Smits loses time due to difficult navigation
Maikel Smits hoped to close the 14-minute gap to the Portuguese Mario Patrao during the fourth stage of the Morocco Desert Challenge. The intention fell to pieces due to the difficult navigation in the 310-kilometer long stage from Mhamid to Fezzou. Instead of winning a quarter of an hour, the Dutchman lost over half an hour.
Maikel Smits: "The first part went perfectly. I could keep a high pace without any problems. However, when we went into the dunes after about 60 kilometres, difficulties began. Because I won yesterday, I had to open the stage today and certainly in the dunes it is not easy. It already started when I went too far ahead, while I had to go into the dunes to the left on cap (compass) course. I have been searching there for a long time and when I found the route back, Patrao just arrived. He immediately went in the right direction and I followed his track for about 30 kilometres.
After the tank stop, I made the stupid mistake of keep continuing following his track without navigating myself. He went wrong and I went with him. Here I had the opportunity to make the difference so I am really angry with myself. A bit further, I thought he was wrong again and I took a path a bit further, but this time he was right and I was wrong. I didn’t know what to do anymore and when back to the tank stop. Missing waypoints is against my principles, than I would rather drive back all the way to the starting line, because I need to have them all. In total I lost about 20 to 25 minutes with that.
I would have thought that this would be my day, but instead of
winning time, I even lost double. Very unfortunate, but I enjoyed myself. As
uncomfortable as the dunes were yesterday, so beautiful they were today. Nice
and flowing, you could surf through."
Patrao: "Speed is not such a problem for me; I am mainly here to train on
navigation, because I think I still have to improve. And today it was very
difficult on navigation, so I was able to practice well. I did make a few
mistakes, but they did not cost me a lot of time. I had all waypoints. I am
dead after 310 kilometres now, especially after a 40-kilometer stretch with
nothing but stones. But for now, it goes well beyond expectations. I am
Henrard ruins his rankings, Mooij best Dutchman
Stéphane Henrard lost his leading position in the ranking of the Morocco Desert Challenge. In the fourth stage, over 310 kilometers from Mhamid to Fezzou, the Dunbee of the Belgian stopped 100 kilometers before the end. In the combined classification of buggies and 4x4s, Henrard dropped to fourth. The first place is now in the hands of the Portuguese Paolo Ferreira. Jan Mooij was the best Dutchman in the stage. He is eighth in the standings, behind Maik Willems.
Stéphane Henrard: "I do not understand it! We were well ahead and it was a great day, but suddenly the oil pressure dropped. I pressed the pedal and nothing happened. When we went to look, a thick cloud of blue smoke came from under the bonnet. It was 100 kilometers before the finish and we were dragged the last stretch. We do have all the waypoints, so in that sense the damage is limited, but we have lost a lot of time. I'm really upset about this."
Jan Mooij: "Fourth in the stage in the 4x4 class and fifth in the standings: that is very good. We are well on schedule. It was very nice today, except for a small setback just before the dunes. I suddenly had the gear lever in my hand. With clamps we have put everything back together and then it went excellent. We had a few nice duels with Maik Willems. It was a pity we were stopped by some other cars and ssv’s who did not respect the sentinel. If that happens for about 2 kilometres it isn’t such a problem, but after 25 kilometers in the dust you're sick and tired of it. You see nothing and so you can not pass as long as they do not stop and go aside. Tomorrow there are more dunes in the course and that is good for us. Dunes, that is our thing. So I'm looking forward to it."
Loprais opens the gap on Van den Brink, Timmermans surprising fourth
Ales Loprais took his second victory in the fourth stage to Fezzou. The Czech took another quarter of an hour to Martin van den Brink, who was stuck in the soft dunes of Erg Chegaga for a while, but still finished second. A remarkable achievement came from Eimbert Timmermans, who finished fourth in the 310-kilometer long stage from Mhamid to Fezzou. Peter Versluis had to be transported by helicopter to the hospital in Ouarzazate. His teammate Roeland Voerman also called for medical help but eventually decided to continue. At this present moment, it is not yet clear what exactly happened.
Ales Loprais: "It was a day for the navigators and mine (Ferran Alcayna) did a fine job. It was very difficult because there were many traces and not many points to validate. In a oued the GPS was open, but that gives you the tendency to choose the shortest route, indicated by the arrow, but the shortest route is not necessarily the best or the easiest. We had to open the track in the dunes, which means that we had no reference points. It was hard work, because there were small and very soft dunes, so a lot of steering to do. Large dunes are easier than those smaller ones, even with our truck with nose. With a front nose, you see less, so you have to drive more on feeling and takes a lot of energy. A strip of 40 kilometres of lava rocks was a matter of survival and making sure keeping everything in one piece. We've got through well, without problems."
Martin van den Brink: "It was a long day, of more than five hours racing. We were stuck on the first dune, because the tire pressure was not good yet. That gave us the 15-minute loss of time on Loprais. Some moments later, we pulled Peter Versluis out, who was also stuck. The navigation was complicated, but the road book was perfect according to Wouter (de Graaff). On the meter correct, with every stone in it. It was not a good day for the truck. It seems like the suspension is getting worse or the track is getting worse. There were so many difficult parts; so bumpy that everything breaks down. If I drive faster, the truck might fall apart."
Eimbert Timmermans: "If I can finish fourth with these contenders, with drivers who have won Dakar stages, it means that I have built a good truck. We left as sixteenth and were fourth at the finish. It went great. I like these kind of ‘dirty stages’, with a lot of dirt and bad pistes. In the five Dakar’s I did, I was the fast assistance truck, so I was always on the worst messed up tracks. I did some nice results there, but usually only once because the day I had to wait or stop to provide assistance. I don’t have to do that this time. I can now make my own race and apparently, that goes pretty well.
My navigator (Geert Roothans) has never been to the desert before. In daily life he is dairy farmer in Portugal with 1600 cows. He is the best navigation farmer there is around. He really does a perfect job.
And the truck as well. It is such a nice vehicle to drive. This is the seventeenth truck I have built and I am here mainly to test and just to ride for fun. The classification does not interest me, although it is always nice to have a good result. Our teammate Paul Verheyden is currently third, so for him it is important. Meanwhile, he pulled us out this morning when we were stuck in the dunes. That was my fault."