Thursday 9 April 2015

Tuareg Rallye 2015: Race Day 1 - Ouarzazate to Zagora

Sunday: Time for the race to start!

It didn’t start well when we couldn’t find the keys to the hire car, not too much of a problem for me as I had all my kit for the day but my two crates of spares etc. were locked in the boot. Leaving John to sort it, I headed off to the start. Well not exactly as the bike didn’t want to start and I managed to flatten the battery trying. I eventually managed to kick start it and was on my way.

A short drive out of town took us to the start of the prologue, that was to decide our starting times. This consisted of a Le Mans style start and a 4 km sprint up a dry river valley (a Qued) that consisted of deep gravel, not easy to ride at all!

My start didn’t go too well as the bike once again refused to start! And of course the battery was still flat. I was eventually manhandled from my bike by a bunch of excited Italians, one of whom kick started the bike for me and they sent me on my way. Amazingly I wasn’t last as I passed two riders on the track, both of whom it transpired were with the Italian team!

Arriving at the finish of the prologue, I was given my timecard for the day, my late finish just meant I was one of the last to start the first special stage, that started a couple of Km away along a tarmac road. This turned out to be very fortuitous as it gave me plenty of time to fix a subsequent “issue”.

I was chatting to some of the guys racing with Desert Rose Racing when Clive “Zippy” Town from the team asked why my right boot was covered in oil? I didn’t have a clue so we headed over to the bike to find oil pouring from the top of the engine. Zippy took me over to his van and we stripped off the seat and tank, to find a bolt that retains the rocker shaft had vibrated loose, this was the source of the leak.
Luckily I hadn’t lost the bolt so Zippy tightened it for me and topped up my oil, the bike taking 0.5 of a litre, a bit worrying when it only holds 1.25 litres in total. As it turned out a check that evening showed the oil level too be way too high so it had lost a lot less than we thought.

The stage got underway and was quite uneventful, long stony trails very similar to what I am used to racing on back home were the order of the dayJ and I had a great time with no problems on navigation. I eventually rolled into Zagora after 240kms.

The only down side was at the end as the Moto Pros did an extra 20km of special but us amateurs had nearly 40km of (very straight) tarmac to finish off with…. Boring!

I arrived to discover John was still in Ouarzazate, the keys were well and truly lost! He had gone to the local Hertz office to find them shut but had managed to get hold of someone on the phone and they had turned up. The spare key would have to come from Casablanca and there would be a €600 fine for losing it. The worst news was it would be there until the next day so John was stuck there with all of our luggage. I texted him and said I’d pay for a taxi to travel the 150km to Zagora so he could bring the bags and have somewhere to sleep and then for another in the morning to collect the car. I didn’t get a reply but was now at the hotel but they wouldn’t let me into the room as it was booked in John’s name and I didn’t have my passport with me. The Organisation eventually sorted that for me and Radu’s wife Anny gave me a T-Shirt to wear so I could go and have a shower. I then had to put my dusty, sweaty bike jeans back on and wore the inner booties from my TCX Pro 2.1’s as shoes, to go to the briefing that night.
John eventually turned up at the end, about 9.00pm having blagged a replacement hire car (at no additional cost) and driven over. It turned out there was no guarantee the spare key would turn up the next day so decided we could live without the two boxes of kit and pick them up again in Ouarzazate on the last day. This meant not having any spare goggles or gloves and having borrow, steal, buy or otherwise blag spares etc but at least John wouldn’t have a 300km drive the next day, before having to drive to Merzouga! I quickly then changed into some clean kit and we had dinner before hitting our beds. Our room had a nice long sofa, so Radu joined again, he and Elvis had a good day, coming fourth in the prologue in the Pro Car Category in their Mitsubishi Pajero Evo.

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