After 12 days and 7000 km through the North African desert and 22 years after his last victory in Dakar, Dutch rally-raid veteran Jan de Rooy has won the truck class of the inaugural Africa Rally at the wheel of an 820 bhp Iveco Trakker.

After 12 days and 7000 km through the North African desert, with 4000 km of those being timed special stages, Dutch rally-raid veteran Jan de Rooy has won the truck class of the inaugural Africa Race at the wheel of an 820 bhp Iveco Trakker, 10 minutes ahead of team mate Hans Bekx (DAF), who was followed in the final standings by the Hungarian Miklos Kovacs (Scania) and Italian desert fox Giacomo Vismara (Unimog).

The Africa Race is a bold new initiative from three times Dakar Rally winner Hubert Auriol who wanted to fill the gap left by the decamping of the Dakar Rally to South America this year. The Africa Race was directed by another former Dakar winner, René Metge, who has built up plenty of experience, and he organised last year's successful Transorientale Rally. Auriol managed all the paperwork with the official authorities such as the FIA, FFSA, FIM, FRMSA and KNAC, as well as making the necessary agreements with the authorities in Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal. However by the time this was all done it was late in 2008 and a lot of hard work had to be put in before the fearsome challenge of the North African desert could once again be undertaken.

The inaugural event went smoothly and the Dakar veteran de Rooy, behind the wheel of the his team's 8,500 kg, 12.9-litre Iveco Trakker with power of 820 bhp and 3,200 Nm of torque, was able to claim his second victory in Dakar, 22 years after his first, and with this win put behind him several disastrous years: last year the Dakar Rally was cancelled at the very last minute, the year before he broke down, and the year before that the Team de Rooy trucks failed to make it through scruitineering. Jan de Rooy, was joined in the cab of the Iveco Trakker by fellow Belgian Dany Colebunders, who was starting his fourth African adventure, and Pole Darek Rodewald. The trio's advantage at the finish line was 10 minute and 56 seconds. The third placed Hungarian crew were 37 mins back while the Italians in fourth place were 1 hour and 37 mins adrift of the winners. The car class was dominated by Frenchmen Jean Louis Schlesser, driving a Buggy designed by himself while Spaniard Juan Manuel Pellicer (BMW) won the bike category. 

"In fact the Africa Race came as a gift from the gods," said Jan de Rooy, "at first I wanted to compete in the Dakar Rally, certainly because my son Gerard also goes to South America and it's always nice to start together with such an adventure. But I lost my heart to Africa and when Hubert Auriol knocked on my door with his new rally I was in doubt. In the end Hubert won me over."

The new Africa Rally ran over 11 days. The convoy will stayed for 6 days in Morocco with each stage being about 600 to 650 kilometres. In Mauritania, where there were four further stages, two were more than 700 kilometres in length while the other two were shorter, at around 400 kilometres.

The technical and administrative scrutineering took place on 26th and 27th December in Marseille followed by the Prologue on the 28th of December in order to determine the starting order in Morocco. The crossing to Morocco took place on 28th and 29th December. The first stage, on 30th December, was contested over a stony tracks, well known by the competitors. The first night in Africa was at Ouarzazate. Subsequently the convoy arrived on 31st December in Ait Ben Hadou, a historical location in the middle of an oasis. On New Year's Day, the competitors pitched their bivouacs in Fort Bou Jerif, the port to the desert. On 2nd January the crews slept in Ksar Tafnidilt, in the middle of the Sahara, followed by a trip to Agadir, a bathing resort where one can enjoy the good things of life. However this didn't really apply to the competitors, except of course if they didn't have to work on the vehicles on the rest day on 4th January. After the rest day they all made their way to Mauritania for four more stages. The bivouacs were in Bou Lanouar, Chinguetti, and Tidjika and near Boutilimit. The last country to be visited was Senegal with the surviving competitors arriving at the finish line in Dakar on 11th January.

© 2009 Interfuture Media/Italiaspeed