Dakar: Repsol stage ten report

THE DAKAR RALLY LEAVES MAURITANIA AND ENTERS MALI Motorbike riders covered the neutralised stage as a liaison. In the car class, Repsol driver Nani Roma finished second, ahead of Peterhansel, who consolidates his lead in the overall ...

THE DAKAR RALLY LEAVES MAURITANIA AND ENTERS MALI

Motorbike riders covered the neutralised stage as a liaison. In the car class, Repsol driver Nani Roma finished second, ahead of Peterhansel, who consolidates his lead in the overall standings.

With the tenth stage of the 2006 Lisbon Dakar Rally neutralised in tribute to Australian rider Andy Caldecott who passed away during yesterday's special, all riders covered the distance between the Mauritanian town of Kiffa and Kayes, Mali, as a liaison. They made a total of 333 kilometres with one refuelling stop at km 151. Once the motorbikes had left, the cars, as well as the trucks, took the start to race the stage as planned.

The caravan of the 2006 Lisbon Dakar Rally experienced a major change of scenario, leaving the dunes, camel grass and large desert areas behind and entering areas with large vegetation, to face the huge baobabs. The biggest difficulty on this terrain is orientation, because participants arrive at more inhabited areas with several tracks that link the different villages. The biggest challenge of all is to find the exact track indicated in the road book every time they leave a village. It is easy to get it wrong because there are countless tracks that seem to leave the village following the direction indicated in the book, but later on branch off to a different direction. It is of vital importance to find the good track right away, because they may loose several minutes to get back. The fact of entering the Sahel area and villages, adds more risk situations, such as the presence of animals on the roads, forcing participants to be extremely cautious. There will obviously be desert areas as well but the more they head south, the more inhabited areas they will find. A further difficulty will be the presence of laterite: tracks covered with red volcanic, very slippery gravel that generates a disturbing, suspended dust.

Only the cars raced today the tenth stage of the twenty-eighth edition of the Dakar Rally which was staged between Kiffa, in Mauritania, and Kayes, in Mail, with the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart keeping the lead in the overall standings. Overnight leaders and defending champions Stephane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret completed the varied 283 kms special in third position and extended their advantage over second-placed team mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard to 40m 04s. Their nearest non-Mitsubishi rival is the third-placed South

African Giniel de Villiers, 1h 03m 17s adrift. Spaniard Joan 'Nani' Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne began the day in fourth place and beat Peterhansel and Cottret by 50 seconds into the Kayes bivouac by setting the third fastest time. Roma moved further clear of his fourth-placed German rival Jutta Kleinschmidt. Alphand and Picard, who had begun the stage a mere 9m 16s behind the leaders, hit a tree and damaged a front right wheel on their Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution at the 228 kms point. Co-driver Picard made emergency repairs, but the crew lost around half an hour in the incident. Alphand was fortunate to maintain his second position in the overall standings after today's collision, but the Frenchman was also annoyed with himself for yesterday's delays. Spaniard Carlos Sainz set the fastest time into Kayes - his fourth stage win of the event

The statements

Marc Coma: "It has been really hard to concentrate today; the kilometres went by very slowly. Fortunately we were able to do the stage in liaison. I guess that we'll going to recover from the harsh blow, but it's complicated. The most important is to let days pass by so we'll start feeling a bit better. Tomorrow's stage will be short in kilometres but long in time. It's a difficult stage, with a lot of navigation and several changes of direction. We have to concentrate as much as we can, although it will be difficult. We'll try to take it with ease and do things right."

Jordi Arcarons, Repsol KTM Team Manager: "More than a neutralised special, today was a day or mourning, of respect towards our friend and of condolence for Andy's family. It's the least we can do. The riders did not have their minds clear enough to take the bike and race. The race must go on; they all would want that if something would happen to them. We move on, though very sad. Tomorrow's stage doesn't have many kilometres but it will be long considering the hours the riders are going to spend on their bikes. They will find a lot of changes of direction and it will be easy to get the wrong way, and that would be a fatal error, because considering the area, if you take the wrong way it is very difficult to make it up. They will have to be very careful and set the right speed in order to be able to follow the road book. Whoever wants to speed will have a tough time."

Nani Roma: "I stopped to make sure that Luc and Gilles were okay. They had the spare part needed for the wheel, so I carried on. The terrain has changed a lot. We have left the desert behind and now we face new challenges. I drove sensibly and made no mistakes. This race is so long. People said that the race was over after Mauritania. But this is just not true. There is a long way to go."

Stephane Peterhansel: "It was not an easy stage at all. Between the trees and the rocks it was very slow. It was not easy to open the road, even though it was a short stage. We had no problems with the car. It was so technical, turning in tight situations. It was difficult to find a rhythm."

Luc Alphand: "I was angry with myself for making a mistake on yesterday's stage. I got stuck and used the jack, but the jack lock was not fastened securely and we had to keep stopping to put it away again. It cost me so much time. I was trying to keep in touch with Stephane and then I found myself nine minutes behind."

Dominique Serieys, Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director: "Uncertainty is the nature of this race. It is never over until you see Dakar. Luc has lost 30 minutes today, so maybe any thoughts of a team order have now been extinguished by Africa! Now I will stress to our drivers to keep their concentration and make no mistakes."

Tomorrow's stage
Stage 11. Kayes-Bamako. 11 January
Liaison: 50 kms - Special: 231 kms - Liaison: 424 kms

Still in Mali, the eleventh stage of the Rally covers a total of 705 kms, 231 timed, between Kayes and Bamako. A lot of rain fell during the last rain season in the Sahel so there are going to be several changes in the road book forcing the riders to work hard on the day before to prepare the specials well. In this stage, participants will have their first serious contact with the slippery laterite tracks. Due to the high temperatures and the lack of wind, the dust remains suspended, considerably reducing visibility. Vegetation in that area is also plentiful, so that the time gaps opened during the desert stages will be hard to close on this terrain. Once again, navigation will have to be impeccable in order to find and cross the narrow and hidden tracks. A single mistake may become a fatal error because participants will be forced to turn back and loose valuable minutes. The differences between participants will be small but the tracks don't make it easy to overtake. The most important for all those who have managed to take an advantage will be knowing how to manage it and avoiding any mistake, especially as regards navigation.

-repsol-

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Series DAKAR