Smits lets Patrao go in sixth stage
With a 1 hour difference in the classification of the motorbikes, it did not make much sense for Maikel Smits in the sixth stage of the Morocco Desert Challenge to go hunting for his Portuguese competitor Mario Patrao. Especially when Smits twisted his knee on a strip with lots of stones. Only when something happens to Patrao, who won todays stage and leads the standings, in the last two days, he will not win the MDC this year - although it would not be the first time that the classification leader gets into trouble on the last day. In the quads category the victory went to Gerard List, who leads the classification with a margin of 10 hours.
Maikel Smits: "I do not assume something will happen to Patrao, but you never know. Therefore, it did not make sense to take all the risks to stay with him today. We started two by two, so we left together and until the lunch and tank stop (at kilometre 181 of the total 308), we drove together. I was in front for most of the time especially in the dunes. The navigation went well, but on one stretch in the dunes, we drove straight into the sun. That was difficult, because you see nothing. After the stop, there was a quick part with lots of stones and holes and there I let Patrao go. Maybe I should have taken the initiative more, but I did not want to go into the dust.
In an oued with many large stones, I slipped on a big stone and I heard my knee crack. It was not fast, at most 20 km / h, but I stopped for a moment to feel if there was nothing broken in my knee. It was not so bad, but on a very technical piece with big holes, I did a bit more careful. By then Patrao was already out of sight, and I did not bother to call him anymore. Those trial sections are not my best. I can do it, but I am actually too tall for it. On such parts, Patrao, who is smaller, has the advantage. I can keep up, but I cannot close in.
Yet it was a beautiful day. The dunes were fantastic. It is much better in the morning than in the afternoon, because in the morning, they are more solid and you see more depth. I wanted to make my own path. If I could have gained some time somewhere, it was there, but he stayed tactically in my wheel. More than an hour is not that easy to overcome anyway, not even in the dunes."
Gerard List: "If you do not do crazy things and just navigate neatly, you can get very far in this rally. That is clear, because I am certainly not the fastest, but I have had little delay, while the others are constantly making mistakes or breaking the lot. Monday (stage 2), I had a bad day. It was the first time that I drove such a long stage with the quad and with so many stones. My hands were completely cramped. I had already lost my main competitors on Wednesday. Alex Brusselers had already had two days of troubles at the time and the Frenchman who was in the lead, passed me by flying low, but a little later he came back and I have not seen him since. Lost from the face of the earth.
It goes well in terms of driving. I have not suffered much, although I notice that I am not the youngest anymore. The navigation is fine, that is my strongest asset. And the quad is very good. We had a lot of work one night because I had forgotten to replace a number of parts preventively, but that did not cost me. Now that I am in the lead, I naturally want to keep it. I can afford something, but I do not want that. The SSV of Jan Miltenburg therefore now has some parts and a spare wheel with them and they remain short behind me in case. A quad with fast assistance, I would have never imagined that."
Jes Munk has a win in sight in Morocco Desert Challenge
There are still two days to go, but if nothing strange happens, Jes Munk - with an hour's lead – will grab the victory in the Morocco Desert Challenge in the overall car category. However, the Dane is cautious. The same applies to the Belgian Marc Lauwers, who has a two-hour margin on Godfried Lintjens in the ssv-ranking. Ed Wigman and Mike van Eikeren crashed their Ford into a ravine in the sixth stage.
Jes Munk: "I have rallied on the motor for many years, then with a SSV and now for the second year with a Toyota Hilux, but the three can not be compared in any way. You sometimes hear people say that if you have the feeling of riding in the dunes with the motorbike, it is the same with the car, but I do not agree. The feeling is completely different. With the bike you have a 360 degree view, in the car it is like looking through a tube. Certainly in the dunes that is sometimes quite difficult. But we have come through well.
We have been very steady through this rally so far. We do not go too fast, we do not make crazy things, made little mistakes. I just love driving in the desert. We are really here to have fun and that is also the most important thing. I believe that is the most important ingedrient to ultimately have a good result. It is difficult to remain calm in the car and to avoid losing the possible victory. Every day I promise myself to keep calm, but once the helmet goes on I have forgotten everything I had planned. Fortunately my navigator Rafal Marton keeps me sharp. He knows exactly where to hit me if I do not behave, haha.
I approach it day by day and I do not really want to think about the victory. It is still possible that I lose ten hours tomorrow. It is only finished at the finish line."
Marc Lauwers: "We drove a little at safe today with a view to the classification. We also stopped for a while because the communication system in our helmets did not work and that had to be fixed. I'm driving at pace, but I still want to secure that two-hour lead. In the dunes we have overtaken the Bastion Toyota of Maik Willems. That came flying by later with more than 140 kms. Yesterday we drove very hard to expand our lead. Now it is a matter of consolidating and not making mistakes."
Ed Wigmans: "Well, what happened? We drove on a fast gravel path and there was a big hole, that we hit. And then suddenly we were on our roof in a ravine. It was quite a blow. We were delivered back to the bivouac at the back of the trailer with Peter Erren of the Van Ham team. We have to see if it can still be repaired."
Vick Versteijnen in overtaking mode through the dunes
After a few difficult days, Vick Versteijnen had been thrown back so far that he had to start the sixth stage of the Morocco Desert Challenge in the rear-guard. He finished the 308-kilometre drive from Merzouga to Boudnib in sixth, less than one hour behind Martin van den Brink who won the stage and Ales Loprais who remains in the lead in the truck standings.
Martin van den Brink: "It was a nice day. The mechanics worked hard on the truck last night to repair things that had broken. It is not an obstacle to speed, if at least the track it is not too bad. We drove sensibly, but with a high pace.
We started the day helping others: first we pulled Gert Huzink out, who was stuck in the dunes, then Janus van Kasteren, who also was stuck for a while. Then we got Ales Loprais in sight. I think he took a wrong turn somewhere; otherwise, we would not have been able to sit behind him so quickly. We caught up with him and he let us go. In an oued shortly before the lunch stop, we had a puncture, but we could change the tire during the lunch break, so that did not cost us any time. It's nice that we have taken 6 minutes back on Loprais, but as long as he does not make mistakes or breaks down, it is fairly impossible to keep him from winning."
Ales Loprais: "Opening the stage in the dunes was not a problem, but a bit later in the oueds it was difficult to navigate and we drove carefully because of the sharp stones. We wanted to win again today, but we did not succeed. Martin was just faster today and the margin is not so big that I can afford many risks. My last success dates back to 2015 when I became second in the Libya Rally. After that it did not go all that well, but we now have both the truck, the crew and the service team working well and that is why I really want to win this Morocco Desert Challenge. That would be very good for confidence."
Vick Versteijnen: "In the dunes we were flying and we overtook about everyone. It was great. It was almost two years since I had had serious dunes, but apparently I have not forgotten how it goes. We even pulled Janus van Kasteren out and he was the first one to take the start. He was so stuck that we almost got stuck ourselves when we pulled him out.
Then there were many stretches where it was great drifting, but also parts where you easily could demolish the truck. The result could have been much better, but in the second part, we had to be careful. At the lunch stop we found out that, we had lost both our spare wheels and some tools 48 kilometres earlier. It was just a bit too far to drive back to pick them up, but without spare tires you have to drive a bit conservatively on the stones. It is a pity that we have the dunes behind us now. For the classification we do not participate anymore as we have over 100 hours of penalty and that is unfortunate, because on a day like today we have proven that we can compete with the top."