Smits wins dune stage to Merzouga
In the rankings, Maikel Smits gains only four minutes on Mario Patrao, but he did win the fifth stage of the Morocco Desert Challenge to Merzouga. The 278-kilometer-long ride from Fezzou to Merzouga had a few hefty dune sections where the difference could be made. The Portuguese and the Dutchman, however, both made mistakes.
Maikel Smits: "He has a penalty for two speeding offenses and I missed a waypoint and we both made mistakes in the navigation. I’m a bit upset about it because I could have taken more time on him. I started third, but at the first checkpoint (at km 104) I was with Patrao, who had started first. Then there was a fast track and I kept my distance because I did not want to ride his dust. Far too dangerous and too risky to make mistakes. That turned out to be true as I took the wrong track for 5 kilometres. During the lunch stop (at km 166), I was a quarter of an hour behind Patrao.
When we continued he went wrong again: Immediately after the stop, there was a track to the left with a very sharp bend. I was right so he lost time so we came together again. In an oued where we both had to search for the right track, I could profit again because Patrao made another mistake, but when at kilometre 208 I started to doubt searching for the right track but my first idea turned out to be good. When driving down a mountain I mistake turning left where I should have gone right but could not turn back, that is where I missed a waypoint.
The last dunes we drove together again. Patrao wanted to get passed me but I did not let him, just as a matter of principle. If I win the stage, I also want to be the first to cross the finish line. I think I was about ten seconds earlier than Patrao. At this finish I only noticed he had two speed penalties, so that reassured me because four minutes is not much. To conclude; it was a beautiful day, with beautiful driving through the dunes, I really enjoyed the day.”
Mechanics deliver Van Kasteren his second stage win
Janus van Kasteren jr reached yesterday the bivouac at an unusual
low speed. A broken radiator slowed down the Mammoet Rallysport driver and it
was so bad that three mechanics had to work through the night to get the
Renault back on the road. They finished just twenty minutes before the start
today. Van Kasteren rewarded his mechanics with victory in the fifth stage.
Gert Huzink, who also had problems and had to start even behind Van Kasteren,
recorded the second fastest time. Both no longer play a role for the general
classification. The lead remains with les Loprais, who opened the gap on Martin
van den Brink even further.
Janus van Kasteren jr: "Yesterday the radiator broke and as
well the head gasket. Replacing a head gasket is an almost impossible job,
especially in the desert. According to
the factory it is a sixteen hours job.
The mechanics of MKR therefore tried first kitting but that didn’t
work. So at 3am they started to replace
the head gasket and they performed a miracle. Only twenty minutes before my
start time (9.32 am) they finished the job and we quickly made a test drive. We
were already waiting with our helmets on at the start.
The first 20 kilometers we drove carefully and kept a close eye on the temperature, but when all seemed to be OK we went full speed. We left this morning in eleventh place, but we were able to keep up a good speed for the whole day and eventually could overtake a lot of cars and trucks. The truck was performing perfectly so this victory is really thanks to the mechanics. We could not even have started without them.
Driving went super and navigator Erwin van den Bosch is getting to the speed. We gained most time in the last dunes here at Merzouga. I think we were the fastest in that section. The dunes were very difficult to read. You could not see any depth but they were very beautiful."
Gert Huzink: "We lost time again due to cooling problems in
the dunes - in the first series, the dunes of Ouzina - otherwise we would have
won the stage today. That almost took us half an hour. Yesterday we also lost
two hours to repairs. The cooling fans
are not working as they should and quickly the temperature of the engine
reached 110° C degrees.
If you have to stand still every day you can forget the general classification. A stage victory is the only success that remains for us. But to achieve that everything has to be right and that, again, was not the case today. So with second place I'm actually not really happy at all. On the other hand, the dunes went very well. If you do not run into troubles in the dunes here, you're fine. If you get stuck, you are likely to loose an hour at least. We almost got stuck once. Because the sand reflects the sun, you do not see any depth and it is difficult to understand the dunes. We took off even behind Janus, so we were in the dust all day and had to overtake many cars and trucks, but not everyone went aside when we pressed the sentinel to indicate that we wanted to pass by."