Dakar: Repsol stage 14 report

MARC COMA CARESSES HIST FIRST DAKAR VICTORY AND NANI ROMA SECURES A PODIUM PLACE IN THE CAR CLASS The negative side of the day was the retirement of young Jordi Viladoms after a heavy crash; fortunately the rider is OK. The last stage will ...

MARC COMA CARESSES HIST FIRST DAKAR VICTORY AND NANI ROMA SECURES A PODIUM PLACE IN THE CAR CLASS

The negative side of the day was the retirement of young Jordi Viladoms after a heavy crash; fortunately the rider is OK. The last stage will be neutralised due to the accidents involving spectators occurred in the last two days.

Marc Coma had already warned about it last night at the bivouac. Today wasn't going to be an easy stage. Despite the incredulity of many people, the rider who will very probably be the second Spanish rider to win the Dakar in the motorbike class -Nani Roma, Repsol driver as well, did it in 2004 -, was not at all wrong in his statement. Today everybody was able to see how many participants got lost, some of them among the top ten in the overall standings, loosing more than half an hour to the winner of the special, Frenchman David Fretigne.

Marc Coma, who is only one step from achieving a historical highlight in his rising sports career, was able to keep a cold head this morning despite getting lost as the rest of his team mates, and as a reward finished the difficult stage in second position only a few tenths behind Fretigne. Giovanni Sala, despite getting lost and loosing 49 minutes, keeps his third position in the overall standings, a fair reward for the excellent performance in the Dakar rally, where he has been supporting Marc Coma being at the same time highly competitive. De Gavardo, who also lost 33 minutes, has managed to keep his fifth position in the overall standings as well.

The penultimate stage of the rally covered a total of 634 kms, 254 of them timed, between Tambacounda and Dakar. It hasn't been an easy stage because participants had to go back into the Sahel area, meaning countless tracks leading to everywhere, making navigation especially difficult.

The negative side of the day was the crash and consequent retirement of young Jordi Viladoms, who after making an impeccable race and arriving yesterday in the thirteenth position of the overall standings, was forced to retire from the race with a little over 100 kms to go. With no doubt an unfair end for a brilliant performance. Viladoms, who is now under observation in the Hospital in Dakar, counts on the special company of Doctor Xavier Mir, who told us that "Jordi is OK, we think that he'll be able to go back to the hotel in a couple of hours, but we'll have to watch him during the night. They made a cervical scan and another from the head and it showed a recovered head trauma and a cervical contusion. They also made a resonance and diagnosed a break of the vastus medialis muscle in the right leg. He is a bit disappointed due to what happened but fortunately he is all right and that's the most important. He doesn't remember neither what happened in the accident nor why he crashed."

In the car class, Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team driver Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard will take a 17m 53s overall advantage into the final 31 kms special stage of the 28th Dakar Rally on Sunday, after setting the eighth fastest time between Tambacounda and Dakar in Senegal, today. Last year's runner-up drove cautiously through today's varied special stage to avoid making a costly mistake and finished in eighth position, dropping 4m 20s to his nearest South African rival Giniel de Villiers after a small navigational mistake. But the Frenchman will only need to coast around the final stage on Sunday to confirm a record-breaking sixth successive Dakar triumph for the Mitsubishi team. Spaniard Joan 'Nani' Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne started the special behind the three Volkswagens of Carlos Sainz, Giniel de Villiers and Bruno Saby and were fastest overall to the first passage control. But they were delayed into the second passage control with a navigational mistake and finished the special in 18th position, 33 minutes behind the stage-winning Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit. Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret began the morning's special seventh on the road behind Thierry Magnaldi's Buggy and finished the stage with the 14th fastest time. They will start the final leg in fourth, albeit a mere 3m 01s ahead of American Mark Miller in the overall standings.

As a consequence, the Repsol riders and drivers have the victories almost secured due to the neutralisation of the stage. The organisation has taken this decision due to the tragic accidents happened in the last two days and therefore, although participants will cover the special, no times will be clocked. Just stepping on the podium in Lake Rose, will lead the Repsol riders and drivers to be proclaimed winners of the 2006 edition of the Dakar Rally, thus achieving a historical result with victories in two classes.

The statements

Marc Coma: "It's been a difficult day, especially as regards navigation. To tell you the truth, yesterday, when everybody was telling me that everything was already done, that we were almost in Dakar, I told them that we hadn't arrived yet, that we had to wait, that today's stage was complicated. They all looked at me strangely, but they've finally seen that I was right. It's been positive because we got along well with the navigation, but there've been some critical moments.It is a tragedy that the Dakar finishes like this and I'm deeply sorry for the death of two spectators. We are very close to the victory, but prudence forces us to wait until the podium tomorrow, even if the final stage is neutralised and with no timing."

Carlo De Gavardo: "Today's special was quite fast and we were entering the Savannah between the trees so it was somehow dangerous. There were also a lot of villages and you had to be very careful not to be penalised for speeding. There was one moment where the CAP changed but the wheel tracks on the road went to the other side. I followed them for a while and I lost quite a lot of time looking again for the right way. It's been an exciting goodbye from the race, because I didn't know how the riders against whom I was racing were doing, for example Ullevalseter. When I arrived at the finish, he had passed one minute ago, because he had been through the same as many of us. What is a real shame is what happened to Jordi Viladoms. Let's hope that it's nothing serious."

Giovanni Sala: "A complicated day. I waited for Marc after the start to ride together. We made several kilometres like that but at the exit of a village we took the CAP 270 as indicated in the road book, but there was a trick because we first had to take CAP 250 to find the right track. I wasn't beside Marc then because there was a lot of dust. They got a bit lost, but quickly turned around and found the way, but I got completely lost. I decided to go back to the village and try to understand where the problem was. I found out in the end, but I lost a lot of time. All of that made me feel a bit nervous because my rival in the overall standings had taken the right way and I was afraid of loosing the third place. Once I was on the good road I came across several riders I had to overtake them in the middle of the dust, taking a lot of risks. I managed to get to the finish, but I guess I lost all in all around 20 minutes."

Luc Alphand: "We were listening for every noise on the car. We had one very stressful moment. We weren't lost, but (Bruno) Saby, de Villiers, (Carlos) Sainz and myself all went the wrong way. I found myself in the middle of the Volkswagens. I was looking for number 305 and then we saw De Villiers and I decided to latch on to his tail. Finally we found the way easier than them and we were okay. Now I think it is very nearly finished. I hope that we can have a beach party on Sunday!."

Stephane Peterhansel: "We had some problems with the wiring to the tripmeters. There was a fire and it wiped out the tripmeters. We had to finish the last 100 kms of the stage without the trips. That makes the navigation very difficult."

Nani Roma: "We made one navigational mistake in a small village. We made a 30 kms error and had to go back to the same village and start again. I did not panic. Henri was anxious for a minute, but I told him to relax because we had plenty of time in hand and there was no need to be nervous.."

Dominique Serieys, Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director: "Our objective was not to take the stage win, but to make sure that we took no risks and continued on our path towards Lac Rose on Sunday. I am pleased we made it safely to Dakar.

-repsol-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Mark Miller , Carlos Sainz , Luc Alphand , Henri Magne , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Gilles Picard , Giovanni Sala , Bruno Saby , Nani Roma , Marc Coma , David Fretigne , Guerlain Chicherit , Jordi Viladoms , Thierry Magnaldi