Photo Album: On The Way To The Tuareg Rally 2012

On Friday March, 18th the team left Switzerland for the two day trip South To Alméria and the ferry to Morocco. By 7:15 am, everyone had arrived and loaded their bags and we were soon on the way.

A few hours after crossing the border into Spain, we arrived at Lloret de Mar, where we spent the night before continuing on to Alméria the next day. It was another early start.

The hours were long but as we got farther and farther south, the air was warmer and we were able to enjoy the sun roof of the MAN KAT.

On Saturday evening, we joined the French team, Bande de Zèbres at the campground near Alméria. After dinner, we had an advance preview of the rally briefing from one of the team members who was in contact with the organizers.

Sunday morning after breakfast, we drove the last few kilometers to rally point in the port of Alméria.

We spent the day making last minute checks and adjustments at the port, waiting for the ferry

There’s no heavy truck category in the Tuareg Rally, but the Organization agreed to let the Belgian team of Gregory Vangheluwe, Tom Deleersnyder, and Wouter Leenknegt participate in the Rally with their MAN TGA 480 with the understanding that the Organization is not equipped to provide support for the truck. In case they get stuck in the desert, they’ll have to arrange their own towing and service truck

Boarding for the service teams’ ferry to Melilla was scheduled for 11:00pm, but was late. It was well after midnight before our ferry left port for Morocco.

At The Port, Waiting For The Ferry

This post was written yesterday, but we didn’t have time (or Wifi access) to post it, so we’re publishing from the hotel at the finish in Missor after the first day. It’s been non-stop since we boarded the ferry, and importing all our video and photos drained the battery on the Mac, so we haven’t been able to prepare any posts. Posts will be delayed by at least 24 hours.

Sunday was a day spent waiting at the port in Alméria. We arrived in mid-morning and the parking lot was already filled with motorcycles, cars, trailers and heavy trucks. Each little group seemed to be speaking a different language. In an area not much larger than 50m wide there were participants from Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, and Sweden, but also Austria, the Czech Republic, and Lithuania.

We didn’t get to the registration desk early enough so the line was long, and for the first 30 minutes it moved quite slowly. When it was our turn, we had to notify the organization of some changes in the teams. Olivier and Philippe were not able to come, and Edouard is taking their place, so he had to complete all the registration on site. Florian and Yvan are driving a Jeep Cherokee in the race, not a Tomcat, and Pascal accompanied them to provide assistance. Sylvain has a new co-pilot, also named Pascal; Cécile will take the role of co-pilot in the rapid assistance car that Raoul is driving.

After registration, Sylvain asked for help configuring his ToughBook GPS and navigation software to correctly display the position on the map. It took over thirty minutes to find the parameters that worked. It’s not enough just to have a mechanic anymore, with all the technology onboard these cars, someone with computer experience can always come in handy. Someday soon it’ll be mandatory to have Tech Support to take care of the car too.

Later in the afternoon, the organization came by for the scrutineering (a check of the vehicles to make sure they comply with all the rules and safety regulations).

It was after 2pm before we had a chance to eat something for lunch. Since we had a little time to wait before the briefing, we dumped all the video from the onboard cameras and the photos we had taken on the way to Alméria onto our 500 Gb external hard drive and wiped the memory so the cards would be ready for tomorrow. As soon as we have a good Wifi connection, we’ll try publish some of them.

The briefing didn’t start until around 5:30pm. We split the group since everyone needed help getting the GPS points into their onboard navigation systems. A few people went to the briefing while the rest worked on the GPS problem. At the briefing the organizers went over the general rules and procedures in addition to providing more detailed information about the ferries. The Tuareg Rally has so many participants this year that the organizers had to arrange for two ferries. The competitors will take the ferry to Nador, while the service vehicles will arrive in the Spanish enclave of Meililla.

The Rally starts directly after disembarkment from the ferry. We’ll drive almost 400km south to Missor where we’ll spend the night before continuing on to Merzouga. We won’t see our racing teams until everyone is at the finish, that is, unless someone needs assistance along the way, but we hope that won’t happen! There are two assistance/photo points along the course where we’ll try to get some pictures from the race.

Update: We’ve added two photos from the photo album on the iPhone.

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South To Alméria

Monotony.

As everyone who drives a truck knows, when your top speed is 90 km/hour, the hours on the highway pass slowly. With only short stops for refueling the vehicles and their occupants, the 1,600 km to Alméria seems to stretch on and on. No radio or reclining seats for us. The cabin is loud and because we’re wearing earplugs, it’s not easy to have a conversation, so watching the highway through the windshield is like being alone in a theatre watching a film set to a soundtrack of muffled engines and the high-frequency white noise known as silence.

Even most of the toll booths are automated. Sometimes the machine doesn’t give us a ticket, and we have to call the attendant. That passes for excitement.

The passenger’s job of fighting boredom isn’t that hard, but the driver must stay focused, to keep these 14 tons on the road and in our lane when the route is winding through the mountains, in construction zones and in spots of heavy traffic.

The truck is over 4m in height, and with 6 tires and 2 tents on the roof, the center of gravity is high. You drive calmly and with anticipation. High wind gusts in southern France rock the hold. You’re always making minor corrections to the steering. It’s not difficult to turn the wheel, but the hours of constant adjustments are tiring and build up resistance in the muscles in your shoulders. The cabin sways from side to side as if it were a ferry being rocked by waves on the ocean. You wonder if you could get seasick.

When you stop for fuel, it’s a mad race for everyone to fill up the tanks, get to the WC, grab a snack and then get back on the road again as soon as possible. We can’t loose time on stops. We’re expected in Alméria on Saturday evening.

How To Follow Us At The Tuareg Rallye 2012

This is a sticky post that we’ll leave up on the home page for the duration of the race as a speed dial to the different sites where you can follow us at the rally. If you’re looking for our latest report, just scroll down to the next post.

We have a GPS Spot messenger with us in the truck. Check our current location here.
NB: The map doesn’t always seem to load correctly. If you have trouble, try using another browser.

Follow @ergmachine on Twitter.

Check out the Tuareg Rallye official Live reports.

Tweet us your questions, or just leave a comment here, and we’ll do our best to answer during the race.

The Tuareg Rallye 2012: 3 Days Until Departure

Only 3 days until we leave for the Tuareg Rallye, a private race in Morocco for offroad 4×4 cars and motorcycles. The rally takes place over 8 days from March 18-26 and covers 2,230 km of Special Stages consisting of mixed terrain, dirt tracks and dunes. Starting in Nador and arriving in camp at Merzouga on Day 2, Days 3, 4 and 5 consist of Specials that will take place around Merzouga before the race heads back to Nador on Day 6. Following the ferry back to Spain on Day 7, the rally finishes in Mojácar on Day 8.

We’ll be part of the support team for ZZK Racing, a new Swiss racing team sponsored by ZZ Kustom, specialist in Jeep and 4×4 preparation and offroad competitions.

The team has entered five cars in the rally, the Chevrolet Pro Truck of Stéphane and Caroline, the Bowler Tomcat driven by Florian and his co-pilot Yvan, the Mitsubishi Pajero II Evo of Sylvain and Cécile, and two Nissan patrols, driven by Raoul and Pascal.

We’ll be behind the wheel of the MAN KAT (5T Mil GL) assistance truck. Olivier and Philippe will provide mechanical support and assistance, aided by Christophe who is going to make it a point to keep the Pro Truck’s windshield squeaky clean.

We leave Switzerland on Friday morning for the long drive to Almeria, where we’ll catch one of two ferries arranged by the organizers to Morocco. The JK Rubicon is pulling the trailer for the Pro Truck and we’ll be joined by several other vehicles during the trip south since we’ll be meeting the French part of the team on route somewhere south of Bordeaux.