VICTORY FOR STEPHANE PETERHANSEL AND TITLE FOR MARC COMA IN DUBAI
With his second place in the UAE Desert Challenge in Dubai, the Repsol rider took his first world title
The fifth and last leg of the UAE Desert Challenge was held with two special stages, of 123 kms and 185 kms each, which were won by Cyril Despres in the motorbike class and Stephane Peterhansel in cars. The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol driver totally dominated in Dubai, crushed the opposition in the final round and clinched today his third Dubai Raid victory. Team-mate Nani Roma, not yet recovered from the health problems, finished both specials in second position. In the motorbike class Repsol KTM rider Marc Coma finished third and second respectively, while team-mate Jordi Duran was sixth and seventh. In the final results of the Dubai Rally, Despres was first, followed by Coma, who was second in the last scoring race of the year, with Duran in fifth position. With this result, the Repsol rider scored 22 points allowing him to clinch the Cross Country Rally World Champion title with 94 points. Championship runner-up was David Casteu, with 82 points and third was Cyril Desprès with 75.
Today's leg was made up by two special stages. The first started and finished at Khatam, 75 kms from Moreeb, and offered several fast open sections with few tall dunes. After a road liaison of a little over 100 kms, the seventh and final selective section ran for 184.70 kms and offered several tricky navigational tests and numerous sand spits.
At the age of 28, with a rational driving style and impeccable navigation, Coma had it clear at all times that his aim was the Championship and not the victory of the rally. After a problem with the battery in the first special stage, the Spaniard began to control his rivals from the back. He knew that if he rode mistake-less and avoided to take more risks than necessary his aim would be at his reach. And so it was. He only needed to finish and score points. With the second place in Dubai, Marc Coma took his first FIA Cross Country Rally World Championship title, only a bit more than one month before the start of the 2006 Lisbon-Dakar Rally, his next aim. His team-mate in the Repsol KTM Team, Jordi Duran, finished the rally in fifth place, after a great performance along the six days. Duran fulfilled the expected team-work perfectly well, riding always close to Coma in case he should need help, as it happened during the first special when the battery of Marc's bike failed. Considering his good performances in Egypt and Dubai, the young Spaniard is making good progressions in his comeback to competition after the chilling accident suffered in Dakar in January. A good omen in the face of the coming edition of the mythic African rally.
In the car class, Repsol driver Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret clearly dominated the UAE Desert Challenge, winning the seven specials from the prologue to the finish in Dubai. In their final shakedown test before the 2006 Dakar Rally, the French duo consolidated their advantage day after day reaching the finish line with an advantage of 3h 02m 29s over the second-placed Spaniard Jose-Luis Monterde. His teammate Nani Roma, who lost two days with food poisoning, took the start of today's leg in twenty-second place and finished with the second fastest time both in the first and the second special. Despite missing two race days, Roma has been able to continue covering kilometres at the wheel of his Mitsubishi Montero Evolution in these two last days.
Marc Coma: "I'm really very happy. I finished today's stages third and second and the rally in second place, allowing me to score the necessary points to become World Champion. That was my real aim, and not the victory of the Dubai Rally. At the beginning, with the repeated battery problem, things seemed to get complicated, because problems were still following us. But it worked out in the end. The Championship title wasn't really my aim at the beginning of the season, I didn't even think about it, but as the months went by, things were working out, and we started to think about it as a possibility. The title we've clinched today is the result of a good job done by everybody involved; the whole team deserves it. It's one of the happiest days of my life and right now several good moments are coming to my mind. The best of them is the image of the team, we are so close and we do such a good job together. I want to thank the team, my team-mates, the sponsors, my family; in short, I want to thank all those who have supported me and trusted in me."
Jordi Duran: "First of all I want to congratulate Marc. I'm really happy because he deserves it. He's been working for a long time to achieve this aim and he has done a great job today. In addition, this result will boost his morale to face the Dakar. I'm also very happy with my performance: It's been an amusing rally, I've had a lot of fun and for me, everything that means more kilometres on the bike is good. Unlike the previous legs, today's leg has led us mainly through sand-rivers and desert tracks, no dunes. There have been two specials, the first one really fast with quite a long liaison and the second was more complicated because there was a lot of navigation and several changes of direction. I've clearly felt the improvement in this rally compared to Egypt, as regards physical condition, confidence on the bike and navigation, so I'm very happy because the Dakar is already here."
Jordi Arcarons: "I'm very happy because Marc's title is the result of a conscientious work. A work the whole team has been doing since the start of the season which has finally been reflected in the World Championship. When we had the problem with the battery, we weren't afraid of not taking the title, but it was something unexpected and this sport can be very treacherous. Even if you do your job well, with a strong pace and with a great team, a little battery regulator can ruin everything. But fortunately Jordi was there to help Marc during the stage and the mechanics worked hard to find the problem and fix it later. We have a great team and we were able to fix the situation. Marc has been doing great throughout the rally. He's always been very strong, did good navigation, did not make any mistake and had the right pace, in order not to risk more than strictly necessary. He neither needed to give 100% nor to attack here; he just had to defend his place. The job was already done. Jordi Duran, who had a double function, did also a great job. On the one hand he had to be close to Marc just in case he needed him, and so he did. On the other hand he had to improve his navigation, practising sand and dune riding, getting in shape and confident on the bike after his accident. And he achieved that aim as well. Now there will be only a couple of additional tests and in less than one month and a half we'll be again facing the big challenge of the Dakar."
Stephane Peterhansel: Before the start I did not think about problems. If I was destined to have a problem then there was nothing I could do about it. There was no pressure on me today. I had three things to fulfil when I came here; I wanted to win the race, improve the car and carry out some good training in the dunes. I am happy that we managed to do all three and am looking forward to the Dakar with confidence."
Nani Roma: "It was only a three-day race for me. But I feel that I have a better line now through the dunes. It was good experience for me. To miss two days was really disappointing, but I am positive and enjoyed the stages. One was very fast, the other was a nice track with some small dunes."