Profi Moto class: 370 kms – 95% hard piste, 5% sand piste.
“Today really felt like a rally!”
The longest day of the rally this year (370 kms) ought to have been the scenic highlight of the week, instead turned into a test of endurance – particularly for the Moto riders.
Heavy winds all day brought in one of Tunisia’s famous sand-storms, making what would otherwise be relatively straightforward navigation exceptionally tricky, as visibility and ultimately the piste itself disappeared under the shifting sands.
“The problem all day as been the sand-storms” says Paul “At one point you couldn’t even see ten feet in front of you!” and Gabe nods in agreement “The problem with these desert rallies is all the sand” he adds dryly.
Despite the severe riding conditions, Paul and Gabriel endeavoured to remain in good spirits, and made it into the bivouac ahead of many of the other riders – although not without suffering their own fair share of drama during the day, along with witnessing the fate of many others. “There was no real opportunity to stop to eat” says Paul “There were riders everywhere running out of fuel, or lost in the sand storms… “We saw one girl had crashed, and heard another rider had been hit by a [local] car.”
The infamous ‘Silles Pass’ through the mountains gave neither rider any real cause for concern “It was a piece of cake actually” grins Gabriel “But then that’s exactly our sort of riding.” Paul was a little less enamored “There’s a time when a man has to get off his bike and push it… that was one of those times!” he laughs.
However, the drama started soon after in the final sector before the finish “I ran out of fuel” says Gabe glumly. Despite being refueled by his service team prior to starting the last third of the day, it turns out they had not dispensed quite enough fuel, and Gabe ground to a halt in the middle of a sand storm amongst the dunes, not far from the finish of the special stage.
“The sand storm was so severe at that point that we couldn’t [safely] syphon any fuel from Paul’s bike” Gabe explains. “Fortunately after a while, two riders from the Orga[nisation] came by and although they were low on fuel themselves, offered me a litre which was just enough to make it to the fuel station after the finish…” “Although I had to tow him the final hundred yards!” adds Paul with a smirk. “I’d say overall we only wasted about forty-five minutes” Gabe concludes.
Not only were the weather conditions physically punishing, but the navigation became increasingly difficult as the day wore on, as the tracks and any other points of reference disappeared under the shifting sands and clouds of dust. After his disappointment regarding the previous day’s stage “There is no doubt that today felt much more like a rally!” exclaims Paul.
Stage result: day 5/7: 25th (5h13m45s)
Overall position: day 5/7: 23rd