Central Europe Rally: First! It was in fine spring sunshine and in front of large crowds that the caravan set off from the podium in Budapest this morning, heading for Dabas, the site of the first special and its 63 km, the real start of this...
Central Europe Rally: First!
It was in fine spring sunshine and in front of large crowds that the caravan set off from the podium in Budapest this morning, heading for Dabas, the site of the first special and its 63 km, the real start of this first Central Europe Rally. This first time-trial sector was fought out in ideal conditions: bright sunshine and pleasant temperatures, making for a very quick and bumpy track, which most of the competitors enjoyed.
In the bike race, Spaniard Marc Coma, second to start, once again produced a first class performance, winning with a lead of 1'15" over Cyril Desprès and claiming first place in the general standings. Penalised by having to open proceedings, the Frenchman also suffered due to adjustments designed to favour manoeuvrability over power. As a result, Despres is only two seconds ahead of another Spaniard, Jordi Viladoms. On a track that favoured speed and continual bursts of acceleration, the 450s were not in their element today and only David Fretigne was able to cut the losses of this category with a 7th-placed finish, 2'18" behind the winner.
On the quads, three-time Hungarian champion, Lazlo Szabo dominated the category with his class. Starting last, the Bombardier rider overtook the whole pack to win at the finish with a lead of 35'' over Frenchman Hubert Deltrieu.
The car category witnessed a similar performance: America's Robby Gordon, who started in 12th position, made the most of his 2-wheel drive Hummer's speed to grab the second best time on the special, 15'' in front of South African Giniel De Villiers. However, first and foremost, this first special stage saw confirmation of Carlos Sainz as a major favourite for outright victory. Whilst he admitted that the very "bumpy" track was not to his liking, Volkswagen's Spaniard took control of the event with a lead of 41'' over Gordon. As is customary, Stephane Peterhansel set off cautiously and in the end finished 4th, 1'02'' behind the leader, but the first of the Mitsubishi drivers.
In the truck race, unsurprisingly, odds-on favourite Hans Stacey won the first special stage. The MAN team's Dutchman will nevertheless have to be wary of the Czech Ales Loprais, who only finished 25'' behind him, thanks to his strategy of constant attack. Indeed, the battle for outright victory should logically involve these two drivers, since 3rd-placed Marcel Van Vliet was distanced by more than 2 minutes.
All the competitors did not waste time in setting off on the link stage to Baia Mare in Romania, involving a 410-km journey on tarmac. This time, the motorcyclists and quad riders are allowed to load their machines onto their teams' trucks, but they still have to cross the stage's finishing line on their machines, probably at the start of the evening.