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Africa Race 2024: Koen Wauters wins the fifth stage

Africa Race 2024: Koen Wauters wins the fifth stage

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Koen Wauters and Kris Van Der Steen (Toyota Hilux) won the fifth stage of the Africa Eco Race on Saturday afternoon. It was a first ever victory in a rally raid for both Koen Wauters and Team Feryn Dakar Sport. Koen Wauters ends his first Africa Eco Race on a high. Pascal Feryn and Kurt Keysers (Toyota Hilux) finished sixth on Saturday. They remain fifth and first car in the position. Tom De Leeuw, Cedric Feryn and Bjorn Burgelman (Ginaf) rode the sixteenth fastest time. They move up to eleventh place in the standings.

On Friday, Koen Wauters was already close to the stage victory. After a nice duel with Loubet, Wauters got the upper hand and the stage victory was within reach until he suffered two punctures at the end of the stage and narrowly missed out on the victory. “Today we got a second chance. We knew it would be a fast ride and that we had the advantage over the SSVs in terms of pure top speed," says Koen Wauters. “Our hopes were confirmed when I overtook the first two of the rankings. From that moment on I only had to deal with Pascal and the other Toyota. After just over three and a half hours of racing we were inside and won the stage. Kris navigated excellently and was on point every time. We had no technical problems and had no punctures. In short, a perfect day. And a fast one with an average speed of 128 km/h.”

Koen Wauters has a long history in motorsport. In 1992 he made his debut with an Albert Vanierschot car in the 24 Hours of Zolder. Four years later he rode his first Dakar as co-pilot of Jacky Loomans. The duo then finished 27th with a Toyota. One year later, Koen Wauters got behind the wheel of the Toyota and finished 63rd with Marc Van Puyenbroeck next to him as co-driver. Between 1996 and 2012, Koen Wauters participated in the Dakar twelve times. In 2022 he took part in the Dakar Classic. Koen Wauters is one of the few Belgians who has ridden the Dakar in four continents: Europe, Africa, South America and Asia.

After the debacle of the inspection in the run-up to the Dakar, Koen, Pascal and the team decided not to participate in the Dakar for the time being and to look for another challenge. That was found in the Africa Eco Race. On January 6, 2024, he wins his first ever stage in a rally raid. “Winning is fantastic, but we also have to stay level-headed. The level here is lower than, say, in the Dakar. On the other hand, we ride on the course that has served the Dakar for years and is therefore up to standard. I'm happy for Kris and for the team. Everyone has been working on this for months. I think it's great that I can reward their efforts with a stage victory. And I am extremely satisfied myself. I knew we had a chance here and we showed that.”

This week Koen Wauters experienced three things that he had never experienced before. “I had never won a stage in a rally raid. I had never been the first on the track before. When I overtook those two SSVs I suddenly realized: no one has been here yet. There are no traces here, except for a few traces of local residents. That was a special moment. Earlier this week I was somewhere in the dunes where I shouldn't be. On top of the dune crest I looked around. There was no sign of other riders anywhere. The landscape was also breathtakingly beautiful.”

On Sunday it is a rest day in the Dakar and Koen Wauters returns home, as announced in advance, for a concert series by De Vrienden van Amstel. Clouseau will perform fourteen times in a sold-out Ahoy in Rotterdam. “Somehow it's a shame because you know the car, you can capitalize on this week's efforts next week. But we knew this in advance and should not worry about it now. We're going home to do something fun. Playing concerts is my long life. I'm lucky enough to go from one pleasure to another. You can't have it all, that's right. I am at peace with the fact that I can end this in a nice way. And from Monday I will be the biggest supporter of Team Feryn Dakar Sport.”

What about the future? “I would like to participate in the Rallye du Maroc in October, if my and my teammates' schedules allow it. That's a world championship match. I don't want to compete with those professionals, let that be clear. But it should be a fantastic rally. In the run-up to that race I would also like to ride a Baja somewhere. That is a short rally raid of two to three days,” concludes Koen Wauters.

Automatic translation
Source: Team Feryn Sport's official press release
Photo: Diederd Esseldeurs

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