De Mevius still at top five.
At the second part of the marathon stage leading over a distance of 727 kilometres (including 497 km special stage) from Ghat to Sabha today, both BMW X5 X-raid teams from Trebur proverbially drove like clockworks. Apart from changing tires, refuelling and the usual service on the 3-litre Biturbo-diesel powered cross-country cars, the mechanics were not over-charged.
This way Gregoire de Mevius and Luc Alphand managed the stage without any technical problems. De Mevius passed the finish line of the special stage with 17:16 min. delay on the winner of today, Masuoka (Mitsubishi) on forth place and could regain his third position in total classification. Since the crossing of the Dakar caravan to Africa, the Belgian is permanently among the top five, no wonder that the former Group-N world champion is satisfied: "We managed the marathon stage yesterday and today with good success and we are back on third position. Masuoka and Peterhansel with their Mitsubishi Paiero Evos could again win the usual lead. These cars are superior to us, they seem to drive in another league, our placing therefore is all right."
X-raid pilot Luc Alphand meanwhile is on onward march in the total classification. He has obviously subscribed to seventh position in the day results, as he took this place third time in a row today. Alphand's appearance at this year's Dakar Rally is impressed with experience which most certain he has never had as former winner of the ski world cup. From place 116 (after an accident at stage five) he overtook 115 participants during the sixth stage, advanced in the total classification from place 116 to 93, ranking 52nd after stage seven. Team manager Sven Quandt knows from experience: "Reaching a top 30 placing will give Luc a hard nut to crack. I am anxious to see if he can still make it."
With 567 kilometres (overall distance 585 km) the third longest special stage of the Dakar Rally 2003 will be on programme tomorrow. First, the participants will leave behind the sand, as the route from Sabha to Zilla is characterised by a couple of successive plateaus, leading the pilots to the "Al Haruf" volcano mountain area. Navigation is difficult, as hardly any characteristic check points will be available in this area. The cars, wheels and shock-absorber in particular, will be worn down by uneven and rocky tracks and the drivers at any time have to be on the guard against bigger stones and rocks.