To the end of the world
After the rather sprint-like stage yesterday, the rally caravan went over a longer distance once again on the 13th stage today. It went 734 kilometres, 478 km of which special stage, from Bamako to Ayoûn el Atrous in Mauritanian. According to the organisers it feels like you are at the end of the world there, but it was probably more like being in the forest for the competitors. The trails were lined with trees and whoever did not feel like making an excursion into the woods kept his food somewhat from the gas pedal just to be on the safe side today.
After his stage victory yesterday, Luc Alphand, with his X-raid BMW X5, was the first to begin the stage. With ninth place in the day's standings (29:36 min behind today's winner Colin McRae/Nissan), Alphand secured his outstanding fourth place in the overall standings: "That was long and hard today! Always running in 2nd or 3rd gear in the middle of trees and I had to do that for 500 km. This was the kind of stage that I don't like at all. There were parallel trails in two places and it was quite easy to take the wrong one. We actually did take the wrong one once, but we weren't the only ones. The Nissans were brutally fast today; no wonder, seeing that they don't have to worry about the overall standings any longer. I won't take any unnecessary risks anymore because we for sure want to reach Lac Rose at the destination in Dakar."
Team colleague Grégoire de Mévius, in the second BMW X5, achieved sixth place in today's standings, 23:58 min behind the stage winner. De Mévius holds on to fifth place in the overall standings: "That was a very unusual stage today without a clear route, with a lot of dust and difficult navigation. These parallel-running trails were confusing and suddenly we were 'gardening' a little bit. As a result, we had to turn around to reach the GPS-point. I let the three Nissans pass in a village because it was clear to me that they wanted the stage victory at all costs."
The competitors will get a lot of sand under their wheels tomorrow. The rally continues on a 547-kilometre special stage (551-kilometre total distance) northwards to Tidjikja, which was already the destination of the eighth stage last Thursday. After several smaller dune fields at the beginning, larger dunes with heights of up to 50 m will have to be overcome in the area of the Taskast-cliff.