Stage seven in the Africa Eco race, and the competition is hotting up, with the special stage on Monday between Assi Loubbou and Tiwilit representing 414 kilometres of torture for both man and machine.
It was the competitors’ first taste of the Mauritanian sand dunes, and they posed problems for nearly everyone.
Paulo Ceci took third in the special on his Honda Africa Twin, which is faster but also much heavier than his rivals’ KTMs.
But it was the power that let the Italian down, dropping inexplicably off after a refuelling stop, and allowing two riders to get past him.
Bike category leader Gev Sella finished second on the day, enough to retain his race lead. The Israeli was handed a nine-minute penalty on Sunday for time infringements, but shrugged the handicap off.
Romping to his first stage win this year was Pal Anders Ullevalseter, who has won two previous Africa Eco races. It was enough to take him up into thrid overall, nearly 50 minutes behind the leader.
Mr Consistency in the 2017 race so far in the cars section has been Andrey Cherednikov. The Kazakh has driven his Ford shrewdly since the start, and was third overall on Monday, good enough to take him up to second overall.
After engine problems ruined his chances of victory on Sunday, France’s Thierry Magnaldi turned on the heat in a furious drive to give thanks to his mechanics, who worked all night to allow him to take second place.
Race leader Vladimir Vasilyev had his own problems, getting buried in the sand at one point for half an hour, but he still won the stage and is now 1 hour and 40 minutes ahead of Cherednikov.