With one final stage to go, Cyril Despres moved closer to his first ever Dakar victory in the bike category. The Frenchman added a second special success to his 2005 record on the stage between Tambacounda and Dakar (225km of special). Despres now has a comfortable 9'45 lead overall.
For the remaining competitors of this 27th edition, the 569kms of the day's stage looked a lot like a long soothing road to final destination, Dakar... But the race was still well on the minds of many. Including Cyril Despres! Indeed, the Frenchman had yesterday evening seen his overall lead drop down to 3'16 after collecting a 9' time penalty for speeding (in villages) during the Kayes-Tambacounda stage, and was no longer a comfortable leader on two wheels. The menace coming from Spaniard Marc Coma!
Time to attack -- a last time- for Despres who took off 7th of the stage, two positions after his rival Coma (5th). On the narrow and dusty paths of Black Africa, the KTM-Gauloises rider rapidly closed the gap on Coma even passing him before CP1 to have a massive 4'51 lead after only 151kms. The Despres show continued all the way to the finish line where he added a few extra minutes to his advantage on Coma, finishing with a 6'29 lead on the Catalan KTM-Repsol rider. Meanwhile, the most surprising performance of the day came from privateer Alain Duclos The French biker grabbed second spot, capturing his best ever place on a Dakar special, 1'24 adrift. Third on the day was Andy Caldecott, now used to fine performances on the Dakar, at 1'54.
In the new overall standings, Cyril Despres has a 9'45 lead on Marc Coma and only 31km of special to go before the podium at the Lac Rose. South African Alfie Cox, 8th on the day keeps his third place of the bike race at 12'09 but sees Isidre Esteve close in dangerously on the podium spot, only 1'28 behind (and 13'37 on Despres).
While the bike race was tighter than ever, in the cars, it was a slightly different story with Stephane Peterhansel (MIT) controlling the last few special and gradually increasing his comfortable lead. He is now more than ever on the verge of winning his second consecutive title. 'Peter' took off 8th this morning from the Eastern city of Tambacounda and overtook Brazilian Klever Kolberg (MIT) and team mate Nani Roma to grab the best time at the first CP but then took it easily to avoid any incident so close to the Lac Rose. The Frenchman let the others fight it out for stage success and again, Nissan's Giniel De Villiers proved to be the fastest. In his Pickup, and after winning stage 12 to Bamako, the South African grabbed his second success on the rally beating Bruno Saby (VW) by only 57" on the finish line. Third on the day at 1' was Portugal's Carlos Sousa (NIS) managing his best performance so far on the rally, while Frenchman Thierry Magnaldi (HON), grabbed fourth spot and entered the top five for the third consecutive time. Just behind came Stephane Peterhansel at 1'52 adding extra seconds to his overall lead on Luc Alphand. Indeed the other Mitsubishi Pajero Evo driver finished 32" behind 'Peter'.
In the overall, Peterhansel has a 27'13 lead on Alphand while Jutta Kleinschmidt (VW) is way adrift at 3h23, after finishing close to 9' from the day's winner. De Villiers gains time on 'Jutta' in fourth spot but is still over 41' behind...
Definitely out of the title fight after the stage to Tichit, Vladimir Tchaguine added a fourth special win to his 2005 record on the stage between Tambacounda and Dakar. The Russian Kamaz driver beat Belgian Hugo Duisters (DAF) by 6'37 and Gerard De Rooy (DAF) by 13'19.Overall leader Firdaus Kabirov (KAM) finished over 20' adrift but is just 31kms away from a first triumph at the Lac Rose. He still has a 3h03 lead on Hans Bekx (DAF).
Cyril Després (Gauloises KTM) 1st - 1st overall
Today I managed to concentrate and find a good pace and that's what made the difference. To be honest, given the lead I started with this morning (following yesterday's 9 minute penalty), I didn't have much choice. Our team tactics also helped, with Alfie starting ahead and waiting for me. This afternoon my emotions are very mixed. Obviously I am happy to arrive in Dakar and see the sea, but at the same time there is great sadness in my heart.
Alfie Cox (Gauloises KTM) 9th at 6'56 - 3th overall at 12'09
I'm delighted to be here and see my wife and son. I was told this morning to stay behind Cyril. That is what it did and that, and some tricky navigation, got the result that was required. Apart from that it was a nice special, quite a lot of dust and people, but good fun to ride.
David Fretigné (Gauloises Yamaha) 6th at 4'24 - 5th overall at 35'09
I started behind De Azevedo and caught him quite quickly. For a while I reckon I took the lead, but then I went a little wrong opening the piste and lost time about 50 kms from the end. Still it is good to finally be in Dakar.
Jean Brucy (Gauloises KTM) 11th at 9'39 - 10th overall at 3.11'36
Obviously I'm delighted to have made it. Tomorrow should be a formality -- though not one to be neglected. The only real incident for me today was when I hit my elbow on a tree -- apart from that everything went fine.
Alain Duclos (Gauloises Toni-Togo) 2nd at 1'24 - 14th overall at 4.53'32
Eric Verhoef (Gauloises KTM) 34th at 31'31 - 23th overall at 10.12'36
Yvo Kastan (Gauloises KTM) 46th à 40'52 - 38th overall at 15.59'03
Syndieli Wade (Gauloises Nissan) 36th at 35'46 - 52th overall at 43.08'30
Jan De Rooy (Gauloises DAF) 4th at 13'34 - 5th overall at 7.36'27
Gerard De Rooy (Gauloises DAF) 3th à 13'19 - 6th overall at 9.33'22