Dakar: Andy Caldecott final summary

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Caldecott sixth in 2005 Dakar Rally Australian desert specialist Andy Caldecott (KTM) has finished an impressive sixth in the 2005 Dakar Rally, which included in Senegal on January 16. The South Australian completed the perennial...

Caldecott sixth in 2005 Dakar Rally

Australian desert specialist Andy Caldecott (KTM) has finished an impressive sixth in the 2005 Dakar Rally, which included in Senegal on January 16.

The South Australian completed the perennial torture test -- marred by the death of two-time winner Fabrizio Meoni -- with a 24th in the brisk 68km final stage in Dakar, but it was Caldecott's bullocking work in the middle stages of the event which guaranteed him a top 10 finish.

Caldecott, a four-time winner of the Australian Safari (2000-03), scored two stage victories on his 660 Rallye, becoming only the second Aussie to reach the summit. The first local to win a Dakar stage was Andy Haydon (KTM) in 1998, with the Adelaide-born rider eventually finishing third behind French champion Stephane Peterhansel and the late Meoni.

Caldecott won stages five and 13 of the 9039km rally, but it was a penalty applied in stage eight which the South Australian will look back on as a seminal moment. His sanction, a 17-minute penalty for speeding in a non-competitive section, saw him instantly lose contact with the leading flotilla -- a gap that he was unable to bridge in the second half of the event.

Caldecott's total elapsed time in the Dakar, which saw 18 of the top 20 positions filled by KTMs, was 48 hours, 15 minutes and 42 seconds (48.15:42).

The winner, for the first time, was Cyril Despres (660 Rallye, 47.27:31), who continued the French domination of the Dakar. Since its inception in 1979, the iconic event has been won 18 times by French riders, with Peterhansel winning six of those, ahead of Cyril Neveu on five. Neveu won the first two Dakars on a Yamaha. Meanwhile, the only non-French winners have been 2004 winner Nani Roma and his fellow Italians Meoni and Edi Orioli, while Belgian dynamo Gaston Rahier has also tasted success.

At the finish in the Senegalese capital of Dakar, Despres, who finished third in 2004 behind Roma and the late Richard Sainct, had over nine minutes to spare from Marc Coma (660 Rallye, 47.36:48), with 42-year-old Alfie Cox (660 Rallye, 47.39:00) third from Isidre Esteve Pujol (KTM 660R, 47.39:22) and David Fretigne (48.01:07) on the two-wheel-drive Yamaha WR450F.

In light of Meoni's tragic passing on January 11, and that of Spanish rider Jose Manuel Perez a day earlier, there was no victory celebration in this year's Dakar -- just reflection.

"January 11th was a black day," said Despres. "It had hurt so much to lose Fabrizio. Afterwards my head was empty. First we lost Richard (Sainct), then Fabrizio. It will take a long time until we comprehend all of this. Nevertheless, I believe it was the right decision to continue the rally.

"I love racing, just as Fabrizio did. He too, got back on a motorbike after Richard's accident. My motorcycle was exactly the place to find myself again."

A total of 104 riders completed this year's Dakar from the 230 who fronted up in the prologue at Barcelona on December 31, with Caldecott's fellow Australian David Schwarz finishing 37th on yet another KTM. Meanwhile, another Aussie, Mark Eland (KTM), retired during stage seven.

-www.ma.org.au

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Series DAKAR