NANI ROMA AND ISIDRE ESTEVE, LEADERS OF THE BAJA ARAGÃ“N Roma and Peterhansel, first and second in cars while Esteve keeps the lead in motorbikes. Alphand and Coma forced to retire. The second leg of the 12th Baja Spain AragÃ³n, finished with...
NANI ROMA AND ISIDRE ESTEVE, LEADERS OF THE BAJA ARAGÓN
Roma and Peterhansel, first and second in cars while Esteve keeps the lead in motorbikes. Alphand and Coma forced to retire.
The second leg of the 12th Baja Spain Aragón, finished with a positive result for the interests of most of the Repsol drivers and riders who faced today two timed stages of 242,12 Km. In the car class, Nani Roma clocked the fastest time of the second stage and is now leading the overall standing with an advantage of two and a half seconds over his teammate Peterhansel, who is second. Isidre Esteve lead both specials, thus consolidating as clear leader in the bike class. The most negative side of the day was experienced by Luc Alphand and Marc Coma, who had to retire from the race due to mechanical problems. The French driver rolled with his Mitsubishi, while the Catalan rider broke the gearbox of his KTM.
In the car class Spaniard Joan 'Nani' Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne trailed their French team mates Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret by 19 seconds after the opening special stage on Saturday morning, but moved into the outright lead with the fastest time in the repeat run through the test in the afternoon. Roma won this event on four occasions on a motorcycle before switching to a career on four-wheels last October.
Defending Dakar champions Peterhansel and Cottret were first into the special stage this morning in their Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution, after setting the fastest time in Friday's Prologue stage. Despite persistent brake problems, which forced the Frenchman to slow the car using the engine and gearbox in the closing kilometres this morning, he finished the opening section with a 19-second overall lead over his teammate. But Peterhansel - making his first appearance in the Baja Spain since suffering a heavy crash on a motorcycle 20 years ago - struggled through the afternoon stage and dropped nearly three minutes to his teammate. Over the second stage Stéphane was again dogged by brake problems and reached the finish of the leg 2m 36s behind his Spanish rival.
In the motorbike class, Isidre Esteve took perfect control of the second leg taking the victory of both 242.12 kms specials. Less luck for the other Repsol rider, Marc Coma, who was forced to retire even before reaching half of the first run, after a breakdown of the gearbox of his KTM. Careful during the first kilometres due to the bad visibility, Esteve was able to set a good pace only Marc Coma was able to follow, enabling them both to open a significant gap to the other riders. Isidre will be the first to take the start of tomorrow's leg, with an advantage of more than seven minutes over the second qualified rider, Spaniard Pellicer. Marc Coma's retirement deprives the Repsol team of an almost secure one-two finish.
The third and final leg takes place on Sunday morning with a 118.67 kms special stage to the north of Zaragoza.
Nani Roma: "We caught the dust of Marc Blasquez after about 80 kms this morning and there was no way through on the first stage. We touched him gently, but it was not possible to overtake. The priority is to finish and gain as much test experience as possible, but I am delighted with the way everything has gone today. I caught Marc again on the second stage and he stopped after about 80 kms to let me go. I was then able to keep up a good speed. I could see Stéphane's dust in the distance, but now I am in a good position to win this race on Sunday."
Stéphane Peterhansel: "A brake problem started early in the first stage and I had to pump the brakes several times to slow down," said Peterhansel. "But it got gradually worse and I was using the engine to slow the car at the end. The pedal was hitting the floor and nothing was happening. I normally brake with the left foot and my driving style meant that they overheated as a result and I lost the brakes again early in the stage. Tomorrow I will push, but I must pass Nani and gain nearly one minute more, so it will not be easy."
Luc Alphand: "It was a first gear, left-hand hairpin and I was too close to the inside of the corner. There was a large stone on the inside. It hit the car and we went over on Gilles' side. We touched the stone very slowly at the end of this uphill hairpin. Then we had to wait for some assistance from a Spanish driver in a 4x4 to help us back on to our wheels."
Isidre Esteve: "Things didn't work out well today. I took the start of the first special at 6.30 a.m. It still quite dark that early and it's difficult to see the line and the bumps, so I preferred to be rather slowly during the first kilometres, being cautious. At the first service, almost halfway the first run, they told me that Marc had retired. He was my strongest rival and the rest of the riders were further in the back so, with Marc out of the race I decided to slow down the pace and avoid taking any unnecessary risks. I felt very comfortable during the whole stage, the bike worked perfectly well and I haven't made any mistake. There was a lot of dust in the morning, but the tracks were quite good. In the second special, since all bikes, cars and trucks had already passed; some 60 or 70 kms were in a rather bad state. The ground was deteriorated and it's been a bit more complicated. The first part of tomorrow's stage will be run on new ground, but the last 30 kms will be on the same tracks as today. I have an advantage of more than eight minutes over the second qualified rider so I'll start tomorrow with a more conservative tactic. I don't want to relax until I've finished the last special, because last year I also won the first three and had to retire in the last one due to an electrical problem."
Marc Coma: "It's been a real shame. After only 80 or 90 kms. of the first special, the gearbox of my bike broke down. It's been strange because it's a very reliable KTM prototype, which we had already tested, but such are races. I was riding very comfortable until that moment, I felt very good on the bike. I was controlling the race, keeping the distance to Isidre: I made up some time in some sections, while he did better in others. We'd both opened a bigger gap to the other riders. We have planned some tests with KTM on Monday to test the bike we want to use for the next Dakar, but since we've been forced to retire, we'll make the tests today. It's a bike with the new specifications and I like the way it is working. It's been a shame, because we had a lot of chances to do a good job and get a good result. The only thing I can say is that we'll keep on working in order not to let this happen again."