Tuareg Rally, Day 5: Dune Race, Repairs And A Ride In The MAN Race Truck

A special stage, known as the dune race, took place on the fifth day of the Rally. As Rainer put it at the briefing the evening before, “Tomorrow, navigation is not important.”

The racers would have to complete several rounds of the same circuit in as short a time as possible. The amateur cars and motorcycles would race for two rounds and the “Profi” cars and bikes for four. The Finish Line for the cars was at the base of a very steep dune, while the motorbike finish was at the top. If the riders weren’t able climb to the top on their bikes, they would have to do it on foot.

That sounded like something worth seeing. Since Stéphane and Edouard were going to spend most of the day working on the Protruck, cleaning and repairing the wheel bearings and fashioning an inner seal to keep the sand out, we had planned to get an extra hour of sleep and then head up to the Finish Line on foot to get some photos.

We never made it.

We needed to repair the tire that had blown out on the way to Merzouga; it wouldn’t be prudent to start back without a ready spare. We went with Caro to Risani for some supplies, including talc to sprinkle inside the tire so that the air chamber would move freely inside without rubbing or sticking. By the time we got back it was late. Everyone at camp wanted lunch, and we needed to go over to see the RR Belgica team.

We had gotten a spare air chamber to fit our tire from the MAN KAT on the Orga team, and the RR Belgica guys were willing help us inflate and mount it on the rim. This is a tricky procedure because the rims are special and consist of several pieces. If they aren’t put together correctly, inflating the tire can be dangerous, since the different parts of the rim can fly apart because of the air pressure. The RR Belgica guys had experience with the procedure, and we were happy to have their help. There wouldn’t be any time to see the end of the day’s race. We’d have to settle for watching the video at the briefing later that evening.

By the time we got over to see our new friends on the service team for RR Belgica, their MAN had already finished the day’s race. Kris helped us mount our spare tire, and then Wouter, the pilot, asked us if we’d like to take a quick ride over the dunes with him to a photo shoot. Of course we said yes!

The MAN TGA 480 was prepared by MAN Racing. When you accelerate directly toward the dunes, the 750+ hp of its 6 inline cylinder 13L engine make its 10 tons seem light and agile. It’s not quite as loud as the Tatra, there’s a little more room in the cabin since there’s no couchette, and the instruments are a little less rustic (they even have a sound system).

The sensation of going over the dunes is like being on a roller coaster. Awesome. Imagine doing that all day!

By the time we took the repaired spare tire back to camp, our other drivers had returned from the race. Without having to to worry about navigation, they had had a fantastic day driving over the dunes in their little roller-coaster cars and were back relatively early.

Florian and Yvan were checking the steering. A Polaris had run into them during the race and had bent the tie rod. They’d made a repair in the dunes but were checking it over to make sure everything was ok.

Sylvain/Pascal and Raoul/Cécile had driven well and since they were in early, there was plenty of time to complete the maintenance needed before the return to Missor the next day.

After the briefing we decided to go out to eat together in one of the local restaurants instead of at the hotel. It wasn’t often we had an evening relaxed enough to enjoy such a luxury.

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