Dakar: Gauloises Racing stage 14 report

Before the traditional Lake Rose stage, Marc Coma made good use of navigational errors made by Cyril Despres to sufficiently extend his lead with the overall victory now in sight. David Fretigne took his first stage win of the year. In the car ...

Before the traditional Lake Rose stage, Marc Coma made good use of navigational errors made by Cyril Despres to sufficiently extend his lead with the overall victory now in sight. David Fretigne took his first stage win of the year. In the car division, Guerlain Chicherit confirmed his promising start with the day's best time, while Luc Alphand maintained his lead over Giniel De Villers in the general standings.

What better moment to build on one's lead as the rally enters Dakar, the gateway from Africa to the Atlantic Ocean the west? It was perhaps not calculated by Marc Coma in leaving Tambacounda this morning, but the result was definitely there. Usually, the charm of the penultimate stage resides more in the traversing of Senegal than anything really sport. Yet, navigation difficulties were very real. Especially between CP1 and CP2, where the bike and car classes both had their own difficult moments. The first came 30 kilometers after CP1 when Cyril Despres turned in circles for some 20-minutes. But not Coma nor the others; Blais, Street and Sala for example, who where collectively charged to "make the track".

But 20-kilometers later, another wrong track got the attention of the lead group. This time, nearly all the leaders got it wrong. Not Coma, nor Fretigne. Over the final few kilometers they followed their noses and could finally enjoy the width of the damage suffered to their pursuers. The Yamaha France rider, winner of three stages last year, took his first success on the 2006 Dakar in setting a time eight seconds better than Marc Coma from Tambacounda to Dakar. But the Frenchman was 16'59 better than third place finisher Guell Farres from Spain. Marc Coma, who took advantage of two errors from Cyril Despres, saw his French rival dropped back to 1h3'29". And now, if he so wishes, he can afford to take a few laps around Lake Rose in reverse.

The tenors of the automobile couldn't get on much better than the bikers with the navigation complexities between CP1 and CP2. There where Despres searched for the proper direction. For the first time, Alphand committed the same mistake. The overall leader was not alone as Carlos Sainz and more importantly second in the standings, Giniel De Villiers followed. Only Nani Roma and Bruno Saby did a little better, but the following events were not as glorious for the two.

As Luc Alphand and Giniel De Villiers got back on track and headed in the right direction, Carlos Sainz, but also Roma and Saby got caught out with the day's second trap. Their gaffs cost between 20 and 30 minutes at the finish of the stage.

Guerlain Chicherit, who is always the first to praise the competence of his navigator, Mathieu Baumel, can once again be pleased with the team work taking place in the cab of the BMW-X3, number 322. Just missing a stage win at Labe (2nd), the team that took part for the first time last year after winning the "Volant Dakar", this time went one better in posting the fastest stage time. Now we know that the hard driving of Guerlain and the excellent direction from Mathieu is working to a tee and they are certain future contenders for Dakar success...Talent worth keeping an eye on.

Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) 43rd (at 42'46) 2nd overall (at 1.13'29)
"Everything was going really well until CP1, but after that I had a big problem with the navigation. My mother taught me to say 'I don't like vegetables' rather than 'vegetables are bad', so I will say 'I didn't like the road book' rather than 'the road book was bad'. The problem was that there wasn't another note for 10 km, so it took a long time to realise your mistake. I am not against making the navigation difficult, far from it, but so many people went wrong it was dangerous -- twice I met bikes coming the other way. It's a pity because apart from that it was a nice special."

David Casteu (Gauloises KTM) 13th (at 31'18) 8th overall (at 6.16'21)
"I was just behind Cyril and we went wrong coming out of village. Instead of carrying on we should have turned back straight away, reset our trips and checked it. Fortunately it doesn't make any difference to our overall places..

Michel Gau (Gauloises KTM) 31st (at 36'38) 11th overall (at 7.54'05)
"The special was quite fast, but I didn't attack as the gap to the next rider either side of my overall was pretty big. Instead I just concentrated on maintaining a good pace and then we came to a place on the route were the road book wasn't very clear. I think a lot of people went wrong there -- we were riding around in all directions."

Jean-Louis Schlesser (Gauloises Schlesser Ford) 4th (at 9'45) 6th overall (at 4.09'23)
"Like a lot of other people today we had a problem with the navigation. In addition we damaged one of the front wings when we hit a tree. It is a pity because even with getting lost we posted a good time."

Thierry Magnaldi (Gauloises Schlesser Ford) 9th (at 13'56) 10th overall (at 8.25'57)
"It is annoying to lose our 9th place overall but it isn't the end of the world. We didn't have any problem with the road book and for us the notes were correct."

-gauloises-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Luc Alphand , Jean-Louis Schlesser , Cyril Despres , Bruno Saby , Marc Coma , David Fretigne , Guerlain Chicherit , David Casteu , Michel Gau , Thierry Magnaldi