Sainct (KTM - n.3)
1st of the special, 1st overall
"A first very long special, very complete and various. Some sand at the beginning and then a lot of stones with some navigation. I like this kind of hard terrain. I overtook the Brazilian (De Azevedo) pretty quickly and then caught up Roma. On the last part he did a mistake and then caught up with me. There was a lot of dust and I couldn't overtake him. I could have gained a few seconds and even minutes. But it doesn't matter. The day went well. We are starting to see who are the strong men of this Dakar. Honestly there aren't major surprises. It's a good start. Some long days are yet to come."
Meoni (KTM - n.1)
2nd of the special, 2nd overall
"A very fast stage on rocks which meant I had problems on my back tyre that was completely destroyed. 40kms from the finish I could feel stones hitting my back. I understood immediately what was happening. I stopped and saw the state of the tyre. I had to slow down. I'm not happy because I lost a lot of time. If I had ridden 5 or 10kms more I couldn't have continued. It's a pity because I had done well in the first kms on sand and I like sand. On stones I slowed down and not seeing dust I told myself I could speed on and then Ii saw dust and almost stopped to finish the special. We know tyres are our week point. I thought that on this special with 20% of sand I wouldn't have problems. The bike is great and the engine is fantastic. Great acceleration but the tyres are not good enough. In the sand it'll be different. For me the race only starts today. I drove well not at my best but I was in shape."
Roma (KTM - n.4)
3rd of the special, 3rd overall
"At the beginning of the special I rode really quickly. Then i had to find the good track so I slowed down. At a moment I felt that the bike was going left and right so I stopped and I saw the state of the tyre. I thought it was impossible because I was still 150kms of the finish. I stopped and saw that the tyre was dead. I continued and at the end of the special I saw that the tyre was all burnt. It's due to the hard surface of the track and the stones in the ground. I took the decision to take it easy to be able to finish he special. When I saw the dust I was making, I prefered to slow down. I could have gone faster but if it was only to gain 30sec it was pointless. Worse, I could have not finished the special. I'm surprised to be third. I thought I had lost a lot of time on Richard (Sainct) and Meoni. It's good. Meoni knows the track like the back of his hand and I thought he would win. He must have had tyre problems as well. Normally he should have won."
Despres (KTM - n.7)
4th of special, 4th overall
"I didn't know what to expect on this special with stones stuck in the ground. In front they were going very quickly but I was able to have a good rythm. On a 280kms, we must spend 200 standing up. It's tough on the arms. Due to my injury I was anxious about this special. I'm happy to be here in shape. Now the last % of shape I need will come day after day. The strong men are well present. There's going to be a real battle between the Gauloise team and 2 or 3 other pilots. I will try to stay with the others as much as possible. On some stages I'll be able to play with them but today I prefered to keep calm. I'm happy of my position. It's pointless to have a problem in the start of the rally. I have all the time for that."
Cox (KTM - n.2)
5th of special, 5th overall
"The only difference is that it's part of the Tunisian rally so all the guys know where they're going. I started way back today. I passed all the guys that were in front of me and then ended up, after 70 or 80kms, completely on my own for the rest of the day. You want to push yourself, you think you're going quickly but it's always better to be in a bunch so you can stay together. You can finish fourth of sixth and it doesn't matter. But it was a good stage. Today you had to look after your wheels and your tyres. The stones smashed the wheels to pieces. Yesterday I don't believe the times were right. I can't understand how they can make a mistake like that. At least I'm in one piece for my birthday. This is home ground for Meoni. He knows this place like the back of his hand. I think he has to make a plan now because later on we'll all be on the same playing field. It all depends if everyone has a good day. If no-one has problems, the gaps could then stay like this for a couple of days."
Hiroshi Masuoka (Mitsubishi) - Jap - n°200
Stage winner and overall leader
"I overtook a lot of cars and bikes. The track was very fast and I jumped a lot. I didn't have the feeling I was going fast but I was going normally. I could have gone a lot faster. I was only at 90% of my possibilities. Overtaking the bikes was very dangerous and I had to go off-track to pass all the groups of riders in front of me. I lost a lot of time. I believe the Pajero EVo is the 'leathal weapon'."
Stéphane Peterhansel (Mitsubishi) - Fra - n°206
2nd of the special, 2nd overall
"A very fast special. I thought there would be more dunes and sand. Finally it was pretty easy. The toughest part was not getting lost. The second difficulty was avoiding punctures. The third was to overtake the bikes. We opened the track and that was a handicap. We overtook at least 80 bikes. There not all very fast, and they're surprised to see a car. Masuoka attacked a lot. Today was only he first real stage."
Shinozuka (Nissan - n.201)
3rd of the special, 3rd overall
"Our starting position was 15 this morning. Therefore after the start we followed the car in front of us. Then before the dunes we passed the buggy (Henrard). After the dunes we did a mistake and it passed us. We eventually passed it again and then overtook three cars. The car is OK but we have breaking problems. Today our car is not perfect, therefore we don't know if the Mitsubishis are good."
Grégoire de Mevius (BMW) - Bel - n°205
4th of he special, 4th overall
"I believe we had a good pace during the special. We watched out not to have a puncture. We drove on the Dakar pace unlike the stages in Europe. I think that if I go faster I won't make it to the end. During all the special, we were careful. We finish in the good bunch. If we could stay at this place, it would be a god thing. The 2 Mitsubishis are one level over us."
Jutta Kleinschmidt (Volkswagen) - All - n°203
10th of the special, 12th overall
"The Mitsubishis went so quickly but for us it was difficult because our maximum speed was never over 145km/h. We managed a good special. I overtook 17 cars. It was difficult because there was a lot of dust. I'm happy because the car works well and Stephane Henrard also did well. It's a good day for the team. In the overall, we were really far behind. Today we went back up the standing."
Vatanen (Nissan - n.204)
13th of the special, 11th overall
"It's a special we're used to doing. I liked the fast beginning. But then it was full of stones. We had three punctures but not really because of the hard surface. The problem came from our tyre inflating system without us realising. We kept pumping air in the tyre. That's why we had the punctures. We finally saw the problem after the third tyre. It was lucky because if we had punctured the fourth, it was finished for us. When we found out we quickly deflated the tyre manually. Today the Mitsubishis were very impressive. They didn't have punctures and there very fast. It's very hard to race against them. Tomorrow, our starting number won't be brilliant. "
De Villiers (Nissan - n.217)
9th of the special, 6th overall
"First of all, on the start line this morning, the car didn't want to start. Part of the problem was due to the fuel pressure. We couldn't go fast. We lost a lot of time there but we managed to get to the finish. We had a puncture as well. It was very tough but really really fast. When every day you lose time, you fall further behind. We lost a lot of time, at least 15 minutes. But there's nothing we can do about it. The one thing is that it's a new car, so we're still learning a lot. The Mitsubishis are flying. When they went past me it was looking as though I was looking for a parking space. "