Dakar: Gauloises stage eight report

After yesterday's triumphant orange day with three KTM Repsol riders in the leading positions of the special and the overall, today's stage heading from Atar to Nouakchott crowned a member of the blue KTM-Gauloises team. David Casteu captured his...

After yesterday's triumphant orange day with three KTM Repsol riders in the leading positions of the special and the overall, today's stage heading from Atar to Nouakchott crowned a member of the blue KTM-Gauloises team. David Casteu captured his first ever success on a Dakar while his injured team mate Cyril Despres gained time on the event leaders.

All had predicted yesterday's stage as being the most eventful of the Euromilhoes Dakar's first week, but this 7th stage had its lot of surprises and upsets. Navigation, even more than on the previous day proved to be crucial. David Casteu (KTM -- n8) riding alongside team mate Cyril Despres (KTM -- n1) made the best of an almost perfect day, finding the necessary way-points and flying over the dunes.

A newcomer in the KTM-Gauloises team, Casteu had one mission today: to take good care of his French compatriot Cyril Despres, who had seriously injured his shoulder two days ago, and take him safely to Nouakchott where both would enjoy a well-deserved rest day. That's exactly what he did. Both men managed a decisive move at km 280 when they easily found a way-point while the front group including Coma and Esteve took a wrong direction and struggled to find the GPS check point.

The former privateer who finished 13th of last year's event clocked the fastest time at CP2 before capturing his first ever success. Casteu beat USA's Chris Blais (KTM -- n9) by 2'13". The 25-year-old American managed his best ever performance in a Dakar. Third was Cyril Despres who was taking it easily until the first check-point (18th over 11" adrift) resting his shoulder, before making the right move when it really mattered. The title-holder finished 2'17" behind but gained time on his Spanish rivals: over 2' on Esteve and close to 4' on Coma. Despres still remains well behind the race leaders and seemed to have forgotten his shoulder worries but was complaining about a wrist tendonitis.

Indeed in the overall standing Marc Coma (KTM -- n2) can enjoy a 6'23" lead on Esteve (KTM -- n3), 11'49" on De Gavardo (KTM n4) and 26'54" on Despres.

David Casteu (Gauloises KTM) 1st (in 5.55'55) 8th overall (at 1.21'16)
"I started behind Cyril and when I caught him up he waved me past. He was going quite slowly and I think he just wanted to ride at his own pace. Then after refuelling we hooked up again and rode together. We were looking for a hidden waypoint and somehow Cyril managed to find it. Then after that he increased the rythme and I followed him, trying to understand what he was doing. For example at one point the road book was saying CAP 180 but he was 220. Whereas I would have just followed the CAP he looked at the terrain and tried find the best way through. It was an education."

Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) 3rd (at 2'17) 4th overall (at 26'54)
"This morning I was very close to not starting. I was in a great deal of pain, with my shoulder, but also with a tendonitis in my right wrist. I didn't want to take a lot of painkillers though as that just mask the problem and makes it difficult to ride the bike properly. But this was the special on which Fabrizio Meoni had his accident last year and so I decided to have a go as a tribute to him. The first part of the special I rode pretty slowly and everybody came past me. At the first refuelling point the others had already left by the time I arrived. Then at km 287 we had to go and get a hidden waypoint. I could see Carlos De Gavardo coming in from the right and realised it couldn't be over there. So I headed left where there were no tracks and after 300 metres I got it. I knew that the others must have lost a lot of time and that motivated me to attack to the end. To be honest I don't yet have much opinion either way regarding the impact of the new rules, but today I didn't attack but concentrated on the navigation and was able to pull back 15 minutes, so perhaps they have succeeded. I feel completely drained physically and emotionally. My doctor, Olivier Dufour is coming tomorrow morning and together we will see for the rest of the rallye."

Isidre Esteve (Gauloises KTM) 4th (at 6'58) 2nd overall (at 6'23)
"Today didn't quite go according to plan. I fell at very low speed but managed to break both the road book and my two trips. At CP1 I caught Marc and Carlo and together we lost a lot of time looking for a hidden waypoint. Still it could have been a lot worse. Tomorrow I will have a good rest and think about the day after the rest day, which will be very important. It will be our last big day in the desert and a pivotal moment in the race. After that we will be in Black Africa and the rallye will be completely difficult."

Michel Gau (Gauloises KTM) 22nd (at 54'09) 13th overall (at 3.00'41)
"I got lost looking for a way point and it was either give looking for it and head for home or run out of petrol, so I chose to head for the end."

In the cars Thierry Magnaldi (Gauloises Schlesser Ford) won his second Dakar special on 4 wheels finishing 6'52 ahead of Peterhansel and Mark Miller, with Jean Louis Schlesser (Gauloises Schlesser Ford) 9th (at 46'24). Overall Peterhansel takes the lead off Alphand with De Villiers third (at 26'16), Magnaldi 6th (at 1.33'40) and Schlesser 7th (at 1.45'21).

Thierry Magnaldi (Gauloises Schlesser Ford) 1st (in 5.00'56) 6th overall (at 1.33'40)
"We started this morning without having completely digested yesterday's disappointment but tried to drive as cleanly as possible. We passed Sainz, Sousa, Kleinschmidt and Roma and just concentrated on getting all the waypoints. Unfortunately their was a mix up with stamping our card at a CP and we lost 5 minutes when we got stuck, but apart from that everything went well. Arnaud Debron did a fantastic job with the navigation and it is thanks to him that we won the stage."

Jean Louis Schlesser (Gauloises Schlesser Ford) 9th (at 46'24) 7th overall (at 1.45'21)
"It was a difficult day for us. I have been feeling ill since the start of the rallye and just can't seem to shake it off."

-gauloises-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Mark Miller , Fabrizio Meoni , Cyril Despres , Arnaud Debron , Marc Coma , Chris Blais , David Casteu , Michel Gau , Thierry Magnaldi , Jean Louis Schlesser