Smits loses time due to difficult navigation

Maikel Smits hoped to close the 14-minute gap to the Portuguese Mario Patrao during the fourth stage of the Morocco Desert Challenge. The intention fell to pieces due to the difficult navigation in the 310-kilometer long stage from Mhamid to Fezzou. Instead of winning a quarter of an hour, the Dutchman lost over half an hour.

Maikel Smits: "The first part went perfectly. I could keep a high pace without any problems. However, when we went into the dunes after about 60 kilometres, difficulties began. Because I won yesterday, I had to open the stage today and certainly in the dunes it is not easy. It already started when I went too far ahead, while I had to go into the dunes to the left on cap (compass) course. I have been searching there for a long time and when I found the route back, Patrao just arrived. He immediately went in the right direction and I followed his track for about 30 kilometres.

After the tank stop, I made the stupid mistake of keep continuing following his track without navigating myself.  He went wrong and I went with him.  Here I had the opportunity to make the difference so I am really angry with myself.  A bit further, I thought he was wrong again and I took a path a bit further, but this time he was right and I was wrong. I didn’t know what to do anymore and when back to the tank stop.  Missing waypoints is against my principles, than I would rather drive back all the way to the starting line, because I need to have them all.  In total I lost about 20 to 25 minutes with that.

I would have thought that this would be my day, but instead of winning time, I even lost double. Very unfortunate, but I enjoyed myself. As uncomfortable as the dunes were yesterday, so beautiful they were today. Nice and flowing, you could surf through."

Mario Patrao: "Speed is not such a problem for me; I am mainly here to train on navigation, because I think I still have to improve. And today it was very difficult on navigation, so I was able to practice well. I did make a few mistakes, but they did not cost me a lot of time. I had all waypoints. I am dead after 310 kilometres now, especially after a 40-kilometer stretch with nothing but stones. But for now, it goes well beyond expectations. I am satisfied."

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