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Up until now, the AFRICA ECO RACE has been spared from weather problems. Unfortunately, on Friday morning, for the 10th stage, a violent wind swept across the Amodjar plateau causing a sandstorm that prevented the organisation's helicopters from taking off. Without a helicopter, it was impossible to ensure optimum safety and to monitor the race, so the decision was taken to send the bikes, cars and trucks in convoy to the petrol station from where the start was given. As a result, the 387km special stage was shortened by 190km, cutting out the section of dunes planned for the start of the stage.
In the motorbike category, after yesterday's 6-minute penalty for Alessandro BOTTURI, it's fair to say that the blues were in low spirits this morning. Indeed, it would have been difficult to take back those 6 minutes from Jacopo CERRUTI, the APRILIA driver, who has been imperious since the start of the Rally. Despite this, Alessandro BOTTURI gave his all on his Yamaha 700 Tenere to win the special stage with a time of 00:02:26 over Jacopo CERUTTI's APRILA 660 Tuareg, 2nd on the day. Overall, BOTTURI is now just 00:04:38 behind CERRUTI.
That's not much, but it's also a lot, because tomorrow there will be just 247 km of special stage left for BOTTURI to try and turn things around. But, as he'll be opening up the track, it's almost mission impossible. Especially as CERRUTI will be able to count on his APRILIA team-mate Francesco MONTANARI, who made a fantastic comeback today to finish third. He could well be in the mix tomorrow.
The end of the rally was rather successful for the young guns of the discipline, with Frenchman Attilio FERT taking 4th place on his KTM, ahead of the HONDA of Italian Marco Aurelio FONTANA and the KTM of Swiss rider Alexandre VAUDAN, still leader of the Rookie Rider By Acerbis Challenge.
Now, with Giovanni GRITTI's fuel supply problems today, he is also leader of the 450s overall. In the Motul Xtreme Rider, Patrice CARRILLON again finished ahead on this 11th stage. The Frenchman is now 13th overall and more than 2 hours ahead of Antoine DETOURBET, his compatriot and runner-up in the motorbike trunks category.
On four wheels, Gautier PAULIN and Remi BOULANGER once again put their APACHE to the test. The Frenchmen were 26 seconds ahead of the CAN AM of Portugal's Ricardo SOUSA and Jorge BRANDAO. On the eve of the finish, this legend of world Motocross, who is taking part in his first Cross-Country Rally, now has a lead of almost 4 hours over the TOYOTA Hilux of Belgian Pascal FERYN, 3rd on the stage. Nevertheless, he remained cautious during the interviews at the finish:
"I was really keen to score another stage win on this AFRICA ECO RACE. At the same time, it's the best way of consolidating our first place. But be careful, as long as the chequered flag hasn't fallen, anything can happen! Let's not get carried away and wait until tomorrow".
In the truck category, Aad VAN VELSEN, Michel VAN VELSEN and Marco SIEMONS made amends for their antics yesterday and spent a good part of the night repairing the SCANIA which had been damaged after lying down in the dunes. The Dutchmen finished 9th overall, ahead of the TATRA of Tomas TOMECEK and the GINAF of Belgians Cedric FERYN, Bjorn BURGELMAN and Tom DE LEEUW. Overall, barring a catastrophe, victory should not elude TOMECEK, who has a lead of over 2 hours.
In the Classic race, Andres BRABECK-LEMATHE and Laurent MAGAT came out on top in the only Regularity Zone of this 10th stage, being just 10 seconds off the ideal time over the 59 km. Overall, Belgian drivers Eric and Tom CLAEYS are still in the lead in their TOYOTA BJ73, but tomorrow there will be two ZRs of 59 km and 150 km. This last ZR, with its unusual distance in the discipline, could well be the judge of this first edition of the AFRICA ECO RACE.
As always on the AFRICA ECO RACE, Saturday's final day will be the last stage to include a timed sector. This will be the only opportunity for some competitors to put in a good performance before the finish, which will be judged not far from Nouakchott after 247km of special stages. All that remains for the finishers is a 255km liaison to the bivouac near Saint Louis in Senegal, where they will be reunited with friends, family and partners who have come specially for the occasion.
Source: Africa Eco Race
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