Dakar: South Africa drivers stage five report

The desert takes no prisoners. Fast racing combined with heavy dust, sandy tracks and the first dune crossings is what the Dakar served as 40th birthday present for South Africa's Alfie Cox racing the Gauloises Natro Freight Nashua RedBull...

The desert takes no prisoners.

Fast racing combined with heavy dust, sandy tracks and the first dune crossings is what the Dakar served as 40th birthday present for South Africa's Alfie Cox racing the Gauloises Natro Freight Nashua RedBull 660 KTM Rally.

The hard abrasive surface, rocky road surface and the windy conditions all contributed to the struggle, which the competitors had on today's fifth stage of the 2003 Telefonica Dakar Rally. Many of the cars suffered punctures whilst the heavy motorcycles of Nani Roma of Spain and defending champion Fabrizio Meoni of Italy had to finish the race with a flat rear tyre.

Although most competitors enjoyed the stage, it was filled with incidents. The first section was very fast and the front-runners in the car category soon caught and passed the tail end of the motorcycles. "It was very dangerous passing the bikes, because I had to go off the track, but we are happy with the stage," said Hiroshi Masuoka of Japan, who won the stage and took over the overall lead from his teammate Stephane Peterhansel of France.

South Africa's young hero, Giniel de Villiers, racing the Factory Nissan Hardbody together with four other Hardbodys had his fair share of problems with fuel pressure, but he admits that the car is new and they will get to know it even better and solve all the teething problems. Although his total time is now 17 minutes slower than the leader, De Villiers and navigator Pascal Maimon of France is still in a strong 3rd place overall.

Birthday boy, Cox, passed the slower motorcycles ahead of him after starting in 12th place. "I started passing bikers soon after the start. They were however not confident enough to ride with me, so I found myself doing the lonely rider thing for most of the day. The disadvantage is you cannot judge your speed or ride with someone to help you keep up the pace".

"I am very satisfied with my performance to date and I believe my strategy will pay off in the end. Tomorrow I start in fifth place behind the top guns and if I catch them they will ride with me, which is much better than being alone. In the process I should makeup a reasonable amount of time," concluded the Cato Ridge resident.

Vicus van Deventer was ahead of the pack and making up time on the leader when he had some problems between the final checkpoint and the finish, this cost him dearly and he dropped back to fourth place overall in the Experimental Class.

Tomorrow's stage from El Borma to Ghadames over a total distance of 278km, includes a special stage of 228km.

"I expect lots of technical navigation after looking at my road book for stage 6. We have a large number of dunes together with fast winding sections," said Alfie Cox.

Ghadames is situated in the furthest southern end of Tunisia, about 800km from Tunis accommodating the Dakar fraternity on the final night in Tunisia, before crossing into Libya.

-cvz-

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Series DAKAR