Dakar: Kwikpower Mercedes stage eight report

All the five Mercedes-Benz vehicles complete first half of the Dakar Rally. Ellen Lohr draws positive balance. Nouakchott/Mauritania - From Portugal to Morocco, from Morocco to Mauritania: Ellen Lohr and Kwikpower Mercedes-Benz have covered ...

All the five Mercedes-Benz vehicles complete first half of the Dakar Rally. Ellen Lohr draws positive balance.

Nouakchott/Mauritania - From Portugal to Morocco, from Morocco to Mauritania: Ellen Lohr and Kwikpower Mercedes-Benz have covered nearly 5.000 kilometres; it's halftime in the 2006 Dakar Rally. "Our balance is a clearly positive one," says the rally driver. "We've successfully completed more than half the distance and two of the most demanding stages. Our M-Class prototype runs trouble-free and all the service and support vehicles have reached Nouakchott without any experiencing any problems. In the case of the only technical failure we've experienced with the rally car, the race Unimog was on the spot to help us completing the stage: an example of perfect teamwork. This means that we have achieved our first major goal on the way to Dakar."

"From an ambitious, racing point of view, it's a real pity that our only technical failure occurred in the opening stages of one of the most demanding legs," added Lohr. "We reached the stage's finish only in the following morning and were penalised with more than 20 hours of penalty time, thus losing our nice top-30 position in the overall standings. And we also had to drive a lot in the night, during the past two stages. And in the dark, it's far more difficult to find your way rounds the dunes. We're always really competitive by day. When passing yesterday's second checkpoint we held 12th position, but in the night, we dropped back to 39th."

There are still another 4095 kilometres to go, for the competitors. Following today's day of rest, in Nouakchott, tomorrow's stage to Kiffa will be demanding in several terms: with a total mileage of 874 kilometres it will be the event's longest leg, with the 599-kilometres special stage also representing the 2006 Dakar's longest one. Furthermore, the drivers will have to cope with the highest and most demanding dunes of this year's desert classic. "On the day off, you always tend to get the feeling that the rally is nearly over - but the next challenges on the way to Dakar are already waiting for us," continued Lohr. "I'm very confident of delivering some more good performances, during the course of the forthcoming legs. We're definitely well prepared for the Dakar's second half - and not only when it comes to our vehicles. I'm really happy that Balbir Singh accompanies us as our physiotherapist. It's a really exhausting event, with your neck and your arms in particular having to cope with an extraordinary burden. Sometimes, you're truly bucketed about. But Balbir has really got healing hands, therefore, we're always absolutely fit in the morning when we're starting into the next stage."

Singh, who has been the physio of Michael Schumacher, for ten years, accompanies Kwikpower Mercedes-Benz during the Dakar. The Indian supports everybody in the team of 15, not only Lohr and her co-pilot, Detlef Ruf. It's his inaugural appearance in a desert rally and he says: "It's big fun to be a part of this event. What I do really like is the helpfulness and the co-operation of all the competitors. Everybody talks to everybody, here, as we're all in the same boat."

-kwikpower-

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Series Dakar
Drivers Michael Schumacher , Ellen Lohr , Detlef Ruf , Balbir Singh