Last night the organisers gave a deadline of 11.30 GMT for the remaining competitors on the special between Tidjika and Nema to arrive at the bivouac. However with only 65 motorcycles, 46 cars and 33 trucks in on time and 14 bikes, 13 cars and ...
Last night the organisers gave a deadline of 11.30 GMT for the remaining competitors on the special between Tidjika and Nema to arrive at the bivouac. However with only 65 motorcycles, 46 cars and 33 trucks in on time and 14 bikes, 13 cars and 5 trucks still out on the piste, ASO have this afternoon extended the deadline to 18h00.
Those competitors that were in Nema this morning began the liaison route to Bamako in Mali -- a new 'neutralised' stage to avoid a 'security threat' in Eastern Mali. For the cars and trucks it means over 900 kms of mainly tarmac road, while for the bike competitors the task was reduced to a short ride in a twin turbo prop aircraft, with their bikes following along behind in a Russian transporter plane.
Although there has been a huge drop out rate on the Dakar 2004, the Gauloises backed motorcycle competitors have faired better than the average. So far 'only' Giovanni Sala (Gauloises KTM International), Jean Brucy (Gauloises KTM France), Eric Verhoef (Gauloises KTM Privateer) and Iso Kastan (Gauloises KTM Privateer) have been forced to retired, with Verhoef and Brucy going out yesterday on the Tidjika -- Nema stage.
Jean Brucy (Gauloises KTM France)
"Initially they thought I had a broken collarbone but now they seem to think it is something else. I will have to wait until I get back to Paris this evening to find out exactly what. I'm bitterly disappointed."
Eric Verhoef (Gauloises KTM Privateer)
"I don't remember much but the helicopter pilot who was following me at the time told me I crashed at over 120 kph. Apparently I have a broken bone collarbone and will be flying back to Paris with Jean (Brucy)."
If not all the factory riders are delighted to be deprived of two days of special stage, the same can not be said for one of the two remaining Gauloises KTM Privateers. Commented Senegalese rider Mame Less Diallo, "for me the cancellation of the two stages couldn't have come at a better time. After the 3 days we have just had I am really exhausted and now I have three days to rest and recuperate before setting off again from Bobo to Dakar. I plan to do a lot of sleeping!"
Of the Gauloises backed cars Jean Louis Schlesser is the best placed and is currently lying third overall 2h22'28 behind Peterhansel, with Masuoka second at 1h04'00. Jean Louis' team mate Jose Maria Servia finished yesterday's stage in 33rd place following on from mechanical problems on the Tan Tan -- Atar stage. The Spaniard is currently 23rd overall at 18h24'53. Despite losing his team mate Syndieli Wade, Thierry De Lavergne (Nissan Gauloises Senegal) is himself going well. He finished in 9th place yesterday and is currently 13th overall at 8h07'59. Another driver who lost a team mate but who is nevertheless fulfilling his personal objectives is Jean Pierre Strugo (Gauloises Merecedes). He might be without Alexandre Debanne, but he is himself 15th overall (at 13h39'21) and leading the T1 class.
The first cars are expected to arrive early this evening at the bivouac in Bamako. They will be joined on the rode tomorrow by the motorcycle competitors for the 500 km run to Bobo and the rest day.