Super-Special - The 27th Dakar Rallye Gets Underway
After 3 days of scrutineering in Barcelona, the 27th Dakar Rallye finally got underway with a 6 km super special on the beach just south of the city. And with the sun shining, a huge crowd turned out to watch the record breaking entry of 230 bikes, 164 cars and 69 trucks tackle the soft sand and tricky artificial jumps.
In the bike class victory finally went to David Fretigne (Gauloises Yamaha), the Frenchman using his 2-wheel drive bike to full advantage in the power-sapping going. Second by just 8 seconds was another Gauloises backed rider, and one of this year's favourites, Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM). Third was Dutch beach racing specialist Eric Verhoef (Gauloises KTM). If everything went without a hitch for these three, Alfie Cox (Gauloises KTM) wasn't so lucky -- the South African crashing heavily right at the start of the special to finally finish a lowly 49th. Another front runner to hit trouble was multi-world enduro champion Giovanni Sala who had to be dragged out of the special with a burnt out clutch.
In the cars the surprise winner was the American Robby Gordon aboard his VW Touareg, ahead of the Japanese ex-winner Masuoka (Mitsubishi) with De Villiers (Nissan) third. A extremely relaxed looking Jean-Louis Schlesser (Gauloises Schlesser Buggy) took it easy through the soft sand to finish in 25th place, with team mate Jose Maria Servia attacking a little harder to post the 10th fastest time. In T1 victory went to Thomasse, with Jean Pierre Strugo (Gauloises Team Groine) finishing just 3 places behind. New team mate and European rally champion Simon-Jean Joseph took a more cautious approach to finish his first ever rallye-raid special in 154th place.