Norwegian veteran Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter stormed to the top of the motorcycle rankings by setting the fastest time on the second 379km selective section of the 12th Africa Eco Race (Monaco-Dakar) between Tarda and Mhimid in Morocco on Wednesday.
The KTM rider clocked a time of 4hr 02min 40sec to beat Italian overnight leader Alessandro Botturi by 9min 35sec and take an outright lead of 1min 29sec into the overnight bivouac in Mhimid. England’s Lyndon Poskitt slipped to third overall with the second quickest time and Norway’s Felix Jensen and Italy’s Paulo Lucci, riding a Husqvarna, rounded off the top five.
Ullesvalseter began the day seventh on the road and made no navigational mistakes, although Botturi was caught by Poskitt after 40km. Both the Italian and the Briton made errors afterwards and then rode together on the fast tracks to the finish. Eighteen-year-old Konrad Dabrowski confirmed his potential with seventh overall, the Pole finishing behind his mentor Jacek Czachor, a former team-mate of of his illustrious father Marek Dabrowski.
Italian Gabriele Minelli was the first rider home in the over 450cc section and held 17th overall, while the top Motul Xtreme rider in the Malles Motos category was the Briton Richard Kaye on a KTM.
Italy’s Nicola Dutto is competing on the Africa Eco Race without the use of his legs. He is accompanied by Spanish rider Julian Garcia Villarrubia and fellow Italian Stefano Baldussi, who keep him on his bike at the starts, refuelling points and the finish. On a specially-equipped KTM, he occupies 25th place in the overall rankings.
The short, technical special was perfect for SSVs on Tuesday, but the open, fast and dusty trails gave trucks the advantage on day two.
The Belgian Iveco truck trio of Igor Bowens, Ulrich Boerboom and Frits Driesmans topped the times in the T4 section, the crew beating the Hungarian Skania team of Miklos Kovacs, Lazlo Acs and Peter Czegledi to the stage win by 8min 44sec, although the Belgians held an overall lead of 22min 49sec to take into the night halt. The leaders began the day in 49th position and managed to overtake 42 vehicles on their way to second in the overall classification.
Behind the leading trucks, the French father and son crew of Patrick and Lucas Martin guided their Tarek Mercedes Buggy to the top of the T1 standings with friendly rivals Yves and Jean Fromont running behind them in a Buggy.
Benoit Fretin and co-driver Cédric Duplé topped the SSV timings in their Can-Am and led Alexandre Dubanne’s similar all-terrain vehicle by just under eight minutes at the night halt. Loic Frebourg and Franck Boulay rounded off the day’s podium.
The SSV category also includes two paraplegic driers with the Italian Gianni Luca Tassi entered in a Yamaha, partnered by Angelo Montico, and the Belgian Geoffrey Noel de Burlin racing alone in a Polaris. The duo currently hold 22nd and 16th in the overall standings, respectively.
Russia’s Alexey Titov was 13th and maintained his lead in the T2 category for series production cross-country vehicles, while Great Britain’s Alex Cole and Emma Osman continued to front the Open class in their 14th-placed Bowler. Andrew Wicklow and Simon Armstrong were a distant second in the Open category.
Teams had spent the first night under the stars in a chilly Tarda bivouac between Er Rachidia and Goulimine with temperatures plummeting as low as -3°C at daybreak.
Tomorrow (Thursday January 9th), competitors tackle the third stage between Mhamid and Assa in Morocco. A short transfer of 4.58km guides teams to the start of a 497.44km selective section and a second liaison of 14.29km takes competitors to the bivouac in Oued Draa. The competitive section includes a 28km passage though the notorious chain of sand dunes known as the Erg Chegaga.
Source: Neil Perkins / Africa Eco Race press release