Szalay Balzázs seventh overall in Africa Eco rally 2014

January 02, 2014

After the most challenging day yet in the Africa Eco race, The Opel Dakar team finished the third stage 25th overall but lucjky not to have damaged the car beyond repair. The 387Km stage was a mix of typically Moroccan tracks combined with stony ground, especially at the end of the stage where the rocks became latrger and the attrition to the cars ever more pronounced. The rocks were to be the undoing of the team as a series of damages to the tires culminated in a smashed wheel removing any hopes of a podium place.

The day had started well as, after overcoming a puncture early on, Szalay and co-driver László Bunkoczi had overhauled Jean Louis Schlesser and taken the lead both on the road and in the stage. However, a second tire damaged and some confusion about the direction led to a decision to chance very sharp rocks to head back to the course through trees. Unfortunately, the rocks were to damage a third tire and such was the impact that the wheel shattered, forcing an unprecedented third change of wheel. However, with two tires already damaged, Szalay was forced to refit a deflated tire and wheel to the car to limp the 85km to the finish.

A generoius assist from fellow driver Miklós Kovács who loaned them a spare wheel after catching up with Szalay 20km before the finish allowed the team to complete the stage without further damaging the car. They arrived at the Assa finish 1hr 52mins and 58s behind the winner Sabatier placing them 7th overall in the general standings after stage three, some 2hrs 4.48m adrift of leader Schlesser.

Stage 4 to As Sakn is 390km of fast tracks and sand. Since the stage is completely new, none of the racers with previous experience of the Afruica Eco Rally will have an advantage meaning The Opel Dakar Team will start on level terms.

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