The Nissan Pickups finish 3rd and 4th in today's stage...
A city in High Egypt, located 750 km to the south of Cairo on the right bank of the Nile, Luxor was the end point of today's stage, located on the site of ancient city of Thebes.
Today's special stage went along a series of forgotten tracks, used in the days of the Pharaohs by caravans of camels, on their way to Sudan.
The start of the special stage was a hillclimb-style ascent, over 5 kilometres long, which took the competitors to the start of a camel track. Then the track disappeared, with only a very sinuous trace remaining, winding through a rocky massif. This was followed by pure off-track navigation, with the competitors having to find the right valley in order to gain access to the pass leading down the cliff. One kilometre long, this descent was the high point of the day.
Having led the field at the start of the stage, Ari Vatanen had to let go of the reins later on, after a puncture and a good " gardening " session (in the jargon of the rally world, " gardening " means looking for your way...) and finished the session in 4th position, behind Giniel de Villiers. Ari was suffering from the consequences of his hard landing yesterday, and still has a bad back.
" I am a bit disappointed this evening. We put in a lot of effort, and we had a good lead. First we had a puncture, and then we did a bit of gardening ... I will try to get some rest tonight and go to bed early, as my back is really hurting me. The rally is not over yet..."
Giniel de Villiers was also very fast today. He is still looking for his first stage win, and was third today, 1'06 behind Alphand : " I am quite disappointed, as I know that we could have won today. We got a puncture after 30 km, and lost some time. We got going again at high speed, and near the end we took the wrong route, going too far to the left. We were very close to Luc. He went to the right, while we went to the left. It was not the right decision, and we lost a bit more time. The special stage was quite broken today, one of those stages that could destroy the car. I am continuing to gain experience, but I would really like to prove it by getting a stage win before the end. "
Thierry de Lavergne, 10th fastest, who is still suffering from his back since his awful glide at the start of the rally, appears to be resigned to the situation: " I really wanted a good stage today, and because of my back, I quickly realised that it would not be possible. Since the big bang I received on the 3rd day, I have tried to take car over the broken terrain, but I am suffering too much. It is obvious that compressed vertebrae cannot improve whilst taking part in a rally, and I am paying the price. The stage was very broken, and then a tube from the inflating/deflating system pulled out. Over the last 60 kilometres, where the ground was soft, it was necessary to deflate the tyres to go quickly, and we really suffered. I am not satisfied with my Dakar, but my main aim now is to get to the finish. I know that there will be other rallies, and other chances to win. "
Overall, Giniel de Villiers reinforced his 6th position, only 17 minutes behind Sousa. Ari Vatenen is 8th and Thierry de Lavergne 12th.
Tomorrow will see another fine stage, 576 km long, including a 477-km special stage, heading North towards Abu Rish. This will be the second stage without GPS ... and an ideal stage for the rally drivers !