Africa Race 2024: First Stage in Mauritania for the Africa Eco Race 2024

Africa Race 2024: First Stage in Mauritania for the Africa Eco Race 2024

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The AFRICA ECO RACE caravan got up at the crack of dawn on Monday 8 January to complete the 370km route to the Moroccan border. A typical Moroccan buffet awaited the participants before they left the country and crossed No Man's Land into Mauritania. After passing through customs and completing a 30km liaison, the competitors in this 15th edition started from Boulanouar for the 205km special stage to the Chami bivouac. It was an ideal start to the second week of the rally, which saw them discover the sandy tracks.

Once again, the three leading motorbike riders were together in the battle today, and this time it turned in favour of Pol TARRES. Riding his Yamaha 700 Ténéré, the Andorran beat Italian Jacopo CERUTTI's APRILIA 660 Tuareg by 00:01:07 and team-mate Alessandro BOTTURI by 00:01:52.

With his 2nd victory, TARRES regained second place overall, the lead is still held by CERUTTI, while BOTTURI moved up to 3rd. But the gaps are closing and tomorrow, everything could change in the Chami loo.

In the 450 category, however, Guillaume BORNE, the revelation of the early stages, crashed out at kilometre 8 of the special stage. The Franco-Moroccan was picked up with a shoulder and rib problem. He was taken to hospital in Nouakchott for further tests. The rider of the N°125 HUSQVARNA therefore offers the lead in the 450 classification to Giovanni GRITTI on a HONDA. The Italian, who is none other than the son of Alessandro GRITTI, a true legend of off-road motorcycling in Italy, set the 7th fastest time of the day. The good news for him is that he could also make up for the minutes he lost when he stopped to assist BORNE. GRITTI now has an overall lead of more than 45 minutes over Alexandre VAUDAN. By finishing 6th in Chami, the Swiss rider is now leader of the ROOKIE RIDERS BY ACERBIS category, set up to reward newcomers to a major rally.

214 ZALA Vaidotas (ltu), FIUZA Paulo (prt), X-Raid Arijus Team, Mini John Cooper Works Rally Plus, FIA Ultimate, action during the Stage 3 of the Dakar 2024 on January 8, 2024 between Al Duwadimi and Al Salamiya, Saudi Arabia - Photo Frédéric Le Floc'h / DPPI

Today, the big guns were out in force, with only twin-cylinder bikes in the top 5, with the YAMAHA of Italian Alessandro RUOSO in 4th place, ahead of the APRILIA of Francesco MONTANARI. There were plenty of Italian-sounding names, and for good reason, with eight Italians in today's top 10 and six in the provisional overall. Among them is Marco Aurelio FONTANA, bronze medallist in the mountain bike event in London in 2012 and therefore the first Olympic medallist to take part in a motorbike rally.

On four wheels, the two APACHE SSV were untouchable on this first Mauritanian stage, which was entirely sandy and very fast. Pierre-Louis LOUBET and François BORSOTTO scored their third special stage victory. The WRC driver beat his team-mate Gautier PAULIN, driven by Rémi BOULANGER, brother of Edouard BOULANGER, the co-driver of a certain Stéphane PETERHANSEL, by 00:05:39. 3rd place on four wheels went to the SCANIA of Aad VAN VELSEN, Michel VAN VELSEN and Marco SIEMONS at 00:06:44. A very fine performance for this Dutch trucker, a regular on the AFRICA ECO RACE and increasingly competitive on this truck bought from Hungarian Miklos KOVACS after his victory in the category in 2020.

On the other hand, a number of riders lost out today, including Frédéric HENRICY and Eric BERSEY, who broke two variator belts on their POLARIS SSV. Second overall coming out of Morocco, the Frenchmen are now being overtaken by Spaniards Carlos VENTO and Carlos RUIZ MORENO, 4th today on their CAN AM. And the fall in the standings may not be over yet, as they were towed out of the special by another team that was in trouble today. Imre VARGA and Jozsef TOMA were the victims of a rollover. Fortunately safe, and put back on their wheels by Pascal FERYN, despite being their main rival in the car classification, the Hungarians then played the role of “Saint-Bernards” of the Desert by towing HENRICY's SSV.

Meanwhile, the days went by and Gautier PAULIN, in the lead since the first stage, further consolidated his lead in the overall standings with an advantage of 02:34:30. So there's plenty to look forward to for the rest of the AFRICA ECO RACE.

Tomorrow, Tuesday 8 January 2024, the first of the two loops of this 15th edition of the AFRICA ECO RACE will take the competitors from "Gare Du Nord", 20 km from Chami, to a finish directly at the bivouac, after 453 km of special stages. The first big chunk in the Mauritanian sands could make all the difference.

Source Africa Eco Race

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