Series rest day notes

The film of the stage THE DAKAR: SUMMARY OF THE FIRST HALF OF THE RACE For the first time, the 2009 Dakar takes place on the American continent. The race has reached Valparaiso where the contenders enjoy a days of rest. 139 bikes, 15 quads, 95...

The film of the stage

THE DAKAR: SUMMARY OF THE FIRST HALF OF THE RACE

For the first time, the 2009 Dakar takes place on the American continent. The race has reached Valparaiso where the contenders enjoy a days of rest. 139 bikes, 15 quads, 95 cars and 70 trucks (the race stewards are deliberating on the possibility of letting though some competitors) have arrived half-way. Marc Coma has taken an option on the victory in the bikes category whilst Carlos Sainz is leading the race with his Volkswagen.

BIKES: COMA, REIGNS SUPREME

Two major factors influenced the beginning of the race in the bike category: the domination of Marc Coma and the tire problems of some favorites as soon as the rally started. After 371 km of special, Coma already boasted a 41' lead over Cyril Despres, 1:01 over David Casteu and 1:28 over Francisco Lopez, his three declared rivals at the start of the 2009 Dakar in Buenos Aires. Their tires did not resist the hardness of the roads. The riders had a hard time finding the best option between foam bibs that heat up quickly and tubes that are prone to punctures.

Two days later, on his way to Jacobacci, the title holder Cyril Despres lost an additional hour, again due to a tire problem. Marc Coma, for his part, was spared, except for 15 minutes lost due to a puncture in stage 5, which had no impact on the Spanish rider's results, since he has dominated all the way to Valparaiso. Coma won 3 specials and currently has a 51-minute lead in the overall standings over Jonah Street. Besides this excellent position in the overall standings, the American rider has also clinched a stage win, reached the top 10 six times and even the top 5 in four stages!

David Fretigne also showed great regularity during the first half of the rally arriving in the top 10 in all the stages. He is the other good surprise of this 2009 Dakar. Moreover, the French rider did not seem to expect such a good position in the overall standings with his "small" 450cc on the trails of Argentina. The Yamaha rider is 52' behind Coma but leads his category and is more than one and a half hour ahead of the Brazilian rider Jose Helio Rodrigues Filho.

Three ladies started the race in Buenos Aires, and two are still going. However, Christina Meier had to withdraw when she broke her engine in stage 2. The category is lead by Myriam Pol from the Netherlands who is 47th in the overall standings, with a 4-hour lead over Annie Seel. The small but tough Swedish rider remains strong in spite of all her difficulties in the last three stages.

The Chilean rider Juan Pablo Zegers Correa is leading the bike trunk category with his Honda and is 54th in the overall standings. But his lead is a very short as he is only 1'23 ahead of Italian rider Miotto and 3'20 over Frenchman Carillon. Jakob Przygonski is the first rookie of the 2009 Dakar with his 14th position.

Out of the 25 quads leaving Buenos Aires, 15 have reached Valparaiso. Between the two cities, the race in new category created this year has been breathtaking with the rookie Christophe Declerck, who led the race during the first four days with two stage victories. Then Machacek and Gonzalez, who are both former winners, took the lead again from the 5th stage on. The Spanish quad rider took the lead of the general standings for two days before withdrawing with the Frenchman during stage 7 leaving Machacek in a favourable position. Marcos Patronelli, for his part, won the first quad victory for Argentina.

THE CAR RACE: BLUE IS THE COLOR

The scenario after seven days of the race leaves no room for doubt: Volkswagen has never been closer to putting one of its Race Touaregs on the top of the final Dakar podium. With three cars in the first three places of the general standings, 29 minutes between them and their nearest rival for the title, five special stages won on the way to Valparaiso, their adversaries decimated and mechanical proficiency that seems to have gained in maturity, it is difficult to see just how the first place might be torn from the grasp of Carlos Sainz, Giniel De Villiers or why not Mark Miller.

The 'knock-out' stages began with the first special, in which Hiroshi Masuoka was soon eliminated from the battle, forced to crawl into Santa Rosa at the end of a tow-rope before abandoning the race. After that, it was with the Andes Mountains on the horizon that the Mitsubishi clan, already suffering in the general standings, received two consecutive sledgehammer blows. On the Mendoza stage, Luc Alphand, stuck in the swamps with his Lancer, was forced to drop out following the health problems of his co-pilot Gilles Picard. The following day, it was the turn of Stephane Peterhansel to withdraw. The title holder, who had already rolled the car tip over tail, a new experience he will not be wanting to repeat, had his race cut short due to an overheating engine. Lone ranger Roma, 4th in the general standings, is now the only hope in the rally for the diamond-brand constructor, and is looking to take advantage of any mishaps that may occur during the decisive first two steps after the rest day.

The X-Raid BMW Team is not in position to steal the show from the Race Touaregs. Guerlain Chicherit, the unofficial and ephemeral leader with the two best intermediate times in the first stage, came unstuck on the very same day. What's more Nasser Al Attiyah, with two special stages, disqualified himself by avoiding the dunes at the end of the Mendoza stage. Also suffering from an overheating engine, the Qatari arrived at the bivouac with a rather incomplete road-sheet, leading to a compulsory disqualification at a time when he was dominating the general standings. In these conditions, Robby Gordon, who nobody took seriously when he proclaimed his ambitions of victory in Buenos Aires, is starting to look like a credible pretender for a place on the podium: he is currently in fifth position.

The main threat hanging over the German constructor could come from an internal battle that their drivers may embark upon on the return journey. Carlos Sainz is currently only nine seconds ahead of his team-mate Giniel De Villiers, whereas the 13 minute gap between "El Matador" Sainz and Mark Miller does not count the American out in light of the difficulties still lying in wait for the competitors. The high stakes in play could lead team director Kris Nissen to impose strict instructions to his drivers to avoid them getting involved in too dangerous a game.

The mid-way state of play in the Production category shows just as stark domination, this time from the Toyota drivers, who occupy the first four places. In particular, the competitiveness of the T2s is especially elevated and intense, because Nicolas Gibon, the category leader, is in 20th place in the general standings. Furthermore, his two pursuers in the T2 category, Xavier Foj and Ronan Chabot, are more than an hour behind him. In total, the leading five T2 cars are all in the Top 30 of the race.

In the truck race, the Russians dominated the first part of this rally. Always at the forefront, they soon only had Gerard de Rooy as a rival, because, whilst the victory of Marcel Van Vliet pointed to a more open race, the competition soon turned into a stand-off between Kabirov and Chagin on the one hand and Gerard De Rooy on the other. Title holder Hans Stacey has gone from mishap to mishap, with three flat tires in three days and now finds himself in 20th place more than 16 hours off the leader. In spite of two stage wins, De Rooy only boasted a 13 second lead over Firdaus Kabirov in the general standings after stage 5. However, the very next day Chagin won the special stage and Kabirov took over the lead in the general standings. The three drivers are separated by 25 minutes at the start of the second week.

-credit: aso

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Mark Miller , Carlos Sainz , Luc Alphand , Stéphane Peterhansel , Gilles Picard , Cyril Despres , Gerard de Rooy , Marc Coma , David Fretigne , Guerlain Chicherit , Firdaus Kabirov , David Casteu , Hans Stacey , Jonah Street , Kris Nissen , Ronan Chabot , Nicolas Gibon , Marcos Patronelli , Christophe Declerck