The organisers of the Dakar 2004 had promised that the improvised 900 km liaison from Nema to Bamako would be 'easy'. However on arriving in the Malian capital not all the car competitors were in agreement. Commented Jean Louis Schlesser's ...
The organisers of the Dakar 2004 had promised that the improvised 900 km liaison from Nema to Bamako would be 'easy'. However on arriving in the Malian capital not all the car competitors were in agreement.
Commented Jean Louis Schlesser's co-driver Jean Marie Lurquin (Gauloises Schlesser), "it was hard work. They said the piste would be no problem but it fact it was badly cut up in places. I would have rather have driven the route as a special stage -- as it was long and boring."
If Monsieur Lurquin would have rather raced it, Jean Pierre Strugo (Gauloises Mercedes), aboard the leading T1, was relieved it was 'neutralised liaison'. Commented the Frenchman, "We broke a suspension mount and lost a quite a lot of time fixing it. I'm glad it didn't happen on a special stage."
While the cars were bumping along the piste the bikers were strolling around the bivouac having been airlifted to Bamako by the organisers. Asked whether, given his injured arm, he was relieved that two stages had been cancelled, Richard Sainct had this to say, "I would have been if I was in the lead, but as it is I am 3'33 behind Roma and I will have to make the time up somehow. In the past Nani hasn't supported the pressure of leading - hopefully it will be the same this year. I can't however bank on that and will have to look at where I can make the difference when the race restarts."
Third overall Alfie Cox (Gauloises KTM International) wasn't thinking so far ahead, "I'm looking forward to having a bit of a rest -- my wrists are hurting a little after having done so much riding." Pushed on the subject of the race restarting he added, "as I was riding along on the tarmac looking at all those dusty red tracks I couldn't help thinking that it was a good thing I will be starting second behind Cyril (Despres) on Tuesday. Cyril is going to want to make up some time and I'm going to tuck in behind him. There will be so much dust that the others wouldn't be able to get near us."
This evening as the competitors arrived in Bobo Dioulasso more than one commented on the extraordinary welcome they had received in Bakino Faso. Commented Gerardus De Rooy (Gauloises De Rooy), "As I was driving here today I remembered why I love Africa so much, the people are so friendly and the scenery so beautiful -- as we drove through the villages everybody came out to wave -- it was just fanatastic."