Dakar: Kwikpower Mercedes stage nine report

Nightshift for Ellen Lohr and the ORC racing team Kiffa/Mauritania -- For Ellen Lohr and her co-pilot, Detlef Ruf, the longest leg of the 2006 Dakar Rally (874 kilometres) ended in the middle of the night between 9th and 10th ...

Nightshift for Ellen Lohr and the ORC racing team

Kiffa/Mauritania -- For Ellen Lohr and her co-pilot, Detlef Ruf, the longest leg of the 2006 Dakar Rally (874 kilometres) ended in the middle of the night between 9th and 10th January. The pairing and their M-Class prototype arrived at the leg's finish, in South Mauritania's Kiffa, at 02.30hrs, having completed the longest and most demanding special stage of the entire event. The first two thirds of the marathon stage -- completed at day time -- went just great. Lohr and Ruf passed the second checkpoint in 16th position and at the third, they held 29th place. But between the third, the so-called 'CP', and the end of the special stage, the advance of the duo was suddenly stopped by a hole as big as car. Both the M-Class' front and rear stuck deep in the sand, and it took Lohr and Ruf a lot of time to shovel the car free and battle their way to the finish. Still, they finished the stage in 43rd position.

Ellen Lohr: "It was an eventful special stage. We suffered two punctures and got stuck four times. Furthermore, we re-erected a Nissan that had somersaulted and helped two motorbike drivers. And then, we drove into the deep hole, in the dark. This stage was really awkward and I'm truly happy that it's over."

When Lohr and Ruf arrived at the bivouac, at 02.30hrs, 17 hours had gone by since their start into the leg. And while they finally could rest, their arrival meant the beginning of another nightshift for the service crew of the close to Stuttgart based ORC racing team. The Kwikpower Mercedes-Benz squad leader is Andreas Lennartz, who designed the rally prototype as ORC's designing engineer and also drives the Actros 6x6 -- the mobile workshop of the team -- during the Dakar Rally. Lennartz and the mechanics, Karsten Buckelt, Vitalij Ruf and Sebastian Harmsen, started to work on the car right away. "We changed the transfer gear and a leaking shock absorber at the left rear wheel, repaired the damaged front and some other bagatelles," said Lennartz. "Furthermore, we made a complete check-up as the car must be well prepared when Ellen starts into leg ten, at 12.00hrs." But the ORC crew wasn't the only one that was busy throughout the night. Everywhere in the bivouac, you could see teams forging and melding on their cars.

According to the organisers, the competitors will need about 11 hours to complete today's 'short' 300-kilometre stage from Kiffa to Kayes, Mali. And the support cars also will have to cope with an exhausting challenge. Just as it was the case in the sixth and the seventh legs, the entire Mercedes-Benz service fleet, the Actros 6x6, the high-capacity van Viano 4Matic and the Mercedes-Benz M-Class for the journalists will also have to go off-road, today. At the end of the day, the rally also represents a true endurance test for these cars and their crews.

-kwikpower-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Ellen Lohr , Detlef Ruf