Saturday 11th January, 2020 – Smara to Dakhla
Tough navigation has taken its toll on a number of riders in the 5th stage of the 2020 Africa ECO Race, including Australians Andrew Houlihan and Matt Sutherland (Lyndon Poskitt Racing/KTM 450 Rally).
Waypoint 3 seemed particularly hard to find and a number of riders got very badly lost. Only 22 of the 70 riders who started the day managed to find the waypoint, and Andrew was in a group of riders lost for almost an hour.
Andrew explains: “There was a small group of us and we were all sure we were on the right cap heading. Over the 30-40km we ended up maybe 1-2 degrees off and 10km off track. Almost every rider got caught out but our group were the worst.”
Andrew says a helicopter had to drop fuel to one rider who had ran out of fuel in the confusion.
Up to Waypoint 3 Andrew had shown that he has good pace and has adapted well to the Coca-Cola Energy KTM 450 Factory Rallye bike. He was sitting 13th at Waypoint 2.
“The good thing is I was sitting in 11 or 12 place for most of the morning until the cap navigation error and riding at a nice steady pace.”
The navigation issue has dropped Andrew 4 places and he now sits 36th outright, but he remains postitive about the rest of the rally. He is loving the new KTM, and says his energy levels are good. It’s a long way to go and the race really picks up once the competitors cross into Mauritania in Stage 6.
Also hit hard by the tough navigation was Matt Sutherland. Matt is the leading Australian at this stage but he also missed Waypoint 3 and lost well over an hour today, finishing the day 1h49m49s behind stage winner Alessandro Botturi (Yamaha WR 450F) and 29 seconds behind Andrew.
Fellow Coca-Cola Energy KTM rider Pablo Guillen was also among the 48 riders who missed Waypoint 3 but finished the day 18th. He is now 29th overall.
The riders now have a well earned rest day in Dakhla, and the teams have a chance to do some more intense maintenance on the motorcycles.
Stage 6 will be a 600km day but has to be an early start as the competitors will need to stop at the border with Mauritania for customs formalites.