January 08, 2014
After just a few kilometres of today’s special, Szalay Balázs and László Bunkoczi, were forced to turn back and abandon stage 8. Their seriously underpowered Opel Mokka was leaking oil badly and the treacherous sand and dunes were threatening to engulf the car. With the possibility of getting stuck in deep sand and being unable to recover the car, the team had no choice but to leave the stage and return to the bivouac for repairs.
Todays route was a 421km loop from Akjoujt to Akjoujet, 337 of which were special with an 84km liaison to reach the startline. Szalay and László lined up as 23rd starter after working overnight to rectify the problems of yesterday, anxious but determined to press on with the race. However, driver and navigator both knew all was not well with the car and as the terrain got worse the team risked getting stuck and having to abandon the Africa Eco Race altogether. As the dunes rose up and threatened to engilf the underpowered car, they made the brave decision to turn back and skip the stage.
The decision has cost them the chance of a placing in the overall standings but on the plus side, they have the entire day and night to strip down the engine and try to repair the car so that they can complete the final three stages.
Szalay was sure that the problem was a leaking cylinder, causing the loss of power and the oil to be distributed where oil is not meant to be. The strip down and rebuild will reveal all. For now, we only hope the crew can ressurect the car so Szalay can show some Opel ‘fireworks’ in the final stages.
“Gutted” does not have an exact 1 to 1 translation into Hungarian but that is exactly how Szalay and László are feeling right now. Although they had no real choice, their good earlier results and the forthcoming sand dune stages which they both love and their car normally eats up, gave them every reason to be optimistic for the remainder of the race. Although now out of contention for overall honours, the team are hoping the Opel Mokka will be back to its dominant best to complete the two stages in Mauritania before entering Senegal on Saturday for the Finale.