Fabrizio Meoni's determined charge back to the top of the leader board ended abruptly today with a big crash just before CP1. Although the Italian was able to repair his bike and continue, he lost 22'37 on the winner Richard Sainct and must now logically settle for 3rd place on the final podium.
Reflecting his overall position, Cyril Despres finished second at just 00'18 from Sainct. Barring major upset, with just two 'real' specials left, Despres' overall placing (2nd at 11'20) is also looking increasingly unlikely to change.
In the cars victory went to Luc Alphand in his BMW X5 - the first time a top level sportsman from another discipline has won a Dakar special. Second was Fontenay (at 00'22) with De Villier 3rd at 1'06. Overall however the positions remain unchanged with Masuoka (at 27'13) announcing this evening that he will no longer chase Peterhansel for the spot.
In the trucks victory went to Kabirov with Tchaguine 2nd (at 29'13) and De Azevedo just behind at 31'21. De Rooy came 4th (at 41'17) 'thanks' to four blown shock absorbers and is now 4th overall.
Richard Sainct (Gauloises KTM) 1st in 3h00'14
"The race is not over yet -- Fabrizio's accident is the proof. That said, for the moment everything is going according to plan. Today's special was good, short but over a nice piste with a little bit of navigation -- very enjoyable to ride. We'll have to see what happens on tomorrow's 'no GPS' stage, but at the moment my lead over Cyril remains static and I don't see any reason why that should change. My priority is not to make any mistakes."
Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) 2nd at 00'18
"The special started with us riding quickly over twisty tracks. Then the piste became faster with a few tricky undulations that could catch you out. With the dust I could see more or less where my rivals where and when Fabrizio crashed the pace obviously dropped off a little. I should have won the day's special as I was with Richard almost up to the end. But then I had to stop to fix the fuel pipe to the rear tank. Regarding the overall situation there's still two special left to go, so there's always a chance. However as a convalescing rider it wouldn't be very intelligent to take any big risks."
Jean Brucy (Gauloises KTM) 8th at 11'42
"At about 50 km from the end I came upon Fabrizio in the process of 'short-circuiting' his oil cooler. I asked him if he needed any help but he waved me on saying, 'go on Jean -- we're fighting for 3rd place now'."
Fabrizio Meoni (Gauloises KTM) 14th at 22'37
"I was riding well and was already a couple of minutes up on Richard. Just before CP1 the terrain was flat and I was at about 150 kph when the bike went into a 'tank slapper'. I still don't understand why because I didn't hit anything. In the crash I managed to break the front fairing, the oil cooler, a fuel line and a few other bits and pieces. Now I think I have to accept that I have no chance of improving my position. All I can do now is concentrate on getting myself to Sharm El Sheik in one piece."
Miran Stanovnik (KTM) 6th at 10'38
"At the last moment I saw this big step, maybe 3 metres high. It was too late to brake so I just gave it maximum gas. I landed very heavily and hurt my shoulder, ribs and forearm. It could have been a lot worse. I stopped a little later on for about 4 minutes for Alain Duclos. All things considered I'm pretty happy with my 6th position.
Eric Verhoef (KTM) 23rd at 42'17
"I went fast at the beginning and overtook 3 other riders. Then everybody went in different directions and I lost all the ground I had made up. It wasn't an easy day today. I don't know how those guys at the front go so fast. I especially don't understand how they manage to take 42 minutes out of me!"
Elodie Metge (co-driver of Rene Metge) (Gauloises Mercedes) 38th at 1h42'41
"Unfortunately we didn't manage to repeat yesterday's T1 win. We had a slow puncture just before the start of the special and then two in it. With no spares left we had to slow right down. Overall we are fourth in the T1 class with third placed man Belmondo too far ahead for us to catch. Just behind us however we have Asaga and we'll have to be careful not to give up our place to him."
Jan de Rooy (Gauloises De Rooy) 4th at 41'17
"The same old problem -- shock absorbers. We blew to early on in the special and another two right at the end. Now we are 4th overall 16'13 behind Kabirov. We'll try and catch him tomorrow."