Lost number the day from easy to difficult

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The start of the Libya Rally was spectacular, in many different ways. On the beach, with the Atlantic ocean as background, the bikes took off four by four, the cars and trucks two by two. The stage crossed wonderful canyons and breathtaking cliffs, and most competitors enjoyed the surroundings, but a lost number in the satellite coordinates made it quite tricky for most of them.

The first bikers that entered the bivouac at Tan-Tan Plage after the first special of the Libya Rally had question marks all over their faces. Mikael Berglund and Gilles Vanderweyen were the first. “I don’t know how many waypoints I have missed,” Berglund said. “They were off course and I decided to follow the roadbook, which was perfect, and leave those waypoints. I had a great day, except for the waypoints.”

Briton Robin Powell, fourth at the gate, was almost in despair. “I’ve missed 30. It was a great ride but the gps was completely missing out.” Soon after the first bikes had come in race director Jean-Claude Kaket – anxious too – found out there was a mistake with the satellite coordinates. “The roadbook was correct, but in transferring the gps codes one number was put in wrong, causing the waypoints to be in the wrong places. It’s a real shame.”

It is too be expected the stage will be neutralized as it is not possible to have fair rankings.

A lot of time wasted searching

Over an hour later - only ten or eleven riders had passed the gates - Mirjam Pol, the number 1 bike, came in. “So far I’ve done the best of all, by missing just eleven waypoints,” she said. “But I have no clue what will happen now. I’ve spend an awful lot of time searching for waypoints. I was sure I was on the right track. The roadbook said the waypoint was right in the middle between two small buildings. I was standing at right that spot, but the arrow of the gps pointed 500 meters further, through the stones and rocks. I’ve made it, but most riders simply moved on. So they have a better time than I have, but they missed a lot of waypoints.”

Pol had started in the first line of bikes, taking the start four by four, together with compatriot Henno van Bergeijk. But he was in the bivouac way earlier. “I’ve done 23 kms too much,” the Dutchman said. “I was certain I was on the waypoint, but I couldn’t find it.”

On tow to the bivouac

Quad rider Joey van den Outenaar broke his machine while searching. “Many things broke, but the worse was that the quad overheated and as a result the belt broke. Luckily only 500 meters to the finish, but having to be towed to the bivouac is a bad experience. Especially when it is only day 1.”

60 kms without brakes

Belgian Jackie Loomans was one of the first cars in the bivouac. He damaged the brakes of his car and had to drive very carefully for the final 60 kms of the 180 kms long special stage. “We decided to skip the waypoints, because we were wrecking our car,” Loomans explained.

Fellow Belgian Vincent Thijs and his experienced navigator Serge Bruynkens missed fourteen waypoints. “But you might as well ask how often we took risks to get a waypoint,” Bruynkens said. “The roadbook was perfect, but you need the gps sometimes to check. If the roadbook and the gps don’t match, there is doubt. You simply don’t know any more if you can trust the roadbook.”

His colleague Wouter de Graaff, in the truck with Martin van den Brink, agreed with Bruynkens. “I knew from waypoint 4 on that there was something wrong, but it makes you feel very uncertain. Especially when everybody starts searching and the whole bunch is mixed up because bikes, cars and trucks are driving in all kind of directions. I think we could have been two hours faster, because the roadbook was perfect and the route was really great.”

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