Jan 13, 2018
“It was a beautiful stage, but it was so difficult. Extremely soft sand, too soft.” In that loose sand in the tenth stage of the Africa Eco Race, Gerard de Rooy got stuck twice. Fellow Dutchman Jan van de Laar had to come to the rescue to pull the Petronas Team De Rooy Iveco out. So this time it was Van de Laar who came to the finish as the fastest truck in Akjout and not De Rooy.
In the first part of the 408 kilometres long special De Rooy was on his way to first overall. At the first checkpoint he was faster than the cars and the bikes and seemed to strike a blow in the standings. “We have caught up with everyone in the first 50 kilometres,” says De Rooy. “We were stuck for a minute or five, but got out quickly by ourselves. But because of that the cars that we had overtaken could pass us again.”
At kilometre 100 it was De Rooy’s turn to pass the cars again, when they were stuck on a dune in a riverbed and De Rooy could just get past. “It went very well, but at kilometre 180 we were completely stuck. We have been digging for three quarters of an hour to an hour. I think we filled some 25 sandpits. We tried to put the air cushions underneath, but that did not work. Just when we were close to desperation, we saw a cloud of smoke coming: Jan van de Laar. He pulled us out.”
Once again, De Rooy drove up the pace and caught back some cars, but 30 kilometres before the finish, the Iveco got stuck again. “On the penultimate dune. If I had been three meters further to the right then it would not have been a problem, but I just ended up in a dip where I could not get grip. We had to wait for Jan again to pull us out.”
Because of all the escapades, De Rooy lost 39 minutes on the leader of the classification Mathieu Serradori and saw the distance to the podium increase slightly instead of shrinking. Because of the bonus and penalty times of the ninth stage, the margin to third had decreased considerably to just 17 minutes. After the tenth stage the gap is 24 minutes. Tomorrow De Rooy has one more chance to change that. The eleventh stage is the last in Mauritania and is about 219 kilometres long with lots of sand, a bit of dunes and tricky navigation.
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