Ouarzazate to Tan Tan
Connection: 164 km - Special: 325 km - Connection: 289 km
Total: 768 km
Isidre Esteve (SPA - KTM Gauloises - Winner)
I'm happy, I set a good pace. The stage was very technical at the start, then quick afterwards. After 60 kilometres I caught up with Coma. Everything went well and the bike was perfect. We made a few adjustments yesterday with David (Casteu) and it was all okay throughout the stage. Tomorrow will be a decisive stage, like all the route through Mauritania.
Marc Coma (SPA - KTM Repsol -- 2nd)
It was a hard stage with a fair bit of mountain riding. It required a lot of physical effort. After that, there were the stones under tires worn by two days of racing -- you had to be careful. Today I kept at a normal pace. I opened proceedings for this stage without taking risks and I carried on leading even when Isidre (Esteve) caught up. Our aim was to arrive in Mauritania without having any problems. Tomorrow, it's a different Dakar rally which starts, a hard and decisive race.
Cyril Despres (FRA -- KTM Gauloises -- 3rd)
Today, I kept 2% in reserve as a safety margin, which is what I do usually. After 325 kilometres, that resulted in a gap of five minutes. I don't know if Marc and Isidre are keeping something in reserve, but I really have the impression that they have been very fast over all the Moroccan section of the rally. But I haven't given up hope of winning. Twenty five of the minutes I've lost are due to a broken gear-box and ten minutes are due to the problems of riding in everyone else's dust yesterday. Normally, I would only have lost around ten minutes. I can't believe that I seem to be having all the bad luck, especially since I'm the rider who's being the most careful. For me, there have only been three special stages on the Dakar. The main thing is that physically I feel great.
Jordi Viladoms (SPA - KTM Repsol -- 4th)
It was all better today. I started in a better position and had fewer problems with the dust. Everything worked well today, but I thing the team can do even better. At any rate, I'm happy to have got through Morocco without any technical or physical problems. What lies in wait for us will determine how the race develops, but personally, I'm confident because I can handle the dunes fairly well. Having a good position is good for the team, because I'm much closer to Marc (Coma).
Chris Blais (USA -- KTM -- 5th)
It was a good day for me. I though I had ridden well, but I still lost 14 minutes. I made a slight navigational mistake just before CP2. It was a stupid way to lose time. After the night without assistance, I was obviously worried about the state of the bike. By the time I got here, the rear tire was completely bald. Today, I was thinking of Elmer Symons whilst I was riding. He was a good friend and often came to see me. It's really bad. He'd been talking about doing this race for five years. With Cyril (Despres) and Marc (Coma) we spoke to all the riders to tell them to be really careful, to follow the road-book instructions and not to leave the right track, especially in the morning with a full tank and tiredness from the night before. It's something that we professional riders should also keep in mind.
David Casteu (FRA -- KTM Gauloises -- 8th)
I'm happy with my day because I'll be setting off in eighth position tomorrow, which is quite good. I rode all on my own during the special and didn't take any risks. We've still got three countries to cross, so I'm being careful. To go any faster, I'd need to get nasty with my bike. Obviously, it's not good news to lose 15 minutes on Marc, but perhaps my bike is in a beter state than his. Anyway, I'm very proud of myself to have finished the stage with the safety margin I've maintained: I intend on sticking in my saddle.
Carlos Sainz (SPA - VW - Winner)
For the moment, everything is fine. It was a good day, but a hard day. Once again, there were plenty of stones. I spent the stage trying to avoid them... It's one day of the race less to complete, but we know there is still much to do. Now the real Dakar starts. Perhaps my lack of experience in the dunes will come into play...
Stephane Peterhansel (FRA -- Mitsubishi -- 2nd)
It wasn't exciting today. We had to drive carefully to avoid punctures. It was the only way to get a good result. I was overtaken by Ari (Vatanen) who was going flat out, so I let him pass, but he paid for it later with a flat tire. Carlos (Sainz) didn't get a puncture by driving safely and he won. It was a bit frustrating with all these stones. I'm happy to have finished with Morocco. Each year I come a cropper here. Tomorrow shouldn't be too difficult. I don't think there will be any big gaps. All the first part of the stage is very quick. I remember the time when I used to ride a twin-cylinder Yamaha, I loved it there.
Giniel De Villiers (SA -- Volkswagen -- 3rd)
It was a very winding and rocky special stage. We caught up with Schlesser quite quickly. We must have sounded our horn around 15 times but he never let us past. We stayed in his dust for more than a hundred kilometres before he had a puncture. But all in all, it was a good 'clean' day. It's the type of route that is very demanding for the car, so I'm happy that everything went well. As regards the general rankings, it's still very close. For the moment, nothing's certain. The next 4 days will probably be important. In Mauritania, the gaps can leap to around 30' per day.
Luc Alphand (FRA - Mitsubishi -- 4th)
There were loads of stones. At one time, I even asked how many kilometres were left. It was full of pitfalls. It was really easy to break something over these last few days. But the car is okay. We stayed with the pace yesterday and today as well. The only thing we're missing is a bit of success. We're losing a little bit of time each day. Today we had a puncture, which robbed us of 3 minutes. Then we had a problem with the boot. We stopped to shut it and lost 2 more minutes in the process. I don't think our entry into Mauritania will be decisive because tomorrow's route is again a quick stage, with few dunes. We're looking forward to the desert.
Guerlain Chicherit (FRA -- BMW -- 8th)
I had a wonderful day, until nine kilometres from the finishing line, where I got a flat tire whilst we were still in the special stage. I thought about carrying on driving with the puncture, but I told myself that I could really damage the car that way, so we stopped to change the wheel and I saw all the others go past us. I finished in Schlesser's dust. Before that, I had a great feeling. In the first part, which was very technical, we felt like we were flying over certain sections. It was like motocross. Now we're going into Mauritania and I can't wait. I'm sure that the car will be very quick on sand as well. I haven't got anything to compare with in relation to the others, but I'm very confident.
Hans Stacey (HOL -- MAN -- Winner of the special stage)
It was a difficult stage, with a lot of stones and plenty of dust too. I spent a long time behind Chagin, driving normally without going flat out. Now, it's great to have taken over as leader, but I especially don't want to get carried away. In fact, I would have preferred to stay in the position of pursuer, because know I've got to deal with all the pressure of being first. I preferred when the pressure was on Chagin. In spite of all that, I'm sure that the rest of the rally will be exciting, a really good race.
Gerard De Rooy (HOL - Ginaf -- 2nd)
The first part of the stage was quite tiresome, but after around 80 kilometres it turned into a superb rally-raid stage. There were all sorts of surfaces. It was interesting to drive on. The outcome of the day is god. I wasn't surprised by Chagin's accident. My father and I had seen that he was systematically driving off-track, without the road book. Obviously, he didn't have anyone's dust and so he was driving really fast, not worrying about a thing. The race up to Dakar will be really exciting now. It's going to be a great duel between two fine drivers.