Jean Louis SCHLESSER and René METGE are currently in Africa for the traditional pre-race work meetings with the various local administrations. The rest of the AFRICA ECO RACE® crew is busy at the headquarters doing the finals touches. Everything is on track to make this 9th edition the most spectacular one yet, with an impressive lineup, a beautiful course, a crew eager than ever to assist all the teams and a media team that is getting stronger as the start approaches.
A SPORTY 2017 COURSE
« Designing a race course, is a bit like a puzzle. We have to put all the pieces together. Sometimes the assembly is straight forward, other times it is more complicated and it gives us many different possibilities. For the 2017 race, we had many different options, especially with the Mauritanian section, as the Moroccan course was pretty easy to assemble. We therefore had to take all the elements and assemble them in order to create a well-balanced course. Morocco will be selective and it will be necessary to remain cautious not to risk the chances of finishing because the second week in Mauritania will, more than ever, have its load of difficulties. As always, navigation will not be easy but it is really the pilots that will be put to contribution because some stages will be particularly tough. Fortunately, as always, the liaisons will be short and the two Mauritanian loops will allow the assistances to recover a little bit. On the other hand, we are going to pass in incredible places that the participants will for sure never forget! "
These are the words of René METGE pointing out, with a touch of humor, the route of this 9th edition of the AFRICA ECO RACE® of which the road books are currently being printed.
A VALOUROUS PACK
Jean Louis SCHLESSER also has a smile when it comes to evoking the pack of competitors on the 2017 AFRICA ECO RACE®. Indeed, even if each year the level is increasing, the six-time winner of the event considers that this year there are no less than 10 car crews able to win the Race:
"I am very happy to see that our race attracts more and more high level competitors of the discipline. I think some people have understood that, in addition to being a perfectly managed competition, the AFRICA ECO RACE® is a real adventure where it is not just about having a vehicle at the top to win. It is necessary above all to be regular and to make as least errors as possible while being obviously very efficient. It is a safe bet that this year we will have a similar battle for victory, like in 2016 when, two days before the finish, three cars were still fighting for the first place. The major difference is that this year there will be even more contenders to victory through a battle between the two and the four-wheel drive. I really look forward to watching all this from the air and I think we will enjoy! "
Jean Louis SCHLESSER is familiar with the various drivers in the discipline. In two-wheel drive, Pascal THOMASSE, who had announced his retirement in motor racing after his 2nd place on the 2016 AFRICA ECO RACE®, changed his mind and he will be present in Monaco on December 31st with the ambition, this time, to have no one in front of him at the finish.
The driver of the Optimus Buggy will however have a lot to do, notably with Mathieu SERRADORI, the winner of the World Cup Cross-Country Rallies at the wheel of his SRT Buggy, or with the mighty Patrick SIREYJOL on his CUMMINS Buggy, without forgetting to mention Jean Antoine SABATIER, who has already won the event with his BUGGA ONE. As always, the TAREK buggies driven by Patrick MARTIN and Yves FROMONT are part of the adventure, and above all by the OPTIMUS buggy tribe of Team MD RALLYE SPORT with David GERARD, brilliant on several stages in 2016, Guillaume GOMEZ who now knows the field quite well now or Dominique HOUSIEAUX who had bad luck last year but who will have to take his revenge.
A last-minute guest could however shake things up quite a bit. It is Thierry MAGNALDI at the wheel of the 2WD team Buggy. With this machine, he has finally found a vehicle to match his talent. An undeniable advantage is that the Frenchman knows Africa very well for having traveled in all directions in the bikes category. He also knows the AFRICA ECO RACE® since he had been the co-driver of Jean Louis SCHLESSER for his last victory.
Faced to the pack of Buggies, several 4X4 drivers will be ready to answer back. Not to forget that the title is held by a four-wheel drive vehicle. Russian driver Vladimir VASILYEV, winner of the 2014 World Cup, will be racing at the wheel of a MINI. First time for him, but also for this car! For sure that makes him one of the favorites for the final victory. The Russian will also have in the category four-wheel drive category quality opponents like in particular Kazakhstan’s Andrey CHEREDNIKOV at the wheel of a formidable FORD F 150, the Russian Victor KHOROSHAVTSEV on a BMW and the regular Hungarian Balazs SZALAY, at the wheel of its V8 powered OPEL without obviously forgetting Miroslav ZAPLETAL from Czech Republic with his HUMMER.
It will also be necessary to count on the Corsican driver Michaël PISANO, winner of the AFRICA ECO RACE® in 2014 on a motorcycle who switched to four wheels on a magnificent Proto X5 SODICARS. In total, more or less fifty participants are registered in the Auto category, of which some could also benefit from the upcoming battle because on the AFRICA ECO RACE®, experience and reliability are the key to success.
Once again, the category Truck should be animated with the impressive KAMAZ which will be driven by Andrey KARGINOV, one of the best pilots of the Russian team and Sergey KUPRIANOV, driving the second vehicle running on gas. Facing them, Tomas TOMECEK will try to win by taking advantage of the incredible qualities of his Czech TATRA truck when it comes to crossing dunes. In addition to them, two regular followers of the AFRICA ECO RACE®, the Portuguese Elisabete JACINTO and her MAN, wearing new colors, as well as the Hungarian Miklos KOVACS at the wheel of a New SCANIA featuring a nose that gives it an innovative look and, a greater efficiency. Both will give the best of the best to sneak in for the victory.
The Moto category will be nice and plenty as there are around fifty starters this year. The most known of them is the Norwegian Pal Anders ULLEVALSETER who also decided to push back his sporting retreat to find the great African spaces and the unique atmosphere of the event.
He should once again be the main animator of the race. However, the KTM driver will have to contend with the HONDA of Italy's Paolo CECI, one of the top riders of the discipline, several times in the top 10 major in rallies and even winner of the 450 World Championship in 2009. Also, the comeback on the AFRICA ECO RACE®, of the Moroccan Harite GABARI, is full of ambition and it is legitimate because he is an extremely solid, rather fast rider that has the advantage of knowing Morocco well. There will also be riders such as Italian Stefano PELLONI on YAMAHA, Slovak Martin BENKO and Russian Dmitry AGOSHKOV, which was brilliant on the 2016 edition.
Finally, just recovered from a broken scaphoide, the frenchman Nobert Dubois was given the green light from his the doctors to take part to the start of his 6th edition of the Africa Eco Race.
He will for sure be another serious client for the podium. On the female side, only one representative will be racing on two wheels for this edition. It is the French Julie VANNEKEN, registered among the amateur riders without assistance called “Malles Moto”. Finally, in perfect match with the AFRICA ECO RACE®, a 100% electric motorcycle should attract the attention. It is a prototype based on a YAMAHA which will be ridden by Arnaud JACQUART, a Franco-Russian pilot who participated in the first edition of the event and who had almost won it. He will compete in the experimental category; Arnaud's ambition is to succeed in arriving to DAKAR without having used a single drop of fuel and recharging the batteries of his bike at the bivouac using photovoltaic energy. An ambitious project which, if it happens to succeed, would be a great achievement and would attract great interest.
MOTUL, PARTNER OF “MALLES MOTO”
As a continuation of its investment in motorsport and in particular with offroad rally in 2017, MOTUL is partnering with AFRICA ECO RACE® as Official Lubricant Partner. A logical commitment since the Rally is on the FIA / FIM International calendar and MOTUL is the Official Lubrifiant Partner of the FIM since 2012. The competitors, and particularly the “Malle Moto” competitors, which have no Assistance, will be able to appreciate the technical assistance and the products made available to them by MOTUL. An implication that Jean Louis SCHLESSER has decided to strengthen by setting up an assistance truck with the colors of MOTUL: "I am very happy to be able to count on the support of MOTUL for this 2017 edition of the AFRICA ECO RACE®. It is a leading partner in prestigious motorsport events and legend teams. MOTUL will equip and assist pilots who have chosen to experience the adventure without assistance, with a case only, 2 spare wheels, a tent and a bag, all transported in the MOTUL truck with the minimum logistics support supplied by the organization."
Felipe JACOME, Manager Business Unit Export MOTUL: "We are pleased to combine our expertise with a competition with strong values such as the AFRICA ECO RACE®. This partnership will enable us in particular to develop our involvement in the countries crossed by the Rally while providing technical support to competitors."
AN INCREASING MEDIA EXPOSURE
As every year since the first edition in 2009, the AFRICA ECO RACE® will have its own TV production team. Composed of twenty people, each day, more than 5 hours of footage will be shot, mounted and sent by satellite to Europe, or for televisions through contractual broadcasts, such as EURONEWS, MOTORS TV, AFRICA NEWS , CANAL + AFRIQUE, etc., Also for competitors having agreements with channels of their countries. For this 9th edition, TV broadcasts will represent 20% more than in 2016 and there will also be 30% more journalists on the event.
EXPERIENCE THE FINISH AT THE LAC ROSE
The AFRICA ECO RACE® team, through the various turn-key travel packages for the finish, allows everyone to experience the last days of racing and the mythical arrival at Lac Rose. Info and reservations with the competitor departement.
RENDEZ VOUS IN MENTON
This 2017 edition of the AFRICA ECO RACE® will begin on Thursday 29th December in Menton with the Administrative and Technical checks for the organization, but also for the competitors from 16H00. They will continue the following day, Friday, December 30th from 7:00 am until 7:00 pm as the entire caravan of the event, composed of 200 vehicles and 500 people, must comply with this accreditation to the rules. Attention, for the participants or for the enthusiasts of motor sports who will be in Menton and who do not have accommodation yet, they can book via the Tourism Office of Menton.
START IN MONACO
After the checks, all the race vehicles will be placed in Parc Fermé on the Quai Antoine 1er in MONACO. These vehicles will only be released on Saturday 31 December from 11:00 am, for the official start which will be given in the presence of Adriana. One by one, the vehicles will pass under the arch set up in front of the Stars'N'Bars, partner of the AFRICA ECO RACE®, and leave towards the port of Sète where the Rally will embark on a ferry to cross the Mediterranean to Morocco.