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Africa Race 2024: The race is well underway

With 8 degrees on the thermometer, the temperature was already much milder on the morning of Thursday January 4 at the start of the Oued Draa bivouac, not far from Mahmid, the Mecca of Rally Raids in Morocco. All the conditions were in place for a great day’s racing.

Alessandro BOTTURI was all smiles at the finish of the 463km special stage between Mahmid and Assa. Riding his Yamaha 700 Ténéré, the two-time winner of the event had won the stage and taken 2nd place overall from Pol TARRES, the second official rider for the blues. It was a great result for the jovial Italian, who beat his team-mate by 00:01:29 in the selective sector and by 00:00:35 in the provisional standings: “The stage was very beautiful, with some pretty good dunes, but the navigation wasn’t easy. From kilometer 210, we caught up with CERUTTI and rode with him. Yesterday I thought the pace was high and I wondered if I was old enough to compete with the two furious riders at the front. Today was even worse and yet I rode with them without any problems. We’ll see what happens next.”

Finishing 3rd yesterday at 00:02:18, Jacopo CERUTTI remains leader of the bike classification onboard his APRILIA Touareg 660 at 00:06:20.

The Italian had managed to hold onto the lead until the halfway point of the race, but was caught out by a small navigation error. It took more than 30 minutes for the first 450s to arrive, including the HONDA of Italian Giovanni GRITTI, the KTM of Swiss rider Alexandre VAUDAN and the HUSQVARNA of Guillaume BORNE. All three, separated by less than two minutes, are entered in the ROOKIE RIDER BY ACERBIS, which rewards the best riders under 35 who have never taken part in a major off-road rally. Last but not least, Italian Andrea GAVA put in a great performance, setting a magnificent 7th fastest time on his BETA from 33rd position.

In the Car/SSV/Truck category, it was once again an APACHE SSV that won this 3rd stage. This time, it was the car of Gautier PAULIN and Remi BOULANGER, ahead of the CAM AM of Heatcliff ZINGRAF and Gregory REVEST for 00:01:17 and the POLARIS of Éric SCHIANO and Camille POURCHIER, who recovered well from their problems at the start of the event.

Overall, the former Motocross champion maintains his lead on four wheels with a lead of just 00:03:35 over ZINGRAF. The battle rages on, with the POLARIS of Frédéric HENRICY and Éric BERSEY trailing behind at 01:17:23.

As for the cars, the TOYOTA of Belgian drivers Pascal FERYN and Kurt KEYSERS finished 9th overall at 01:14:45, ahead of the other 4X4 of the FERYN DAKAR TEAM of Koen WAUTERS and Kris VEN DER STEEN at just under 15 minutes. In the provisional general standings, FEYRIN leads the category ahead of WAUTERS.

In the truck category, the Czech Tomas TOMECEK finished 11th in this 3rd special stage and remains the leader of the desert mamoths.

In the Classic race, after this second stage, Yves LOUBET, the event’s Sporting Director, who
was instrumental in the return of this historic category to the AFRICA ECO RACE, commented on the start of the race with his legendary enthusiasm and outspokenness: “This Classic category in Africa, in the historic footsteps of the original event with a finish at Lac Rose, is a blessing for the discipline. The playing field is fantastic and Alain LOPEZ, who mapped out the route and determined the zones and average speeds imposed, has done an extraordinary job. The participants are in for a treat and the competition is going to be very competitive.

The Classic race has all the safety, logistical and media resources that the Rally has to offer. It’s a race that’s just waiting to grow and, in time, it could become the absolute benchmark for the discipline.”

Next, Friday January 5, another big stage awaits the participants, with 467km of selective sector and just 5km of liaison between Oued Draa and Fort Chacal.

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Text, Photo & Video Credits: Africa ECO Race

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