Peterhansel and Coma, winners of the second leg in Dubai
Peterhansel extends his lead in the overall standings while Nani Roma retires due to physical problems. In bikes, Coma is already second, 4 minutes behind the leader
The second leg of the UAE Desert Challenge went off with good results for the interests of the Repsol drivers and riders -Stéphane Peterhansel in the car class and Marc Coma in the bike class-, with both winning both special stages of the day. Peterhansel thus extends his overall lead, while Marc Coma managed to make up time with today's result, after the problems with the battery suffered yesterday. His team mate Jordi Durán keeps on progressing and finished the leg in fifth position. Nani Roma was forced to return to the bivouac during the first special, suffering again from stomach problems.
Today special stages consisted of two loops of 134 and 210 kms close to Moreeb in the Abu Dhabi Emirate. The opening stage climbed out of the bivouac to join the renowned 'Desert Roses' track and offered a balance of high and low dunes and sand flats, before doubling back across the bivouac access road to finish alongside the Liwa highway. The longer second section began across fast, open desert terrain and included several tricky drops. The final kilometres after the third passage control began on sand tracks, but these gave to way to a run through the stunning 'Mountains of the Moon' - an eerie dunescape - before descending into the Moreeb bivouac at the finish.
Mitsubishi Motors Repsol Team driver Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret began the second leg of the UAE Desert Challenge with a massive advantage over their nearest rivals and extended it to 1h 31m 28s after the second and third selective sections. Team mate Nani Roma began the opening selective section behind the BMW of José-Luis Monterde. 40 km later he had already overtaken his fellow-countryman, but Nani was forced to return to the bivouac when he was again feeling unwell. The stomach problems which had occurred for the first time yesterday continued during the night, and suspecting they are due to food poisoning, Roma and co-driver Henry Magne decided to return to the bivouac after 59 kms. Although they will get a penalty, Roma will be able to take the start tomorrow, provided that his physical condition has improved.
In the bike class, after the problems h had yesterday with the battery of his KTM had been solved, Marc Coma won both specials of the day, allowing him to close the gap to his rivals. The Repsol rider is now second, a bit over 4 minutes behind the leader of the overall standings Cyril Desprès. Coma started behind Desprès and Casteu, and caught them shortly after. From that moment on they drove together until the finish. Jordi Durán, who started fifth, rode alone most part of the day, thus having to concentrate more on the road book to avoid making any mistake. The young Spaniard crashed without consequences on a dune due to a problem with the rear brake, and wasn't able to recover part of the time he had lost yesterday. He was finally fifth in both specials and is now sixth in the overall standings, 15 minutes behind the leader.
Tomorrow is the longest and arguably the most difficult stage through the Rub Al Khali or Empty Quarter. The stage starts at Al Batin, 54 kms from the Moreeb bivouac, and a treacherous 354.50 kms route returns teams to the overnight halt.
Stéphane Peterhansel: "The second stage today was the most difficult we have faced so far, but the car is perfect. I don't know whether I will be able to finish the race with the car in the same condition, but we will try. The second stage was 200 kms all off-piste and it was sometimes difficult to find the right track."
Henry Magne (Nani Roma's co-driver): "There was no way we could continue. Nani was feeling unwell and was sick on a couple of occasions. We had to pull out today. The medics carried out a couple of tests. His sugar, water and salt levels were okay, so it must have been food poisoning."
Marc Coma: "Fortunately we managed to solve the problem with the battery yesterday and today the bike worked perfectly well. The fact of starting behind my rivals was an advantage and I was able to make up some time. Today's pace hasn't really been fast, we all rode rather calmly. Tomorrow will be a complicated leg and we'll have to be conservative. I'll start first and they won't have much trouble catching up with me, but it would be nonsense to take any risk."
Jordi Durán: "I've been riding alone most of the day. It's been a very amusing stage with a lot of dunes and also hard as regards navigation. The fact of riding alone forces you to be much more concentrated on the road book in order not to make mistakes. I had a light problem with the rear brake and therefore I crashed, but it's been nothing. I'm feeling better every day and more comfortable on the bike."
Jordi Arcarons: "It's been a hard stage today, with a lot of sand and navigation. Less experimented riders and have been in trouble more than once. Fortunately the riders started early and the heat wasn't that strong. Durán had a light crash, but nothing serious, and Marc did also a good job. He went off to make up as much time as possible, but without taking any risk, and he did. The bike also worked well and that makes us feel better for tomorrow's leg. It will be the longest leg of the rally, with a lot of navigation. Riders will have to keep an eye on the road book because it won't be easy since there are going to be a lot of off-track sections. Marc has to continue like his, working, without taking more risks than necessary."