Arras-Madrid-Dakar: Stage 12 report

The Dakar regrets to announce, yesterday evening, the death of Daniel Vergnes. The organisers and all members of the Dakar community send their sincerest condolences to his family and friends. From the first information to reach the bivouac, it...

The Dakar regrets to announce, yesterday evening, the death of Daniel Vergnes. The organisers and all members of the Dakar community send their sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

From the first information to reach the bivouac, it appears that the assistance vehicle No. 540, which was heading in the direction of Tidjikja, and had Daniel Vergnes on board, left the road for an unknown reason, 15 kms north of Aleg.

The three other occupants of the vehicle were injured. Their medical condition follows:

Benoit Agoyer: fractured bone in the cheek area. No neurological complications. A scan was planned for today at 2pm.

Shoena Dorson-King: 7cms deep cut to the scalp under the hairline, in shock, with bruising, non serious.

Christophe Van Riet: was stable last night, emergency surgery has been eliminated. He has bruising of the lung area. A scan of the torso, head and abdomen is planned this afternoon.

The three injured have been put in the charge of the hospital in Noaukchott. They will be transferred as soon as possible by medical 'plane to Dakar or to Paris.

COX CLOSES IN ON LEADER MEONI ; FONTENAY WINS, MASUOKA IN COMMAND

TICHIT (Mauritania): South African Alfie Cox took the second stage win of his Total Arras-Madrid-Dakar Rally campaign on the 482-kms section between Tidjikja and Tichit in Mauritania. The result lifted him back into contention for outright victory, but third-placed defending champion Fabrizio Meoni maintains a 60s lead over Spaniard Joan Roma in the overall standings. Chilean Carlo de Gavardo fell behind after losing his way today.

Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka continues on his relentless quest for a first ever victory in the cars' category, despite coming home behind Mitsubishi team mates Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Jutta Kleinschmidt. Fontenay became the fourth Mitsubishi factory driver to win a stage this year; he finished 1m 39s ahead of last year's winner, despite a flat tyre. 'Nice stage, quite fast and great for me to win. I was beginning to think that I would not win a stage. We had a puncture, so did the others, but we took the win.'

The battle for the overall lead continues to swing in Masuoka's favour; both rivals Kenjiro Shinozuka and Jutta Kleinschmidt lost further time today and Masuoka now leads by a massive 25m 57s. Portugal's Carlos Sousa completes a Mitsubishi clean sweep of the top five in his L200.

Behind the podium-placed Meoni, Roma and Cox, Finland's Kari Tiainen wrecked his chances of a second stage win in the bikes' section, by crashing shortly after the second passage control. The accident broke his left forearm and collar bone and put him out of the race. 'Next time I don't have chance to win, I will quit. The last few days I have been losing my concentration and had an accident. Apparently, it was a simple accident. The bike fell on me and Eric Bernard activated the balise.'

De Gavardo, suffering from a bout of influenza, slipped to fourth overall because of his costly navigational error, while Jordi Arcarons and Richard Sainct complete the top six. Sainct is now over one hour behind the leader. Cox, on the other hand, was ecstatic: 'I started 10m behind this morning and you don't know how to pace yourself,' he admitted. 'Up until the refuel it was fast, but for the last 75kms I really pushed. I caught and passed Carlo, but never caught Fabrizio or Roma. I wanted to get back into contention. The last section was really tricky.'

As Masuoka heads off into the distance, Japanese team mate Shinozuka lost further ground today: 'Bad day. Many jumps and we ran slowly. Masuoka had a flat tyre and we passed and then Fontenay had a flat tyre. We slowed and Jutta went passed. Then I arrived on this sand dune and Hiro had stopped and Jutta stopped. I thought I could go left, but it was a long, long way down and we got stuck for 10 to 15 minutes.'

The resultant delay dropped him into the clutches of second-placed Kleinschmidt, herself delayed with a flat tyre. 'It was a much better stage than yesterday, the camel grass was not too bad. We all had a flat tyre except for Shino, but he was lucky. There was a rock in the sand and I didn't see it. Hiro and I stopped at the top of this great sand dune to see if we could pass, and Shino tried to go left. It was a very long way down....it was not the best parking space he could have chosen and he was stuck...Three days to go, I know we cannot catch Hiro, but this is the Dakar, you never know!'

Tomorrow (Thursday) competitors head into a 422-kms loop of the desolate village of Tichit, surrounded on all sides by rolling dunes. The stage starts and finishes in the bivouac and passage controls will be used instead of GPS, placing the emphasis, once again, on the navigational skills of the teams.

-aso-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Jutta Kleinschmidt , Hiroshi Masuoka , Jean-Pierre Fontenay , Carlos Sousa , Fabrizio Meoni , Alfie Cox , Richard Sainct , Carlo de Gavardo , Jordi Arcarons