Off Road : OMAN DESERT EXPRESS QUEST 2006 - Thirty two cars lined up in the middle of the desert

Off Road : OMAN DESERT EXPRESS QUEST 2006 - Thirty two cars lined up in the middle of the desert

06.03.2006: Off Road : OMAN DESERT EXPRESS QUEST 2006 - Thirty two cars lined up in the middle of the desert

This is the powerful image from this morning's portion of the second annual Oman Desert express Quest. After several hours of rain that hardened the sand considerably and made it load-bearing, the sun shone brightly on the Al Mudayrib site, where Mr. Amed Bin Seuleimane Al Bin Saleh Al-Maimani, the Secretary of State for Commerce and Industry, dropped the national flag in the company of two other Secretaries of State, Mr. Rashad Al Hani (Sport) and Mr. Mohammed Al-Tobi (Tourism), along with Patrick Brignoli, President and General Manager of Group Event Company, the organizers of the race.

The crews, all strapped in and helmeted, are pawing the ground with impatience, the drivers behind the wheel of their Toyota Land Cruiser or Nissan Patrol, the navigators ready with road-book in hand. The atmosphere is relaxed and convivial. Radio messages are passed back and forth between the teams. "Good luck to All, from the Belgians", "Happy trails and Enjoy yourselves in our country" from the locals, who speed off across the first rows of dunes, the Omani flag flying from the rear of their vehicles, happy and proud to be participating in the 2nd Oman Desert express Quest.

"It's cool" says Jean Clement, who also competed here in the 1st year. "We'll need to figure the course out with imagination, and distance is essential. The sand is so hard, 100 meters could make the difference between winning and losing." André Dessoude, returning to competition after a twenty-year break, agrees with this analysis. "It keeps me young" says the Nissan assistant from Saint-Lô. "I'm feeling good, with no pressure at all. It's really a nice rally, the kind I like the best."

In the passenger bucket-seat his corporate assistant, Géraldine Deshayes, show her excitement about the role she'll be playing for the very first time. "I've dreamed of this for a long time. I'm delighted to be able to be on the other side of the fence, which will let me have a better evaluation of the experience inside a race car when our drivers come back to camp in the evening during Dakar or the World Cup rallies."

Everyone is smiling, relaxing while exchanging a last few friendly tips. The women's teams - Sylvianne Goutaland/Ombeline de Clermont-Tonnerre, and Fabienne Savel/Estelle Kingold, are out to win but only a few kilometers into the race they have their first agonies of error, and have to get out the straps and shovels to dig themselves out of their mistakes!

Meanwhile, Team Dessoude #4 (André Dessoude, Géraldine Deshayes, Marc Etienne, and Jacky Dubois), zigzag through the waves of dunes trying to find the shortest way out without getting stuck in the sand. They manage it without a hitch and pull into the lead at the first way-point (km 19).

This favoured foursome is hotly chased by the formidable Oman team, Khalid Soomar / Rashid Baluski, and Ahmed Al-Zadjali / Ali Arfy (n° 13) and by Jean Clément - 2 - / Didier Gouttenoire et Laurent Bugault / Boris Kaszuba (n° 1). Even though top speed is not a determining factor, the situation is good for the teams' morale as the race's rating takes into account both total distance driven and the 49 way points and 10 check points set up by the Rally's Director and course designer, Jean-Louis Dronne.

This evening the lucky teams made it to Qurun, a lovely little fishing port on the Indian Ocean. Tomorrow, the second stage schedule will take them to Ras Ar Ruways, another fishing port where the teams will be able to feed on grilled fish after a double crossing of the high massif of the Ramlat Al Wahaybah dunes. Sunday should be a tough day indeed.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the continuing adventures of the 2nd Oman Desert express Quest 2006.

All the news of the Oman Desert express Quest at

The Oman Desert express Quest 2006: an original concept! With the guarantee of sporting challenges, discoveries and human adventure…The trademarks Desert Express, Desert express Quest and Transatlantique du Désert are the property of Group Event Company.

Photos : Alain ROSSIGNOL
Agence Cathy BURG -


06.03.2006 / MaP

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