Estonians take top two places in their category at Tunisia's Rally Fenix

From left, second placers Hardo Mere and Joonas Oja; winners Tarvo Klaasimäe and Ats Tsupsman, and third placed drivers  Rik van den Brink – Gydo Heimans (Netherlands).
From left, second placers Hardo Mere and Joonas Oja; winners Tarvo Klaasimäe and Ats Tsupsman, and third placed drivers  Rik van den Brink – Gydo Heimans (Netherlands). Source: Fenix Rally/Facebook

Two pairs of Estonians finished first and second in the open cars class at Rally Fenix, somewhat of a Wacky Races-style desert endurance race which took place over several days in the Tunisian desert, taking advantage of their use of off-road vehicles to the maximum.

The rally had started with simpler stages, but became more difficult day-by-day.

Inspired by the classic Dakar in Africa, organizers say, Fenix Rally is the living descendent of Rallye de Tunisie, which ran until 2011, and takes place in the Sahara, starting on the island of Djerba, and finishing in Douz-Douz, in the western part of the Maghreb country.

Tarvo Klaasimäe, one half of the winning pair, told Estonian motorsports site (link in Estonian) that: "We had to negotiate sandbars and cross 10m-high sand dunes, but there were also days where we drove in a "classic" rally mode, on gravel tracks.

"It was quite interesting to be able to drive our off-road car at speeds of 150-160 km/h, but as you can see, the 'tractor' handled it perfectly well," Klaasimäe went on.

"The track was difficult, but going to compete with our off-road cars fully justified itself," Klaasimäe added

"We lost in the 'classic' marathon aspect against those types of cars on the initial stages, but we had a clear advantage over the heavier ones later."

Klassimäe and Ats Tsupsman won the cars open class, one of several categories, with the Mudest Offroad Team, with the homemade car MOS1, in a time of 21:15.53.

The pair were followed by their compatriots Hardo Mere and Joonas Oja in the (HM Racing Team; HM7 Proto, who were a little over 36 minutes behind, though two-and-a-three-quarter hours ahead of the third placed pair.

The seven-day race cover 2,043km, 1,568 of which comprised speed tests.

Klaasimäe and Tsupsman also decided to use off-road tires instead of rally tires, and the choice evidently paid off.

"At first this was looked at with some wonderment, but the choice also turned out to be the right one. On the softer parts of the course, and there were a lot of these, the off-road tires provided some very good traction. While this meant that one the faster stages, we could not drive at the same pace as cars decked out with rally tires, it was the difficult sections that were decisive," Klaasimäe added.

The event's Facebook page is here.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Henrik Laever

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