It seems I have enough photos to keep this thread going indefinitely! - however, perhaps now is a good time to wrap this up with my own summary of the week in Tunisia, and to say thank you to Donna & Martin from Torque Racing, who allowed me travel down with them and join the team for the duration of the rally.
It had always been my intention to ride in this year’s edition of the Tuareg Rallye - the Tuareg was my first desert race back in 2008 (when it was held in Morocco), and the Rammstein reveille not withstanding, I was impressed with the organisation of the event - the general quality of the roadbook and route, and not least the ‘laid-back’ ambiance that allowed the racers to race, while those who were not quite as competitive to take part without feeling there were there to simply make up the numbers...
With a move to Tunisia this year, I think most people were prepared to forgive a few teething problems, and other than a few reported roadbook anomalies, on the whole the move was a huge success - certainly the accommodation in Tunisia was a cut above what we’d be used to in Morocco, while the terrain offered new and sometimes punishing challenges for even the Profi class riders.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear the Tuareg Rallye was booked into the very same hotel in Douz that I had stayed at during the 2010 edition of the Oilybia de Tunisie rally (which was part of the FIM world championship) in preparation for my Dakar campaign, and was certainly looking forward to racing there again.
Unfortunately it was clear early on this year that my new rally bike was not going to be ready for March - hell it still isn’t ready for the Hellas rally this month either (but that is typically a whole other story)... So having already booked that week out in my diary, I decided to travel down with the team and report from the bivouac each evening, on behalf of a number of riders. As it turned out, thanks to the organisation choosing to start (and finish) a number of stages from directly outside or at least near to the bivouac hotel/s, it meant I was also able to get plenty of additional photos of the riders in action - and in turn the competitors themselves benefitted from far fewer liaison miles each day too of course!
Perhaps most importantly, with such a large number of ADVrider inmates competing in the Tuareg this year, I felt it was important to provide a regular news feed to all those people following the event and supporting the various riders. For a number of them this would be their first desert rally, so we would be assured of plenty of ‘gritty reality’; while the more experienced racers such as Neduro, Lastplace and Hagenblad would undoubtably keep us entertained up at the sharp end - and they didn’t disappoint!
Of course much of this was overshadowed by the tragic accident that Wes (Beaney) suffered on the second day. No-one could have foreseen such a dramatic turn of events, and indeed over the 13 years the event has run, the Tuareg Rallye has had an exemplary record in that regard.
As a ‘reporter’, I felt it was my duty to break the news with as much tact and diplomacy as possible - not least to help alleviate any concerns that the friends and family of other riders may have had having heard the rumours back home - but at the same time, it is something that no-one ever wants to have to do. When I snapped that picture of Wes drinking a beer, contemplating the week ahead on the eve of the rally - little did I know at the time just how much that photo would come to mean to so many people.
Without a doubt this year’s Tuareg Rallye featured the highest of highs and lowest of lows, and while a fatality always casts a long dark shadow, one thing is certain, throughout the week the event provided both the competitors and their supporters with some first class amateur level Rally Raid racing. Everyone will have their own memories and stories to tell for a long while to come... Thanks to the ongoing support of Torque Racing, these are just some of mine.
Behind the scenes:
Early morning Friday 8th (Scrutineering) - Memo Tours transported all the Torque Racing bikes to and from Tunisia:
Why Irishman George Dennison was listed as from Nicaragua is a mystery that remains until this day - funny though!
The hotel Sahara Douz was very comfortable, and a had an excellent buffet restaurant that featured local dishes, barbecue and even stone-backed pizza... I could live there!
#115 John Mitchinson of Rally Raid UK in conference with the Orga during scrutineering - his expression says it all!
Donna Gray uploading the daily routes to the riders’ GPS on the eve of the rally (with #96 Geoff Saunders)
Meanwhile Martin Wittering was putting the finishing touches to all the rider’s bikes prior to the start the following morning:
Bennie (Memo Tours), Martin (Torque Racing) and #87 Tony Schattat help another rider with an electrical problem:
Bennie from Memo Tours helping #116 Lukas Matzinger fit a new tyre and mousse he’d just bought from them:
Martin, #76 Mark Brincat and #304 Phil Renwick sharing a youtube joke in the bivouac: