Arras-Madrid-Dakar: Stage ten report

ATAR (Mauritania): South African Alfie Cox recovered from Saturday's accident en route to Atar, by winning Monday's Atar loop stage in the Bikes' category, held without the use of GPS navigation. KTM 'twin' rider Fabrizio Meoni extended his ...

ATAR (Mauritania): South African Alfie Cox recovered from Saturday's accident en route to Atar, by winning Monday's Atar loop stage in the Bikes' category, held without the use of GPS navigation. KTM 'twin' rider Fabrizio Meoni extended his advantage in the overall standings by finishing second, 1m 25s ahead of Joan Roma. Defending champion Jutta Kleinschmidt took her first win of the event in the cars' section, but still trails Mitsubishi team mate Hiroshi Masuoka by over 20 minutes. Kenjiro Shinozuka maintains second overall, ahead of today's stage winner.

'A difficult stage, but what a ride,' said a delighted Cox. 'The start was rocky and you had to ride carefully because of all the stones. The dune crossings weren't too bad, but the sand was very soft. There were stones on the track where the dust replaced the pebbles on the way to refuelling. I am pleased to have won and will attack without hesitation over the next few days and hope that my rivals make a mistake or are victims of a mechanical problem.'

Spaniard Joan Roma was third and Carlo de Gavardo survived a small accident to complete the stage in fourth place. Meoni now benefits from a 3m 21s advantage in the overall standings, with Roma, De Gavardo, Cox and Jordi Arcarons trailing in his wake. 'The bike was difficult to ride for over 85 kms,' admitted the outright leader. 'It was a sandy piste with a lot of stones and small corners. I was tired trying to catch the others. When I caught them and the track was a little too fast. I refused to overtake and rode at my pace.'

There was disappointment for the leading non-KTM rider PG Lundmark, who started this morning's stage in 11th overall on the BMW 'twin', Engine failure signalled the end of the road for the 'Viking'. Japanese rider Jun Mitsuhashi is now the leading non-KTM on a Honda 650 in 14th overall.

Kleinschmidt's victory kept her in contention for a second successive victory in the Dakar: 'It was a good stage for me, good navigation without the GPS. I think Hiroshi made a small mistake early on and we caught him after about 30 kms and then after about 100 kms he passed to the left and we went to the right. It was good to win the stage. I enjoyed today.'

Masuoka, Shinozuka, Frenchman Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Portugal's Carlos Sousa completed a Mitsubishi whitewash of the first five places in the stage, although Shinozuka was delayed by navigational problems. 'It was a difficult stage, some sand, very rocky in places with some big stones. We were a little out of our way on the course and lost about five and a half minutes. It was one of those things. Tomorrow will be a very difficult day.'

Nissan's misery continued, with Stephane Peterhansel's Pick-Up - the only non-Mitsubishi in the top five this morning - stopped in the stage with fuel pump problems. The sad irony is that today also marks the 10th anniversary of the death of his close friend and former Yamaha team mate Gilles Lalay, killed during the 1992 Paris-Cape Town Rally.

Nissan's Gregoire de Mevius, meanwhile, had started the day in 80th overall and was already out of contention, but edging his way back through the field today. He finished the stage in seventh place. The positive news for Team Nissan Dessoude was the performance of Thierry de Lavergne in the Terrano: the Frenchman increasing his lead in the Production category over Mercedes rival Jean-Pierre Strugo.

Former Middle East rally champion Saeed Al-Hajri put yesterday's roll behind him to take sixth in the stage in an L200 Pick-Up. Mitsubishis now fill the top eight places in the overall standings. Spaniard Manuel Plaza Perez is ninth in a Nissan Navara.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) the route heads south-east from the bivouac in Atar and into a 467 kms special stage to the overnight halt at Tidjikja. Arguably the most difficult stage in this year's race so far, the route passes through a spectacular canyon, along a wadi and takes in dune crossings and sections of tricky camel grass.

-aso-

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Series Dakar
Drivers Jutta Kleinschmidt , Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Pierre Fontenay , Carlos Sousa , Kenjiro Shinozuka , Thierry de Lavergne , Fabrizio Meoni , Alfie Cox , Gregoire de Mevius , Carlo de Gavardo , Jun Mitsuhashi , Jean-Pierre Strugo , Jordi Arcarons