, bringing along more consistent temperatures to the region and giving a boost to the caravan of the Africa Eco Race 2015 to begin the final stretch of the rally. Good mood was present this morning at the bivouac of Azougui where the start of the 367 km long stage to Akjoujt was given. As the liaison was not long, many members of the organization and assistances remained to encourage the bravery of the ones who had arrived from the day before during the night and were already lined up at the start the next morning.
Every day that passes by takes Pal Anders Ullevalseter closer and closer towards the final victory. 2nd at the start this morning, the Norwegian has won over Robert THEURETZBACHER, who is his direct opponent in general standings, with over 22’48 ”. Moreover, the Austrian who had started quite nicely until CP3, got lost in the last dunes, giving away the second place of the day to Ingo WALDSCHMIDT. The Namibian poultry farmer loves the sand and it proves, once again, he should be fighting for the final podium as he is now only 39 seconds behind Gilles Vanderweyen. The Belgian has yet given everything hoping to get a result on the day of its 42 years. He finished 4th in the stage, saving his 3rd place in the overall standings.
We have to say the bikes category has been quite busy on this 9th stage as from 4th to 7th, in other words, from Gilles Vanderweyen, Vadim Pritulyak, John Olav Lindtjørn and Norbert Dubois, all four bikers are held in 2’30 ” only. A very exciting race with other bikers such as Julian Sanchez, Stefano PELLONI or Anastasiya NIFONTOVA who confirms her talent by entering in the top 10 once again.
Newcomers are also pointing the tip of their nose in the top 10 such as Slovakia’s Jan Zaťko or Great Britain’s Robin POWELL.
Finally, a word about David FRETIGNE who, after a short night in the desert being stuck in a dune due to the weight of his 1200 Yamaha Super Ténéré ; he left this morning with the same dertermination to discover the limits of this legendary machine.
The real bombshell of this 7th edition of the Africa Eco Race came from the Auto category. Indeed, Jean Antoine Sabatier arrived in first position and during ten minutes he was explaining to the press that Mathieu Serradori lost time due to a puncture and that he would arrive at any moment. The PREDATOR No. 211 was actually seen by all, 500m away from the finish line of the stage. But the blue Buggy did not move… so Didier HAQUETTE and Mathieu Serradori had to get out of the car to push it to the finish line. All their efforts were pointless as the Buggy was impossible to restart as the engine broke. A disaster for the French crew who had previously done a faultless stage and were still at the top of the overall standings this morning. A huge disappointment especially for the former biker who had invested heavily to prepare for this race. Mathieu Serradori immediately left the bivouac to reach Nouakchott. He will fly back to france this evening to be at his work tomorrow in order to forget the disapointment.
For his opponent, namely Jean Antoine SABATIER, the horizon is now cleared. The new leader of the overall ranks has over fifty minutes advance on the KAMAZ of Anton SHIBALOV. For the last two Mauritanian stages, the Franco-Moroccan will however have to manage his race and his Bugga ONE as it is rare to see KAMAZ in difficulty and, in addition to that, Sergey KUPRIANOV is in 3rd place in the general standings, at the wheel of the gas powered KAMAZ. In other words, Sabatier can’t do a single error.
Anton GRIGOROV and his OSCAR signs a great performance once again by finishing 2nd on today’s stage, 9’13 ” ahead of Patrick MARTIN and his VW Tarek at 34’38 ”. Behind the Kazakhs are always present with Kanat SHAGIROV and his TOYOTA and Andrey CHEREDNIKOV respectively 4th and 5th, in front of Philippe PORCHERON that reappeared and finished sixth at the wheel of his buggy in front of Yuriy SAZONOV’s H3 HUMMER
The Eastern countries monopolize the top places as there are 3 Russians, 3 Kazakhs and 1 Czech in the Top 10.
After the trouble he had yesterday, Tomas TOMECEK caught up today by putting his TATRA in front of the Elisabete JACINTO’s MAN truck and the KAMAZ of Sergey KUPRIANOV. Therefore, TOMECEK confirms his third place in the general ranks just behind KUPRIANOV and SHIBALOV in both KAMAZ trucks.
Tomorrow the second last stage in Mauritania begins, and which should be a great stage for the Africa Eco Race 2015. This stage will start from the bivouac in Akjoujt and will finish in Toueila with a special stage of 342km, mainly consisted of crossing a very big and challenging dune pack which will make this stage unforgettable for all the participants still in the race.