Dakar: South Africa drivers stage 16 report

Dakar has a sting in its tail. A long liaison starting at dawn took the teams into the Sinai Peninsula. The final long special of this years Dakar was set on the Sinai Massif, running through sand, green valleys and difficult rocky passes. A ...

Dakar has a sting in its tail.

A long liaison starting at dawn took the teams into the Sinai Peninsula. The final long special of this years Dakar was set on the Sinai Massif, running through sand, green valleys and difficult rocky passes. A mistake could have meant 15 good days driving was in vane and that was the fate of the leading French team. Last year he did not finish in his Nissan, this year he led the race for most of the way and --

Hiroshi Masuoka of Japan started today's penultimate stage 25m 50s behind six times motorcycle winner Stéphane Peterhansel and his co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret. The leaders saw their lead shrink dramatically when they were forced to stop twice, and repair a radiator leak. But then the goddess of the desert turned evil on the team, and the Frenchman lost the overall lead of the rally when he crashed into a large rock 45 km from the finish, sheering off the entire mounting on the front wheel of the Montero Evolution.

South Africa's Giniel de Villiers in a Nissan Hardbody was exceptional and, although he got lost with teammate Ari Vatanen, finished third in the cars. Devilliers and Pascal Maimon were trying hard to take the fifth place overall, but the detour cost them the best part of 20 minutes and they start the final stage more than five minutes adrift of Sousa.s Mitsubishi L200. They are however, the highest finishing Nissan in the race, amongst the Pajeros and ahead of the VW and BMW teams.

In the motorcycle category, Cyril Despres outraced his teammates in a stage where navigation was very difficult, because the GPS systems were not allowed. Richard Sainct passed the finish line 2 ½ minutes off the pace. "I'm glad to have made it. This stage was tough. Now I believe in my first place. If nothing goes wrong tomorrow I'll probably win the overall. But I'll have to concentrate again. And I believe that will be possible," said Sainct at the finish.

Tomorrow the competitors will circle in a loop around Sharm El Sheik. The 34km special leads along the "mile of hotels" at the Egyptian beach resort. A large audience is expected along the way to cheer on the heroes of the desert.

-cvz-

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Series Dakar
Drivers Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Giniel de Villiers , Ari Vatanen , Pascal Maimon , Cyril Despres , Richard Sainct