ALES LOPRAIS (CZE/506 - Tatra - InstaForex Loprais Team), winner of the third stage with trucks
It was all about the navigation today with many caps and changes of directions. We had a lot of pressure this morning and we did not make any big mistakes. We really started to enjoy the race on this stage with the view all around. The sand was soft and we opened the track because we passes the other trucks so it was hard for us and I was afraid to get stuck but everything went well. The truck is getting better and better, we need to make some more tests to fix the problems that we had earlier this year and I think we are on the good way.
Maikel Smits: "It started very fast, with here and there some technical pieces and that was a nice start to get into the rhythm. Quickly I closed the gap to the two riders who started in front of me, the Frenchman Duong and the Portuguese Patrao. On a certain track where it was difficult to navigate, we quickly lost Duong. I rode together with Patrao for a while, but I noticed that I was faster than him, so I passed. At the lunchbreak, he came in some three minutes later.
I opened the stage for most of the day. That was exciting in the dunes of Erg Chegaga, without any other trace as a reference. That is why I lost the time I had just won. Patrao could come back and together we searched for 20 to 25 minutes for a waypoint. That way Duong could close in again. I suddenly saw where I needed to go and so I was able to get away from the other two again. In the last 30 minutes, I have ridden as fast as I could to gain some minutes. I was, I think, a minute and a half before the Portuguese at the finish, while he had started two minutes before me. So I did good business today, I believe. And it was a very nice day too. "
Peter Versluis has found his rhythm in MDC
The first two days of the Morocco Desert Challenge were not in favour of Peter Versluis. On the third day, in a very varied stage of 335 kilometres to Mhamid, the Dutch Veka MAN driver found his rhythm again. He finished second behind Ales Loprais, and ahead of Janus van Kasteren Jr and Martin van den Brink, who lost forty-five minutes because the bolts of the right front wheel had run loose.
Peter Versluis: "The first two days were not very kind to us. In the first stage, we had a puncture on a stone that was hidden under water and yesterday navigator Marcel Pronk was so sick that we could not really go for it. However, today it went very well. Before the lunch stop (at km 148), we had two small navigational errors, but otherwise it went fine. We drove well in the dunes and on the last stretch, with fast tracks and some small dunes, we made up a lot. In any case, today we have eliminated the penalty of an hour that we had received because we drove too fast at a CP. In the rankings, we do not stand a chance anymore. I do not count on others to get into troubles or make mistakes so much that we can make up for almost two hours. In any case, it is good to have a serious rally again. It has been since the Dakar last year. For the coming Dakar we want to be back. With this truck but in an improved version, because we will not get the new truck ready in time."
Ales Loprais: "This stage went much better than the previous two. Less stones - fortunately - and some dunes: very varied and changing landscapes. The first part was very nice. We could make a good speed. Ferran has navigated perfectly, which is worth a compliment, because it was very difficult. Because Martin van den Brink was having problems, we had to open the track in the dunes. They were not that big, but it was very soft sand. I am happy with this victory, because it means we overtook Van den Brink in the rankings. "
Martin van den Brink: "Until the lunch stop we were in the lead, but then we lost 45 minutes because the bolts of the right front wheel had run out. Then you barely get the wheel off and the new one hardly gets on. Very unfortunate, because in terms of driving this stage went very well. We are now 19 minutes behind Loprais. I do not get nervous about that. We can have him."
Many cars in difficulty in third stage MDC
A diverse third stage of the Morocco Desert Challenge turned out to be no easy one for the cars. Initially, the Portuguese Paolo Ferreira seemed to have won the 335 km race, but he received a time penalty of 10 minutes, so the victory again went to Stéphane Henrard, who is in the lead in the joint classification of buggies and 4x4s. In ninth place, Maik Willems was the best Dutch participant, closely followed by Jan Mooij. Erwin Imschoot managed to land on the roof twice in the dunes in just half an hour.
Paolo Ferreira: "I love the dunes. I said yesterday that I wanted to win this day. We drove quietly, did not do crazy things. It was a flawless day, and I certainly want to compliment my navigator Jorge Monteiro, because it was really difficult. "
Maik Willems: "This stage was one of Kaket squared (race leader Jean-Claude Kaket is responsible for the road books, red) in terms of navigation. Very precise, very difficult. Rob (van Pelt) has had his hands full and we often needed a lot of searching and driving around in circles before we found the right track. Erg Chegaga was fun! I would not call it real dunes, but it was nice, soft sand. A nice gift. "
Erwin Imschoot: "In a time span of half an hour, I have been on the roof at the bottom of a dune twice. Unbelievable, right? At the top of the dune, I let go of the gas and then the engine stopped running. That has the same effect as very hard braking and you can no longer steer. Such a dune is three or four meters high, so there is no time to start the car again. We landed on the nose and boom, on the roof. We were put up by my former teammate Jean Pascal Besson. And at the next dune exactly the same happened: on the top I let go of the gas, the engine turns off and hop, there we went again. Back on the roof. Four motorcyclists have helped us push the car back on the wheels. We managed to fix everything that went loose as good and as bad as it went, we have kicked out the windshield, because it was completely cracked, and so we went to the bivouac. It was not at high speed or in a dangerous move. I always drive very carefully in the dunes, but I have never experienced that the car turns off at such a point. I hope the mechanics can manage to get the Toyota Hilux back in order."