WhatMorocco Desert Challenge Day 3 Report
WhereAssa, Morocco
WhenMonday 15 April 2019

Tummy trouble adds to de Klerk’s Challenge

Hennie de Klerk and Johann Smalberger’s Morocco Desert Challenge adventures continued into their third day Monday as the intrepid duo ended up sixth overall on arriving at Assa aboard their TreasuryOne Amarok. The day’s torturous route proved even tougher on de Klerk, who also found himself fighting a severe stomach bug and decided to run at a slower pace, while the intrepid duo also lost a little more time changing tyres after two punctures.

"Overall it was tougher going than normal with my tummy bug and the punctures,” Hennie admitted. “I opted to push a little less as it was difficult to fully concentrate, but all considered we had another pretty good run into Assa. “The field was also tighter today and we dropped from 6th to 12th on the road, but we made up a couple of places to come home tenth today. 

"We also slipped a little in the overall rankings and now provisionally sit in sixth, but no problem, we are only a third of the way into the race, the bakkie has run like a dream all the way and we have not had any real problems, so all good!"

Jean Pascal Besson won Monday's stage in his Peugeot followed by the MD buggies of Jérôme Pelichet and Remy Vauthier on a day that appeared to favour lighter, rear wheel drive cars. Overall leader Erik van Loon was third in his SA-built Hilux and continues to lead teammate Paulo Ferreira Pelichet overall, with de Klerk and Smalberger now sixth.

Looking back at his Moroccan adventure so far, Hennie recalled a few highlights: “That start on the beach was a tough way to settle those butterflies — we set off two by two on a 27km 180km/h-plus blast down the beach while searching for ruts that could send us cartwheeling out of the race before it had hardly started! 

“From there we raced over fast and rocky WRC type tracks to Abetteh — we picked up a two minute penalty for speeding into a checkpoint and then our Sentinel that warns of faster cars coming from behind stopped working and the team had to fix that before an early night. “But to sleep amongst all the noise of the other competitors working on their cars until late into the night in the bivouac is another challenge!

“Sunday morning dawned cool and misty and we were ninth to start — fourth among the cars and with five very fast trucks ahead of us too, so it was dusty as well and that hampered visibility and speed. “We also picked up a couple of punctures — one at the very end and then the Peugeot hit trouble to elevate us to third for a while, but a hard charging buggy made up 17 places to put us back to fourth overall. “Still, Sunday was great too and once again the bakkie ran faultlessly.

“We are exceptionally happy with our progress but, there are still almost 2 000km to go and it is still early days, so a constant pace and caring for the car remains our top priority at this point.” 

Tuesday’s fourth Morocco Desert Challenge stage runs 425km from Assa to the Foum Zguid halfway point. “This one is another new variation of classic Dakar stage,” navigator Johann Smalberger explained. “It crosses a large military zone into gorgeous and desolate landscapes and its fast tracks all day with a few big yumps along the way. “See you in Forum Zogud!"


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