Dakar: Stage nine report

On the day's 361 km special between Tidjikja and Atar, it was full speed ahead for the main favourites in the bike special. Isidre Esteve clinched his first win on this edition of the Telefonica Dakar 2005. Meanwhile and like Esteve, Fabrizio...

On the day's 361 km special between Tidjikja and Atar, it was full speed ahead for the main favourites in the bike special. Isidre Esteve clinched his first win on this edition of the Telefonica Dakar 2005. Meanwhile and like Esteve, Fabrizio Meoni took advantage of his late starting position to capture the overall leadership. The car race saw Mitsubishi increase their domination on the rally with Luc Alphand earning his first stage of this edition ahead of overall leader Stephane Peterhansel.

After an extremely demanding stage 7 and the liaison to Tidjikja yesterday (after stage 8 was cancelled), the road to Atar promised to be extremely fast. No camel grass, just a little navigation: in other words an excellent day for the KTM 660cc bikes and especially for the late starters among the favourites. And indeed, Fabrizio Meoni who took off in 8th spot this morning clinched the best time at the first CP (km 101) but saw KTM Repsol leader Isidre Esteve show up to grab the virtual lead at the following CPs. As expected, leaving early wasn't a good option on this day. Esteve eventually clinched the win in a final time of 5h14' with a 1'29 lead on Meoni, 4'09 on Ullevalseter, 8'10 on Caldecott and 9'45 on Cox...

Meanwhile, David Fretigne who took off first, Marc Coma second and Cyril Despres third, paid the bill! Indeed the Yamaha biker had a 14'22 deficit on the day's winner on the line while Despres finished at 11'40 and Coma at 13'52.

These big gaps at the end of the special meant changes for the overall standings. Indeed, Fabrizio Meoni conquered the lead with a 2'55 advantage on Despres and 4'49 on Caldecott. Former rally leader Marc Coma moved down to fourth, 4'51 adrift. On the eve of rest day the top six bikers are all within 10', and that certainly promises a fascinating 'finale' to the event.

On four wheels it was a whole different story. A story written in red. The colours of the Mitsubishi armada. But this time Stephane Peterhansel wasn't the king of the day. The title holder failed to clinch a special hat trick for 1'31". A decent gap for 'Peter' who seemed to control the stage from start to finish, leaving team mate and compatriot Luc Alphand fly to his first special of the rally (the fourth in three years). Meanwhile, Robby Gordon who considered that the stage was "even tougher" than the one going to Tichit, finished third some 17'29" adrift while the other Race Touareg driver, Jutta Kleinschmidt had to settle with fourth spot over 19' behind. In fifth place, Hiroshi Masuoka insisted that he was now driving the first of the Mitsubishi 'spare parts' vehicle working for Peter and Alphand.

After a fantastic start to the rally with a fourth spot overall before the start of the day, Nasser Al Attiyah saw his hopes of glory fade away after crashing his BMW before CP1. Race over for the promising Qatari! Almost at the same place but just a few minutes later, his team mate Jose-Luis Monterde suffered the same accident but was eventually able to carry on.Meanwhile, Bruno Saby, a member of the other German brand on the rally (Volkswagen) remained stranded in the desert for almost 2h15 with a damaged front left wheel. The Frenchman was finally back on the special thanks to the helping hand (and wheel) of team mate Juha Kankkunen.

In the new overall, Stephane Peterhansel, despite engine worries after the finish, keeps his leadership with a 20'01" advantage on Luc Alphand. Both Mitsubishis have increased their lead on Jutta Kleinschmidt, third, now over 40' behind.

-dakar.com-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Juha Kankkunen , Luc Alphand , Jutta Kleinschmidt , Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Fabrizio Meoni , Cyril Despres , Bruno Saby , Marc Coma , David Fretigne