Dakar: Repsol stage nine report

Esteve and Alphand win today's stage with Peterhansel and Despres leading the overall standings in cars and bikes. Coma drops down to second but keeps his options intact. Roma looses four hours due to problems with the steering. The Dakar has...

Esteve and Alphand win today's stage with Peterhansel and Despres leading the overall standings in cars and bikes. Coma drops down to second but keeps his options intact. Roma looses four hours due to problems with the steering.

The Dakar has reached Atar, where the participants will enjoy tomorrow the rest stage, with a double victory for a Repsol rider and driver. Isidre Esteve won in bikes and Luc Alphand in cars after a route marked by the wind and dune passages which have presented several problems for the participants. Nani Roma, for example, was penalised due to a damage in the power steering, loosing almost four hours and dropping back from sixth to eighth in the overall standings.

Stephane Peterhansel is still leading the overall standings in bikes and Cyril Despres in bikes. At the end of the stage it was Meoni who was in the lead and Coma fourth, but the organisation imposed outstanding penalties from the Zouérat-Tichit stage and the Italian dropped back to fourth while Coma is now second, only two minutes behind the lead.

The roughness of the Thursday stage, forcing the cancellation of the stage on Friday, left several participants out of the race, but except for Jordi Durán, who was operated on for his injuries yesterday at the Clínica Dexeus in Barcelona, the rest of the Repsol riders and drivers are still in the race, in good positions and keeping their options intact.

Today's stage had a 361-km special and a short liaison with a lot of sand, two rocky areas starting from CP2 and dune passages. One of them caused several problems to the participants because the wind, constant in the first half of the stage, removed every previous reference. Coma, who started second, opened the way and that forced him to drive slower. Meoni quickly caught up with him; whereas Esteve, started from further in the back and made an excellent race, allowing him to win the stage, make up several minutes and get back into the fight for the victory. Sala finished sixth of the stage.

The rest day in Atar will allow them all to recover strength and design, together with the sports manager of the Repsol KTM team, Jordi Arcarons, the strategy needed to face the second and decisive week of the rally.

One-two for Alphand and Peterhansel

Two cars of the Mitsubishi Repsol team managed to take again a one-two stage finish with Alphand quickest and Peterhansel second. Last year's winner of the Dakar reached the finish line quite worried and with the help of Masuoka, due to some problems with the engine that will be solved tomorrow. Alphand had to overcome difficulties as well. Masuoka finished fifth and Mayer tenth. The most serious complications were today for Nani Roma. The steering pump broke down reducing the manoeuvrability of the car. Nani and his navigator Henri Magne got stuck in the dunes several times, the last time in the final part of the special, thus loosing almost four hours to Alphand's time. In the overall standings, Roma dropped back from sixth to eighth. He has done however an excellent job in this first half of the race.

The MAN Repsol truck driven by Jordi Juvantey, José Luis Criado and Francesc Pardo reached the finish line in Atar in 27th position and is 17th in the overall standings.

Opinions

Luc Alphand: "We tried to maintain a reasonable pace and had a flat tire. Then we stopped to deflate the tires for the dunes and had a second puncture. Maybe the tire pressure was too low. But I am delighted to take my first stage win with the Mitsubishi and it leaves me in a good position for the final week of the race. I don't feel any pressure at the moment. Stéphane is very strong and is driving well. Everyone wants to win this race, but we have overcome some problems this week and will restart on Monday in a very strong position."

Stéphane Peterhansel: "I feel much better than I did a couple of days ago. The stage was not easy today. There were some large dune fields and the navigation was difficult."

Andrea Mayer: "One hundred kilometers in front of PC1, I saw Nani stuck in the wall of a sand dune and we towed him out and got stuck ourselves for a short time," said Mayer. "After that we saw that he put air in his tires and he overtook us and moved ahead. In the next dune field we thought he had already arrived, but he hadn't and then we got lost ourselves for around 10 minutes."

Nani Roma: "From km 50 of the special I noticed that the steering pump was failing and shortly after we had no more power steering. That means that the driver has much less margin to make mistakes. That's why we got stuck twice in the dunes. We were able to get out of the first one by ourselves but we had no chance in the second one, and we had to wait for the Mitsubishi assistance truck to solve the problem and lost almost four hours. But I'm still in the race and that's what counts".

Marc Coma: "Right after the start I ran into a huge sand storm and there were neither signs nor traces on the track. I was groping out my way and therefore had to be slow. Several riders caught-up with me and I had already accepted that I was going to lose time. I'm happy however, because we have achieved the big aim of the team; that is reaching the rest day at full shape. We'll start anew."

Isidre Esteve: "I took the start setting a fast pace. Sala was ahead of me and once I caught-up with him, we rode really fast, shortening distances. Those who were ahead of us entered an erg of dunes and Gio and I took a better path. We caught them and drove together the rest of the stage. I'm happy with today's result because I'm back in the race, keeping my chances. I got nothing to say about the penalty. It's is something I was already expecting".

Jordi Arcarons: "We're in line with the main objective of the team. We reached the rest day with both riders ready to fight for the victory. And we also have Gio Sala close to them to help during the second part. We've only had four racing days so far and there's still a lot to go".

-repsol-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Luc Alphand , Henri Magne , Stéphane Peterhansel , Cyril Despres , Andrea Mayer , Nani Roma , Marc Coma , Jordi Arcarons , Jose Luis Criado , Francesc Pardo