January 07, 2014
The Africa Eco Race seems to have played a cruel joke on Szalay Balázs’ Opel Mokka today. After a flying start which saw Szalay and Schlesser battling for the stage win, an apparent technical problem halted the car in the second half of the stage for more than an hour. Details of the problem are not yet known but the unscheduled stop has cost the team a lot of time. They finished the special in 19th place, 1 hour, 43 minutes and 30 seconds behind winner Jean Louis Schlesser whose buggy they were battling with earlier in the race.
More information about their problem will be know once they reach the bivouac but for now a desperately frustrated Balázs and co-pilot Bunkoczi are trekking from the finish line rueing what could have been. The first half of the race was seriously fast putting them ever closer to 5th placed Shagirov who also had a bad day today. however, despite his problems, he still finished 15 minutes ahead of Szalay stretching his lead further instead of the much anticipated closing in or even overtaking by the Opel Dakar team in the general standings.
Overall, the team now sit one place lower at 7th in the general classification having been overtaken by both Tomecek’s Tatra and Henrard’s buggy. Saving them from the drop to 8th place was the mare of a day being experienced by Sabatier who lwas first to start by virtue of yesterday stage win. He also stopped in the course, but for more than 2 hours and has yet to finish today’s stage.
Tomorrows target will now be Tomas Tomecek, who is 9 minutes exactly ahead of Szalay overall with German driver, Henrard a further 7 minutes 37 seconds down the road.