Cox in contention On a stage shocked by the sad death of biker, JosÃ© Manuel Perez, who had suffered an accident during stage 7, of the 2005 TelefÃ³nica Dakar, South Africa's Alfie Cox consolidated his position. "I rode with Cyril (Despres of...
Cox in contention
On a stage shocked by the sad death of biker, José Manuel Perez, who had suffered an accident during stage 7, of the 2005 Telefónica Dakar, South Africa's Alfie Cox consolidated his position.
"I rode with Cyril (Despres of France) and Pal Anders (Ullevalseter of Norway) up to checkpoint 2. The weather is the worst I have ever had a Dakar. The sandstorms just never stop," remarked Cox after the stage.
Today's 483 km special stage from Atar to Atar, was considered to be one of the most difficult stages in this year's rally.
When asked why he lost time on the lead he remarked: "In one of the towns I made a minor navigation error, which cost me some time, but towards the end I cut my front tyre on the rocks and the mousse started popping out. It is not so bad though, anything can still happen over the next few days."
"I am shocked about Perez and I am very sad about Pal Anders, we rode together and then when I was not with him he crashed and hurt his shoulder," explained Cox.
Cyril Despres had a good day and took the stage as well as the overall lead using the time leapfrog to his advantage over Fabrizio Meoni, so Cox's Gauloises KTM teammates now have the first and second positions in the overall lead in the motorcycle category.
Right at the beginning of the 483 km special stage, the competitors had to challenge an Erg which stretched for 40 km before going uphill over the top of the Thanga crossing and continued on through successive dune fields.
"These were some of the highest dunes we have ever crossed and the sand was very, very soft, so we all battled. At one stage Meoni went flying over the handlebars. I took a few tumbles, but nothing serious," remarked Cox.
The race organisation had announced a very tricky stage going up north to Atar and back again. Well it almost looked like a walk in the park for Cyril Despres. Taking off in seventh position this morning for the 483 kms of the special, the Frenchman on his KTM 660cc stormed past all his rivals, clocking best times at CP1 (km 203) and CP2 (km 293) and negotiating the difficult dune portions in impressive manner. Always in the leading ten on all specials (including a second spot and three third positions), the KTM Gauloises rider clinched his first success on the 27th edition, his eighth overall.
After riding most of the day with Cox and Ullevalseter, Despres took off just before CP2 when the riding got tough. He eventually caught Meoni and Esteve and crossed the finish line with a huge 10'08" lead on the Italian and 12'24" on the Spaniard. Fourth on the day (after taking off in 15th spot) David Frétigné finished 12'51 adrift alongside Marc Coma (at 14'06) who ran out of fuel and lost precious time before CP2. In the top ten of the overall (6th), Norway's Pal-Anders Ullevalseter suffered a fall at km 410 and was forced to retire from the race with a shoulder injury.
Fabrizio Meoni said at the finish: "I rode as hard as I could. But the problem is that I opened the way to Cyril Despres just behind me. So, he just had to follow my tracks, and joined me during refuelling. After that, I was worried about the bib-mousse of my tires. So I let him overtake me, and tried to follow as I could. The problem is that it will be the same thing tomorrow, but without any other competitors between us."
"This year the race is very different to other years and I am sure it is because the top riders all run the identical machines, not one rider can just simply race away from everyone else; and it is extremely tough on the long stages," said Cox.
The organizers today announced that the stage is shortened by about 200 km and the special will now be run to CP2, where they will go onto the tar road to travel to Kiffa. This is the last day in Mauritania, where more rocks and hard dust roads will be seen. The first half, towards Tidjikja via the Pic de Bou Naga, will include a lot of dune crossing on very soft sand, then the new track iin the valleys of the Tagant massif, crossing the superb Ksar el Barka oasis before once again taking the very rocky stretch leading to the Nega pass, this time in a downwards direction. The final 150 km stretch is a fast one, but motorcycle participants will have to watch out for ruts made by trucks on this sandy track.
"We have seen it in the past. This race is never over until you are on the podium in Dakar, and I believe a podium finish is well within my reach. I race to win, and therefore I still believe it possible to catch Cyril and take overall honours in Dakar.