REPSOL RIDERS AND DRIVERS CLIMB DAKAR RALLY LEADERBOARD AFTER FINAL EUROPEAN STAGE Luc Alphand sets second fastest time today, Nani Roma is third, StÃ©phane Peterhansel fourth and Hiroshi Masuoka fifth. In the motorbike class, Marc Coma is...
REPSOL RIDERS AND DRIVERS CLIMB DAKAR RALLY LEADERBOARD AFTER FINAL EUROPEAN STAGE
Luc Alphand sets second fastest time today, Nani Roma is third, Stéphane Peterhansel fourth and Hiroshi Masuoka fifth. In the motorbike class, Marc Coma is fifth, Giovanni Sala ninth and Jordi Viladoms eleventh
Repsol riders and drivers have had a good performance today (Sunday) morning, at the second and final 67 km timed European section north of Portiao en route to Malaga. This special, wth fast tracks on hard ground, was similar to a WRC stage and had little to do with yesterday's sandy stage.
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart will start the first African special stage of the 29th Dakar Rally in fourth, fifth, eighth and 12th places in the overall classification. Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz led the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart team's challenge into the morning's special from sixth position on the road. The stage was more hilly and rugged than Saturday morning's sandy, tree-lined special and featured several rocky sections near the start. Roma set the joint second fastest time with team mate Luc Alphand to move up to fourth overall at the end of the European section of the Dakar.
Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret set the fourth fastest time and will shadow stage winner Carlos Sainz and team mates Alphand and Roma into the first African stage.
Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon began the day in 10th position in the third Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution after sustaining a flat tire on Saturday. They completed a troublefree stage for the Mitsubishi team by setting the fifth fastest time to move up to eighth in the overall standings.
Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard had found themselves 10m 51s behind the overnight leaders at the start of the second special, but the defending champions climbed up the leaderboard from 17th to 12th place, courtesy of a joint second fastest time, the Frenchman passing three slower cars in the process.
The motorbike riders, who were the first to leave the parc fermé this morning, arethose who have suffered most under the cold temperatures early in the morning, having to be extremely careful in some sections in which there was ice on the track, especially when the route entered valleys with a lot of shadows. The combination of surfaces in normal conditions with other iced sections and the sporadic appearance of disturbing fog added a lot of difficulty to the second special of the 2007 Lisbon Dakar Rally. The Repsol KTM team riders continued with the same prudence they showed yesterday, while some of their most direct rivals took more risks and crashed on these first days still on European grounds. Marc Coma fulfilled his aims in these two European stages and will arrive tomorrow in afica being eighth overall after setting the fifth fastest time today. Giovanni Sala's ninth position of today's special and Jordi Viladoms eleventh place helped them also to climb positions in the overall standings, moving up to fourteenth (Sala) and fifteenth (Viladoms).
Tomorrow (Monday) marks the Dakar's arrival on the Dark Continent and the first special stage on Morocco soil. Teams make the ferry crossing from Malaga on Sunday evening and embark upon a 205km liaison section from the coast to the town of Nador. A typically varied 252km special stage follows and heads in a southerly direction towards the overnight halt in Er Rachidia. A 191km liaison steers the Dakar caravan into the campsite near the small Moroccan airport.
"Today was a good stage for me. I pushed at the beginning, but the problem was the last 12km. I caught Mark Miller's car and followed about 100 meters behind. It was not possible to overtake and I stayed behind him for 12km. That is a lot on a short stage. There were a lot of spectators today, but they were standing in very safe places. The result sets it up nicely for me on the first African stage now. I will be in the first group and it gives the team the chance to make a good strategy for the following days."
"Maintaining a good position on the stage today was more important than yesterday. Pushing was not the ideal strategy, but I did not want to start the first African stage outside the top six or seven cars. Dust is always a factor on that first stage and it was important that I gave myself a good chance this morning. The style of the stage meant that it was better for me today. It was a WRC stage, quite technical, with hard ground. It was slippery and not easy to stay on line, but it was a pleasure to drive on the stage. I passed Vatanen (Ari) stopped in a small river. Maybe he was pushing too hard."
"It was a very narrow road in the mountains. It was slippery and there was no guard rail, nothing. I drove safely to make sure we reached the finish."
"After the problems on Saturday I suppose I had a second class seat in this race at the start of the stage this morning. I needed to make up some time on the leaders if that was possible without being blocked by the cars in front. I did not want to go to Africa so far down the running order. Three cars pulled over for me today. They were very good. I was worried before the start about that. I was behind Miller for a time, but we went into a big hole and we passed. I feel much happier about the stage today. Now I can look forward to heading into Africa in a good position. I drove clean and am getting used to the new car now."
"Today's stage has been very different to yesterday, because we have found ourselves on solid ground in mountainous areas and some other flat sections. There were very delicate areas in the route, in which the bike skidded a lot and we had to be very careful. The most important is that we are leaving Europe as we wanted, in a good position and without having lost time nor having suffered any kind of incident. I think that Portugal is a terrain in which you can loose the race but not win it, so the aim has been more than fulfilled. Tomorrow we'll already be in Africa, the start of the real race."
"Things have gone well today. It's been a very enduro-like stage, and you had to be very careful, because the state of the track was very different depending if it was in the shadow or under the sun. In humid areas, the bike skidded a lot, while the drier areas were filled with dust, and getting the other riders was more difficult. Moreover, we have been riding along the mountains meaning that we had a cliff on one side almost all the time, so we had to be extremely careful not to brake late because you didn't see the bend or skidding too much. I've had some pain until I got really warm but from halfway the stage I didn't even remember my leg. So everything has worked out well; we are relaxed because nothing has happened and happy because now we're starting the real race in a position which, despite seeming to be too much in the back, is good. We'll start to use to road book in Morocco and it will mean the start of the rocky tracks and the important dangers. We'll have to be really on the alert."
"Today has been a special in which you were really able to feel the driveability of the new bike. We have been riding along mountain tracks in which the agility of the new bike has made it easier to ride at a high race pace. However, I started from the twenty-first position and I came across many riders who were slower than me and I lost some time overtaking them. But everything worked out well, I finished tenth and it's a good position to arrive in Morocco, not starting from the back. In any case, the special was no problem, despite being very difficult because there were sections in which we found a lot of dust and some very slippery sections. But I have made no mistake so I'd say that it's been a positive day."