THURSDAY APRIL 18th 2019
ZAGORA - MERZOUGA : 324 KM
The stage was very difficult for me in the first half. Joan started behind me, which would give him a chance to increase his lead if we caught me, and this kind of messed with my mentality the rest of the day, as I thought ‘yet another minute lost’. I kept on making many small mistakes, until we got to the fuel check, where I saw he was not far behind me. I cleared my head at the refueling, and kept going. Then Joan catch me and we went together for a while, until a point where we got lost. Then I found the right way and continued, thinking Joan was right behind me, until I realized he wasn’t. From that point, I had to do the navigation alone until the finish, which was very challenging. But I got the reward of a good gap over Joan, which will allow me to start tomorrow leading the race. I continue learning, not just piloting and navigation, but more importantly, how to control your emotions when you pass through so many different and stressful situations in a tough, important rally like this one.
It’s been a bad day for me today. First, there was an issue with my ERTF at the starting line, 5 minutes before I had to leave. It was fixed by the organization but I missed my slot and started in second place, 1’30” behind Skyler. In theory, this would be good for me, as I wouldn’t have to open the stage, but somehow I lost my concentration. I made many small mistakes, but managed to catch my rival around the refueling. Then we got to a village, where I made a really big mistake. Skyler found the right track quickly but I kept on looking for it. I realized how much I lost when we arrived to the last CP, 12’ in total! Then I drove like a maniac and managed to recover a big chunk of this gap in the last 50 kms., but I had to take many risks for that. So I’m basically happy to be here in one piece, having limited damage to around 4’. This means I’m 2’ behind, instead of 2’ ahead as I was this morning, but this is racing. We still have two stages to go and you can be sure I’ll keep on doing my best to win.
(‘Pelut’ is a very experienced mechanic, with a track record of more than 25 years working for many top teams, mainly bikes, in all high-end rallies such as Dakar, Tunisia, Abu Dhabi, OiLybia, Merzouga… it’s his first time at the MDC)
After 6 days of racing, I’m positively surprised of the MDC, essentially because I think it’s recovering the original spirit of the big races in Africa, something that I felt was being missed in the more traditional rallies. I like that this is a tough, difficult rally, based on what I hear from the best pilots, and that is important to keep attracting strong participants as this means good training for them. The rally is still relatively unknown, at least in some countries like Spain, but the good comments from participants are growing the interest and I already know several top pilots who want to come. For the amateurs is excellent, because if they have an issue they don’t have to go home and can reconnect at the next stage. I also like the bivouacs, sleeping in tents, the bar… much better than the “big” rallies, where everybody hides in the motorhome or the hotel room after the stage and there’s no networking.