After spending all weekend driving through Europe most teams have reached Morocco by Monday morning. The European stage of the rally started with a difficult night time stage in Budapest. Cold weather, muddy, sometimes icy dirt roads, snow storms and poor visibility made the Hungarian section challenging for the drivers. The obstacles kept on coming when two ferry companies canceled their sailing schedules from Italy to Morocco across the Mediterranean. All teams were forced to drive down the South France and Spain.
Many technical issues and breakdowns made the European section a nightmare. The Polish 07 Attention Dangel team had to spend the weekend in Avignon waiting for a spare part to arrive on Monday. The Czech Sabotage Team of Mila Janacek lost several hours in Spain repairing their car. A Croatian team had to turn back from Valencia all the way to Budapest. They left their car registration papers at their hotel room in Hungary.
Most teams crossed the Mediterranean near Almeria and spent the night on a ferry to Morocco. The Slovakian 02 Felvidek Team encountered another string of bad luck on their first Moroccan day. Just like last year when their Nissan Patrol got flooded in a river crossing and forced the team to quit, the team had serious technical difficulties on their first day in Africa. They broke and axle. The car had to go back to Nador on trailer. “This is just plain annoying. We’re very angry. “, said Tamas Csorgo.
On Tuesday the rally continued in the picturesque Ziz Valley of Morocco with a 300km stage to the dune system of Erg Chebbi. “We tried to keep the stage short so the missing teams can catch up with the rest of the rally”, said Andrew G. Szabo founder of the Budapest-Bamako. Most of the teams have indeed caught up with the caravan by the feet of the impressive dunes of Erg Chebbi.
The race and the tour continued this morning with a brisk early morning start. Sandy dune fields are easier to tackle in the morning when the cold air keeps the sand harder and more compact. The 400 participants had a 429 kilometer stage to Erg Chigaga along old Saharan trade routes far from human settlements. The soft sandy patches, the rocky hamadas and the lunar landscape gave today’s stage an eerie feeling.
Last year’s champions, the Gumis Ember Team have solidified their lead on the first two stages. The top 3 positions are held by Hungarian teams. Dakar veteran Mila Janacek from the Czech Republic is currently number four. While the Attention Dangel, Felvidek and Team Leipzig from Germany have all 0 points and are now struggling just to remain in the race. The Budapest-Bamako is not a timed race. Points are collected for completing navigational challenges.
This is the first year when the racing teams can use the interactive chat that was developed especially for them by telecommunication company CitySIM. As the teams reach Africa, internet will be harder to access as local networks are less developed and provide less coverage. On these remote locations the SMS is an easy way to get in touch with people at home. Friends, fans and family can also message back – using the Chat wall – as the teams will receive their messages free of charge in SMS format. If you would like to follow the status updates from the teams and show your support, you can join the chat here: https://citysim.net/BamakoChat