Competitors Libya Rally are ready and rearing to start
At 8 o’clock sharp tomorrow morning the convoy will leave Agadir to start the Libya Rally, but already everybody is rearing to go. Scrutineering is almost done, the air is buzzing with excitement and expectation, both the favorites and the newcomers are anxious and eager to hit the first stage.
In each class a fierce battle is to be expected. Especially in the cars and trucks competition a number of highly experienced teams are lining up. Unfortunately Dutchman Maik Willems, the number one car, had to withdraw last-minute, but that means the competition is wide open for the contenders. Jacky Loomans is looking for revenge after he was leading until the final day last year. “Our goal certainly is the podium,” Jacky Loomans says. “But all pieces of the puzzle have to fall in place for that. There are quite some good and fast cars and a number of experienced teams at the start. We’ll try our best, but finishing on the podium is never a given thing in a rally.”
The experienced Belgian can expect competition of his compatriot Vincent Thijs, teaming up with navigator Serge Bruynkens, and a large number of Dutch outsiders looking for success. Ronald Schoolderman and Marcel Blankestijn (4x4 Centrum Ermelo) for example might be the dark horses. Or maybe Peter Erren and Jan-Paul van der Poel, with a completely rebuild Desert Warrior, or Martijn van den Broek and Juup Willems, new to the race after competing in the Adventure Raid last year.
“My goal was to beat Maik Willems at least once,” Martijn van den Broek admits. “We’ve worked hard to build a competitive car and Willems was kind of the target. Not only for us, but for many, I think.”
“It’s a pity Maik had to call it off,” also Ronald Schoolderman says. “I think everybody was looking to compete with him. But then again: don’t underestimate guys like the Spaniard Jesus Puras with the Herrator or Italian Agostino Rizzardi with the Porsche. At this point the level of competition seems quite equal.”
Fireworks in the truck category
Especially in the trucks category, with no less than fifteen entries, fireworks can be expected. Both Martin van den Brink and Jos Smink are regular top 10 finishers in the Dakar Rally and both of them are looking to test their trucks in competition. “Testing is the main goal here,” Martin van den Brink explains. He enters the Libya Rally with the truck his Mammoet Rallysport team mate Pascal de Baar finished the Dakar with in sixth and won a stage. “We are building new trucks for the Silk Way and the Dakar and the best way of testing parts for the Renault Torpedo like a new turbo, new brakes et cetera is in competition. I’ll drive as fast as I can to see what the new parts can handle and where the limits are. If it breaks, it breaks, but when it lasts, we know it works. When it lasts we can win, but last year we were leading as well when we broke down. We’ll see what happens. At least I’m happy with some fierce competition like Jos Smink, but also Aart Schoones, Paul Verheyden and Elisabete Jacinto.”
Also Jos Smink can be rated as one of the favorites for victory. He skipped the Dakar Rally and choose to enter the Libya Rally because he likes the route more. “We don’t know what to expect,” Smink remains cautious. “Winning would be nice of course, but our main goal here is to have fun and enjoy a nice rally.”
Belgian Paul Verheyden finished just outside the podium last year, and had a faultless Dakar last January. “Van den Brink and Smink are faster, but staying out of trouble can be the trick in this Libya Rally,” Verheyden considers. “There are quite some trucks at the same level. There will be a huge battle for the podium for sure.”
Aart Schoones too is considered a top 3 candidate, but he will certainly not take too many risks. “I’ve sold my truck, so I don’t want any damage,” the Dutchman says. “But it is easy to say beforehand we’ll take it easy. We all know something happens as soon as the first stage has started: everybody wants to perform at their best.”
Next to the experienced competitors are the newcomers. Janus van Kasteren junior competed in the Libya Rally with a SSV for three years and now has moved to the trucks. “Completely different,” the young Van Kasteren expects. “We know what it is like to drive in the dunes, but not with a truck. We’ve done the Baja Aragon in Spain with the truck, but since then a lot has changed and been rebuild and improved. And we haven’t been in the dunes with the truck yet. That will be an interesting challenge. I think we can be satisfied when we don’t get stuck to heavily in the dunes and keep the truck upright. And not run over my dad, who is competing in the SSV’s.”
New challenges in the bikes class
Mirjam Pol is the highest ranked in the bikes section and was leading last year until her bike broke down. “I’m not the fastest,” she admits. “But when it comes to navigation and stamina I’m at my best. The stages are 50 kms longer in average than last year, which is good for me. The bike is fine, I’m fit, so let’s do it and hope for a bit more luck than last year.”
Pol is meeting some Dakar competitors as well in the category. Dutchmen Henno van Bergeijk and Erik Klomp for example, but also Mikael Berglund and Michael Lundberg from Sweden.
In the bikes class as well there might be some unexpected outsiders going for the podium. Max Hunt, whose brother Harry is driving an X-Raid Mini in top class rally’s like the Dakar, could be one of those dark horses. The Libya Rally is only the second rally raid for the Briton, but he is eager for a good result.