Dakar: Repsol stage five report

REPSOL RIDER MARC COMA KEEPS THE LEAD AFTER THE LAS SPECIAL IN MOROCCO With today's victory of Peterhansel and Roma's third, the Repsol Mitsubishi Rallyart Team closes the gap to the lead with Alphand third in the overall standings. Tomorrow the...

REPSOL RIDER MARC COMA KEEPS THE LEAD AFTER THE LAS SPECIAL IN MOROCCO

With today's victory of Peterhansel and Roma's third, the Repsol Mitsubishi Rallyart Team closes the gap to the lead with Alphand third in the overall standings. Tomorrow the race will leave Morocco and enter the Mauritanian desert

Marc Coma remains in the group of favourites to fight for the victory and will leave Morocco tomorrow morning as the leader of the 2006 Lisbon Dakar Rally. Repsol riders and drivers, together with the rest of the participants will enter tomorrow Mauritania, after crossing the border between these two countries, usually know as "The Wall": an inhospitable and mined area, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the huge desert, having the United Nations military as exceptional spectators, who curiously watch the Dakar caravan pass year after year.

Marc Coma's second position today at the last stage run on Moroccan grounds, allows the Repsol rider to enter Mauritania in the lead of the overall standings, although, as Marc says, "it is not important to be leading now, that's an anecdote, the important thing is to reach the finish in the lead." With his usual care, Marc prefers to focus on every day and keep concentrated without taking too many risks. Halfway the special, Marc caught Esteve and they covered the rest of the timed section together, both setting a very fast pace. Carlo de Gavardo, fifth today, remains fourth overall and in the group of candidates to the fight for the victory. Andy Caldecott, who finished sixth today, behind the Chilean Repsol rider, closes the overall top five, while Italian rider Giovanni Sala, ninth of today's special, is eighth overall. Young Jordi Viladoms considerably improved his performance today, after the hard time he had yesterday, setting the twenty-second fastest time, thus finishing the Moroccan stages in the twenty-ninth position of the overall standings.

The fifth stage of the rally, 819 kms starting from Ouarzazate and finishing in Tan-Tan, had a special section of 350 kms - after a 187 kms from Ouarzazate-, and a subsequent road section of 282 kms to the bivouac in Tan Tan. Today, participants left the broken and stony tracks behind to start increasing the pace, although it was a hard and difficult terrain combining extremely stony roads with fast tracks and chotts. These are the typical roads of Southern Morocco, where there was a lot to loose and little to win.

In the car class, the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team clinched its first stage victory of the 28th Dakar Rally. The French duo made up by Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret, who had begun this morning's stage behind all his major rivals for victory, guided their Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution to the quickest time on the 350 kms special stage between Ouarzazate and Tan Tan. This result allowed the defending champions to move up from 11th in the overall standings to ninth place. After today's stage, team mates Luc Alphand and Joan 'Nani' Roma climbed to third and seventh positions, respectively. Alphand finished the stage sixth, thus improving one place in the overall standings. Team mates Joan 'Nani' Roma and Henri Magne were leading at the first passage control, but were finally third quickest; overcoming all problems they had been having yesterday. Spaniard Carlos Sainz continues to lead the event, although his advantage has been substantially trimmed to just 1m 28s.

The statements

Marc Coma: "Today's stage has been quite fast, with a lot of stones and dust, but easy as regards navigation. In the early morning, with the sun shining on your face, the dust was annoying, but improved later. Isidre took the lead and set a good pace. It was almost impossible to overtake him without navigation and the pace was right, so I limited myself to staying behind. I had a small problem with the rear brake towards the end, but nothing serious. The assessment of day is positive. Morocco has been a bit what we expected, the rider selection has started and there are already some differences to be seen, but Mauritania will be decisive, as always. If you're not in the group that leaves Morocco well positioned, you will hardly be in Mauritania, so I'm happy to leave Morocco in the lead."

Carlo De Gavardo: "Today's stage has been very nice and it seemed to me that it was less difficult than the two previous stages. There were less bumps and holes, although there still was a lot of dust. I had a little problem looking for the waypoint in km 58, I got a bit lost, although I eventually found it. If I wouldn't I would have been penalised, so I preferred to loose some time and mark it. Then Cyril passed and from then on until the finish I pushed really hard but without taking any risk. Fifth place is OK and I'm happy because I didn't need to risk more than necessary. There is still a lot of race to go. I want to send warm regards to Chile and all Chileans that are following the race, and wish them all a happy New Year from here."

Andy Caldecott: "Today has been quite a good day. I rode really safely in a rather rocky stage and with a lot of dust. There were several potential dangers along the special, but I had no problem. I'm very satisfied with how I managed the stage and very happy with my position."

Giovanni Sala: "I'm happy with today's stage and also about having finished with Morocco. It's the most dangerous area of the Dakar and the place many choose to start competing for the overall position, although I think that it is too early. Today's special went well, no problems, I finished ninth. I didn't take any risk, the bike works fine and I don't feel too tired, so the balance is positive. The real fight starts now. As regards the dangers, Mauritania is going to be much better, but it will be much harder.

Jordi Viladoms: "Things went well today, no problems. I had the disadvantage of starting from the back today, and there was a lot of dust, but I managed to overtake the riders ahead of me and to set a good pace. I did the navigation well and passed all waypoints correctly, so I'm happy."

Nani Roma: It was not easy and I had to start at the back of the first group of drivers. Mark Miller was in front of me and I was lucky that he was driving quickly. It was not possible to push too much in the dust. Now I think the race will change. It will become very difficult over the next three days and I think that the overall leaderboard will change a lot."

Stephane Peterhansel: "I started 14th on the road behind many cars this morning and managed to make good progress. A couple of cars had flat tires and we moved up the field. Tomorrow I will start first on the stage and we will enter Mauritania. The race may well take on a different form from now on. I lost 17 minutes in Morocco yesterday, but now I have a good chance to make up that time over the next few days."

Dominique Serieys, Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director: "I was not too unhappy yesterday. Today has been much better. We have not been able to use the true potential of our cars yet, because of the narrow tracks and the risks associated with passing motorbikes in dust. Stephane will open the track on Thursday. We know this area quite well and it isa fast track, which may also suit the Buggies. Tomorrow is not the only day in Mauritania. There are four days and the stage tomorrow may be the quickest of them all. We will see."

Tomorrow's stage
Stage 6. Tan Tan-Zouerat. 5 January
Liaison: 336 kms - Special: 444 kms - Liaison: 12 kms

The sixth stage of the rally is a Dakar Classic: Tan Tan-Zouerat. Its main feature is that it is a long stage as regards time - although with its 792kms it is not the longest as such - and that the 336-kms road section to the start of the special at "The Wall" is made at night. Riders and drivers will start really early from the bivouac in Tan Tan, around 1 o'clock in the morning, to cover the liaison, first on asphalted road and then on tracks, to reach the border between the Sahara and Mauritania, starting point of the 444 kms special. Participants are expected to arrive there at around 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning and they will have some four hours to rest, which will be essential to face the timed section. As soon as the sun rises, they will have to refuel and have breakfast before taking the start on the other side of the border wall. It's a mined area with only one single pass, which has to be covered with daylight and with precision, in order to minimise risk. The first section will take them along the last sinuous tracks of the Sahara to then enter the large extension of the Mauritanian desert. A very fast, straight area, with the first challenges as regards navigation. Participants will have to follow the CAP of the road-book carefully because in this edition, GPS points have almost disappeared. Towards the middle of the stage, participants will have to follow a sand track, extension of the Mauritanian desert to enter the first dune chains. Here is where the hard navigation and orientation work will really start.

-repsol-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Mark Miller , Carlos Sainz , Luc Alphand , Henri Magne , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Giovanni Sala , Nani Roma , Marc Coma , Carlo de Gavardo , Andy Caldecott , Jordi Viladoms