Dakar: Stage eight report

Sand wind on Tichit... Day after day, the weather is proving to be extremely disturbing for the organisers of the Telefonica Dakar 2005 who were forced to cancel a second special today. Indeed, after preventing the bikers to compete on the ...

Sand wind on Tichit...

Day after day, the weather is proving to be extremely disturbing for the organisers of the Telefonica Dakar 2005 who were forced to cancel a second special today. Indeed, after preventing the bikers to compete on the special between Rabat and Agadir (due to the fog), the sand wind and visibility were just too bad for all competitors to start Stage 8 special between Tichit and Tidjikja. The difficulties had started a day before for the longest special of the whole rally when the competitors started suffering from the bad visibility in the area and seven of the nine helicopters had to remain grounded for the whole night.

To face these tough conditions for most of the vehicles, the race head quarter had then decided to delay the start of a shortened stage 8 (130 km instead of 520 km). But no changes occurred during the night, the visibility remaining just as bad. Added to that, numerous vehicles still on their way to Tichit were having problems to cope with fuel consumption. To insure the security of the competitors out of fuel and due to the fact that it was impossible to launch stage 8, a new decision was taken by event director, Etienne Lavigne: the special was to be cancelled and those making it to Tichit would be allowed to stay in the rally.

At 13h30 (GMT), the arrival CH line was officially closed. 107 bikes had made it to Tichit. 15 of them made it after 24 hours of racing and were given a 1 hour time penalty. Those who made it to Tichit after the specified time now had the possibility to start the liaison stage to Tidjikja. They were to be given a 9 hour penalty but needed to make it within half an hour after the starting time of the last competitor of their category for stage 9. In the car race, 75 vehicles arrived before 13h30 and 8 were given a time penalty. 35 trucks had also made it to the end of the stage including one that got a penalty.

All along the day, the number of vehicles present in Tichit climbed up to 234, 39 having finished in the pick up truck or having launched their distress signal (meaning their withdrawal from the race). 108 others, all localised, were still in the desert on the road to Tichit (at 18h00 GMT). One example was that of Josep-Maria Servia (SCH), who eventually made it to the bivouac at 17h00 with no longer any hopes of a podium finish but the possibility to carry on the adventure.

The latest news of his team mate Jean-Louis Schlesser was not very optimistic according to his team manager Régis Sellier: the Frenchman was indeed no longer on the race itinerary and stopped in a village between Gallaouiya and Atar. Concerning Ari Vatanen (NIS), also out of fuel after his transmission problems of the previous day, he was on his way to the finish pulled by a race truck.

-www.dakar.com

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Series DAKAR