Dakar: Gauloises Racing stage seven report

In the longest special of the Telefonica Dakar 2005 rally, David Frétigné made the best of his lighter Yamaha 450cc to win the bike race while Marc Coma, second, conquers the overall leadership. In the car category, Stephane Peterhansel showed...

In the longest special of the Telefonica Dakar 2005 rally, David Frétigné made the best of his lighter Yamaha 450cc to win the bike race while Marc Coma, second, conquers the overall leadership. In the car category, Stephane Peterhansel showed that he was the boss with his second consecutive win in impressive fashion. The Frenchman now has a comfortable overall lead.

Dunes, camel grass, sand and even more sand... The day promised to be extremely difficult for all the competitors and the horrible visibility made things even worst for the bikers. Not a worry however for newcomer Kellon Walch who took advantage of his late starting position to capture the best times at the first two check points (km 256 and 397). But the real serious business was then to start. Indeed the last 263kms were covered in over 4 hours for the best bikers, in other words a real nightmare for the best bikers. And in the soft sand of Mauritania, David Frétigné proved to be the most impressive despite the fact that he was not using his two wheel drive system for technical reasons. The Frenchman crossed the finish line on his own with a 3'31 advantage on Coma and 5'22 on Despres (both riders having spent the day together alongside Meoni, Cox and Ullevalseter). Meanwhile, the veru promising Kellon Walch discovered what the Dakar really was all about. The young 21 year old American from the KTM Red Bull, finished the special close to 20' behind the day's winner.

In the overall, Spaniard Coma takes the leadership but with the slimmest of margins (16") on Despres. Halfway through this marathon stage, the bike race is as exciting as can be. Indeed the leading 6 riders overall (Coma, Despres, Caldecott, Cox, Meoni and Frétigné) are all within an 8' gap...

The car event saw Stephane Peterhansel (MIT) claim his second consecutive success in impressive fashion. Taking off in first position of the special after his win in Zouerat, the flying Frenchman proved how badly he wanted a second Dakar crown. The puncture worries in Smara are far behind, and the title holders bad cold seems to have disappeared. From start to finish, 'Peter' flew to an impressive victory, clocking best times at all CPs and making it to the finish with a glorious 25' lead on Nasser At Attiyah (BMW). And it all looked so easy... No punctures, no damage, and an impressive final time of 8h21'57". Behind the main interest concerned the battle for second spot and Nasser Al Attiyah proved that he would be one to count on for the remaining part of the rally in his BMW X-Raid. Third on the day was Jutta Kleinschmidt (VW) at 26'07".

In the overall Peterhansel conquers the lead and has an interesting 21' lead on team mate Luc Alphand. Again, the fight for second spot is very close with Alphand, Kleinschmidt and Al Attiyah all within 2'.

While Peter was flying to stage triumph, it was a whole different story for Jean-Louis Schlesser (SCH) and Ari Vatanen (NIS) who were forced to stop and repair mechanical problems before CP1 (km 256) and were still expected in the late hours of the night at the bivouac (and possibly the early hours of the day...). Former Dakar winner in 1997, Kenjiro Shinozuka (NIS) suffered a severe crash at km 120 and had to retire from the race. Both the Japanese driver and his co-driver Pascal Maimon were taken to Tichit by helicopter. Maimon suffering from slight back and neck pains. At 8.00 pm the organisers of the Dakar announced that due to the 'very difficult weather conditions' on stage 7 between Zouerat and Tichit, that has grounded seven of their nine helicopters, they have decided to delay the start of tomorrow's special and reduce the distance of stage 8 to 130 km.

BIKES

David Fretigne (Gauloises Yamaha) 1st and 6th overall (at 8'09)

There was a lot of navigation and a lot of camel grass. For about 500 km I rode with a small group of other riders and then towards the end I decided to pick up the pace and pulled back well on the leaders. The bike is going fine. I am riding harder than last year but my 'little' machine is holding up well and I didn't have to do any work on it before going into the parc ferme.

Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) 3rd (at 5'22) 2nd overall (at 0'16)

I rode the first 30 km slowly to warm up the bib mousse and was quickly caught by Marc (Coma). Then we hooked up with Alfie (Cox). We could see Ullevalseter and Fabrizio's (Meoni) tracks up ahead but followed our own way. Then just before the fort I bumped into Ullevalseter -- they must have got a little lost. In all we must have rode 400 km of camel grass, which forced us to go pretty slowly -- we are much later at the bivouac than anticipated. Towards the end we were starting to run low on fuel which also forced us to reduce the pace. Fortunately the bike seems fine for tomorrow (all vehicles must go into parc ferme as soon as they have crossed the finish line).

Alfie Cox (Gauloises KTM) 4th (at 7'25) 4th overall (at 5'39)

What a day -- a real Dakar day. There was just endless camel grass and visibility was pretty bad -- today was the first time I worked up a sweat. We could hear Fretigne behind us at the end -- his bike was perfect for today's kind of going.

Fabrizio Meoni (Gauloises KTM) 8th (at 11'22) 5th overall (at 7'32)

It was a long stage -- physically pretty tiring -- but the main thing is that we are here. The major problem was making sure that you hit all the GPS points and you had to pay careful attention to the navigation.

Mame Less Diallo (Gauloises Toni Togo KTM)

I broke my engine at the end of yesterday's stage. I managed to get into the bivouac last night but couldn't repair it and have had to pull out. I am bitterly disappointed.

-gauloises-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Luc Alphand , Jean-Louis Schlesser , Stéphane Peterhansel , Ari Vatanen , Pascal Maimon , Kenjiro Shinozuka , Fabrizio Meoni , Cyril Despres , Alfie Cox , David Fretigne , Mame Less Diallo , Kellon Walch