Marc Coma, new overall leader in bikes The Repsol rider takes the lead for the first time. Jordi Duran suffers an accident with several fractures and is forced to withdraw. Very hard stage for the drivers and riders. McRae new leader and Alphand...
Marc Coma, new overall leader in bikes
The Repsol rider takes the lead for the first time. Jordi Duran suffers an accident with several fractures and is forced to withdraw. Very hard stage for the drivers and riders. McRae new leader and Alphand third
The Repsol KTM team took the leadership today in the motorbike class thanks to Marc Coma. The Spanish rider was second fastest in today's stage moving up to the top of the sheets with an advantage of 43 seconds over the second rider, Andy Caldecott from the US. Isidre Esteve, who finished fifth is fifth in the overall standings, while Giovanni Sala managed to significantly recover positions and is already 17th.
However, the team has lost Jordi Duran who had an accident before CP1 fracturing his elbow, wrist and leg. His life is in no danger, but the injuries are serious and after being taken to the Smara camp he will be sent back to Spain as soon as possible.
It's been a very dangerous stage, with very fast tracks and lots of traps in hidden, small, dried riverbeds and many other surprises. The bikes took the start of the 240-km liaison at 5 o'clock in the morning, which was followed by a 381-km special and a final 33-km liaison to arrive in the city of Smara, in Western Sahara. The total distance covered by drivers and riders was 654 km with three checkpoints, one of them including refuelling.
The stony areas were a tough test for tyres and front rims. All of the Repsol KTM riders arrived with bent front rims after several bumps.
The driver who suffered most damages due to the toughness of the stage was Stephane Peterhansel. The leader of the Mitsubishi Repsol team suffered several punctures which set him significantly back. More problems for Hiroshi Masuoka who broke the transmission after hitting against a hidden stone. He had not yet reached the finish while this information was being transmitted. Colin McRae was the winner of the special and new race leader. Luc Alphand finished fifth and is third in the overall standings. Andrea Mayer and Nani Roma finished the stage with no news but with an excellent debut in the race.
The sixth stage will take place tomorrow, from Smara to Zouerat, in Mauritania, with a total route of 622 kilometres, 492 of which make up the special.
Repsol rider's comments
Marc Coma: "This is a bittersweet stage. I'm happy because I'm leading the race but I'm very sad due to Jordin Duran's accident. This is something you don't wish to happen to anybody and even less to a team-mate. The rally had just started and he needed to make kilometres in Africa. Today's stage was a typical Moroccan stage, with a lot of stones, really ground-breaking. It was essential to follow the road book closely because there were several dangers. It was easy to make a mistake and that's probably what happened to Duran, although there were not many navigation difficulties. I rode on my own most of the stage until I caught up with Cox and Despres after refuelling and went on with them until the finish".
Isidre Esteve: "It's a bad day because of what happened to Jordi. We had prepared the race really hard during the last months. I met him on the way and saw how he passed a level three danger marked in the road book. I rode behind two riders in the first part of the route and I was able to pass them. Then I found Jordi and I stayed with him. He was conscious but very sore. When the other riders arrived I moved on and I lost relatively little time. This has just started".
Giovanni Sala: "First hard special, long, with stones and dangerous. It's been a tough first contact. In addition it started with my team-mate Duran crashing and that makes you loose heart. The dust has been the biggest problem, but besides Jordi's crash everything worked out well ".
Carlo de Gavardo: "The sporting part was OK, much better than expected. The bike worked well. As regards the human side I saw Duran crashing in front of me and it's been really serious. He was riding at a speed of at least 140 kilometes per hour and flew almost eighty metres. It was really impressive".
Jordi Arcarons: "Too bad what happened to Jordi Duran. He didn't deserve to finish so early, and he's seriously hurt; he'll take some time to recover. He crashed in an almost invisible trap and I don't know what happened. Maybe he had the road book on a different kilometre point and therefore crashed. This race is unpredictable. The stage was a dangerous one with several stones, traps and a lot of dust. Since the stage yesterday was cancelled, they were all looking forward to start today. The situation is very good for the moment, although the early leadership may not be good for Marc because it means excessive pressure. Esteve is in the ideal position".
Luc Alphand: "I am quite happy with the way everything is working so far. The pace at the front is really high, maybe on a par with a Baja race, and I am happy to be among the leaders. It is a little frightening for the mechanics, but I still feel sure that reliability and a good team strategy will be the key.
Stephane Peterhansel: "It was not a big difference this morning, but there is a long way to go. Yesterday Colin McRae had a flat tire early on and we were forced to run first on the road, because there were no bikes. Today we started behind Robby Gordon. Last time we came here we had flat tires on the Rally of Morocco, but it was 20 degrees C cooler this time. I did not expect any problems with tires, but we had flat tires again today."
Hiroshi Masuoka: "There was a rock hidden in the grass about eight kilometers into the stage into Agadir and we did not see it. It was unlucky and we stopped to change it. A BMW passed us and we had to stop with a windscreen wiper problem. There was no water left in the bottle. We knew it was going to be dusty today and we decided not to push and make sure we had no problems, because we know that we can push on the open desert sections later in the week."
Andrea Mayer: "I am still trying to find a nice rhythm. I tackled my first Dakar in a car with Francois Borsotto, so speaking French in the car is not a problem for me. We now have a good system. My plan is to wait for the longest stages, because I do not have the power of the Evolutions, so my best chance for a top stage result is on the longer, more difficult stages."
Nani Roma: "I am pleasantly surprised with my position so far. I started slowly yesterday and am growing in confidence. I have found a good rhythm, which keeps me in contention without taking any risks. I knew today's stage from old Dakars on a bike and the Morocco.