Merzouga Rally, eve of the final stage


The start of stage 4

Well it’s been a tough few days.

I go into tomorrow’s final dune stage with so many time penalties that I’ll effectively have been riding for longer than I’ve been in Morocco.

Problems started on Thursday morning as I started the bike to head into the liaison for a two day marathon stage. This is an old fashioned two day stage with a bivouac in the dunes and no assistance allowed. Even the riders only had 15 minutes to work on their bike at the end of the day.

The starter motor made a funny squeal as I started up in the morning which did not bode well for a stage with over 100km of dunes to cross finishing up with 50km in the big dunes of Erg Chebbi. True to form at about 1pm with only 30km to go I crested a dune, stalled the bike and the starter refused to work.

Without a kick start the day was over, and worse, the rally as well as even if I could get a tow back to the bivouac the marathon stage rules would mean I had no way of getting a replacement part, even if I could fit it.

After an hour waiting in the dunes letting everything cool down except me, I had called the organisers for rescue. I was chatting in bad French to the Moroccan dude who inevitably pitches up anywhere you stop. Saif I think his name was. At one point I prodded the starter speculatively and we were both shocked when the motor banged into life.

The view from sitting in the shade of my broken bike

So now I had to decide whether to bail out of the dunes directly (about 1 km) or try to ride the rest of the stage. I chose to get out as at least the organisers could recover me easily that way.

As it was, I managed to get the bike to the bivouac although I missed a lot of way points in the dunes. Today I rode direct to the paddock at the rally hotel and did not attempt the course. I expect a huge amount of penalties but the bike is fixed, I’m still in the Rally and racing tomorrow.
The marathon bivouac at the foot of Erg Chebbi