Question of the day: do you have it or not? 

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Dutch trucker Aart Schoones drove straight to his countrymen Jos Smink and Martin van den Brink in the bivouac in M’Hamid. With the doors of his truck still closed and the engine running, he shouted to his rivals (and friends): ‘Do you have it?’ Both had to say no and thus made the day of Schoones: “Ha! We do have it!”

The ‘it’ is a waypoint. Number 45 to be precise, at km 376,98 in the stage from Icht to M’Hamid, in the very east of Morocco, close to the Algerian border. The waypoint was found by some 65 percent of the competitors of the Libya Rally. The other 35 percent gave up hope after sometimes an hour or more of searching. Both Van den Brink and Smink – or better: their respective navigators Daniël Bruinsma and Wouter de Graaff – were pissed off. They knew they had missed it and thus received half an hour penalty.  

“One of the worst things for a navigator is missing a waypoint and not knowing why,” De Graaff explained. “I’m really sick of it, even though I know that maybe it is not even my mistake. But why did they find it and we didn’t?”

Van den Brink with the Renault of Mammoet Rallysport had an excellent start of the stage. The truck overtook most bikes and all of the cars and trucks to enter the dunes (between 315 and 340 kms in the stage) in first position. “We had a near perfect stage. We were very fast and navigation went well. When we entered the dunes there were only three tracks from bikes. None other,” De Graaff recalled. “But after the dunes we lost over an hour trying to find the waypoint and our main rivals were able to overtake us. I’m really sick of that.”

Also the Ginaf of Smink was driving around in circles for over an hour. “When we knew that Van den Brink already had number 46 but still missed 45, we decided to take the penalty and move on,” driver Smink explained. “It was a great day and I refuse to let that be taken away from us because of a waypoint.”

Aart Schoones did find it, with some luck, he admitted, but lost quite some time with a puncture and two slow punctures. Also Belgian Paul Verheyden found the waypoint but problems with the pressure system for the tyres cost him time. From the top trucks only Portugese Elisabete Jacinto did find it and stayed out of trouble. Therefore she not only won the stage and took the lead in the truck class, but also overall. 

 

Big shifts in the car class

Mexican José Vanzinni is the new leader in the car class, after Belgian Jackie Loomans broke the steering house of his car early in the stage and his countryman Vincent Thijs missed a waypoint in the dunes. Much to the surprise of Vanzinni, who made his debut driving in the dunes, he had a faultless day again, like yesterday.

Vincent Thijs and his navigator Serge Bruynkens did find the waypoint, but after a long search. “We drove back to the waypoint before this one, some 20 kms back,” Bruynkens explains, still a bit angry. “From there we stopped at every situation in the roadbook to check and double check. When we came back to the note where we went wrong, we took the other way and thus we found the waypoint.”

Bruynkens went wrong in the dunes where he missed a waypoint, although his gps didn’t point that out at the moment. “It was a difficult but very nice to drive stage,” Thijs says. “We broke a shock but I haven’t even noticed it.”

The cars enjoyed the stage too, but the searching made it difficult. Dutchmen Ronald Schoolderman and Marcel Blankestijn had problems with the cooling system yesterday, but those seem to be solved. “But due to the search we ran out of fuel,” Schoolderman says. “We had to be towed to the bivouac the last couple of kilometers. A bit of a pity, because we were so fast we even overtook the truck of Schoones. But we lost all of the advantage when we were driving around in circles way too long.”

The leader after stage 2, Jackie Loomans, reached the biviouac on tow of his assistance truck. The car broke already before the lunch stop and Loomans had to forfeit the rest of the stage, losing his lead to the Mexican.

 

Great fun for SSV’s

The stage to M’Hamid was great fun for the SSV’s, who had advantages over the cars and trucks. Frenchman Thierry Gerome and his compatriot Geoffrey Noël de Bulain enjoyed the day very much. In stage 2 they had suffered seven punctures and because both are in a wheelchair it was a huge task to change the tyres and solve the problems. “That’s why we started a bit cautious,” Gerome tells. “Luckily we only had one puncture today which made life a lot easier. We passed a lot of cars and trucks especially in the last part, which suited our buggies good. We had great fun, with a few jumps as well.”

 

Duel in the top of the bikes class

For the bike riders it was a tough day as it was hot and the car that should provide lunch and water couldn’t make it to the checkpoint. “But for the rest it was a fun day,” Frenchman Laurent Weibel tells. “I was searching for waypoint number 2 already and I couldn’t understand what it did wrong. But I finally found it. For sure it was tough. Not only because of the heat and the rough terrain, but also because of the length. 600 kms yesterday and 400 today: that’s hard. The landscapes were impressive and I really enjoyed it. But it wasn’t a stage for little girls.”

Nevertheless is was a not so tall girl from Holland named Mirjam Pol who was very fast and didn’t make any mistakes. “It was a mix of everything,” Pol tells. “I started in sixth, but very early in the stage I came behind Jonathan Blackburn who crashed just in front of me. I stayed with him for a while, but then moved on. One by one I overtook the guys who started in front of me. When Max Hunt overtook me, I tried to stay with him but he was too fast for me. Yet he never was out of sight. I was in doubt about waypoint 44 but I got it and Hunt didn’t. I expected him to come back but he wasn’t and by the time I had found waypoint 45 he was with me. Later I heard the two of us were half an hour ahead of the rest, so I think I’ll gain some places in the standings.”

She did. Because of quite some penalties to other riders Pol took the lead of the Libya Rally, little over 5 minutes ahead of Swedish Michael Lundberg and 39 minutes to fellow Dutchman Henno van Bergeijk. 

Briton Jonathan Blackburn had to be transferred to hospital due to internal injuries. He has to stay under observation for a few days but is actually okay.

 

Morocco Desert Challenge