Dakar: Alfie Cox stage four report

Cox ready to attack tomorrow Alfie Cox, South Africa's cross-country star racing for the Gauloises KTM Factory Team was very happy with the fact that the motorcycle category of the first African stage in the 2005 Telefónica Dakar race was ...

Cox ready to attack tomorrow

Alfie Cox, South Africa's cross-country star racing for the Gauloises KTM Factory Team was very happy with the fact that the motorcycle category of the first African stage in the 2005 Telefónica Dakar race was cancelled today. "Although the short liaison gave me an opportunity to test my shoulder, concentrate on navigation and move up quite a few places in the overall standings, another day's rest is worth a lot more for my shoulder to heal," explained the very jovial South African.

Cox, who celebrates his 43rd birthday on Thursday (6 January), is super-fit and mentally very well prepared for this event. However, after the injury sustained in the joint between the collarbone and the right shoulder as a result of a big tumble 100 meters into the very first stage, was forced to nurture the arm and shoulder to get it to heel as soon as possible.

"My shoulder is doing better day after day. Now, I'm very confident for the next stages, even though I'm waiting for the first long stage tomorrow, just to know if I can ride for a long time without pain." remarked the stocky red-head.

Similar to the 1994 stage, dense fog grounded the medical and media helicopters this morning, which led the organizer's decision not to allow the motorcycles out on the route for their own safety. All the bikes rode together down to Checkpoint 1 and progressed by tar road to the bivouac at Agadir on the South West coast of Morocco.

Two and a half hours later, the fog had disappeared and the weather was perfect for the cars to take off for their 123km special. The first man to take off was yesterday's special winner Colin McRae, but the Scotsman was rapidly caught by his main race contenders. At CP1 (km 63), the best time was for the ever-surprising Robby Gordon (VW - n°317). For his very first Dakar and in an impressive Volkswagen Race Touareg, the US driver (who left in 5th spot) flew to special victory, clocking best times at both the second CP (km 88) and the finish line.

Gordon clinches his second win on the rally after the Barcelona super special although this one is way more significant on a longer distance and in real Dakar rally conditions. The former NASCAR racer who had overtaken De Villiers (Nissan - 314) early in the race, could have done even better if he hadn't been forced to remain behind Ari Vatanen's Nissan (n°311) during the last 20kms of the special where overtaking became very tricky.

Gordon's closest rival on the day was last year's winner Stephane Peterhansel (Mitsubishi - n°306), finishing just under a minute behind.

The KTM Team started their day at 04:30 this morning, and stopped at the bivouac in Agadir just before 17:00 this afternoon, having covered over 650 km for the day. Riding these very long liaison stages, the overall odometers on the motorcycles now show that the competitors have completed 2000 km. By doing this, the organisers build in an exhaustion factor, which demands lower speeds to cope with the route and enable only physically and mentally fit to conquer. A number of the competitors like the leader, David Fretigne and the US newcomer Chris Blais complained about being tired.

"We had our first shower today, after we left Barcelona on New Year's Day," said a somewhat refreshed Cox.

Tomorrow the KTM riders will be up at 02:30 as the first bikes will depart at 05:00 for a 240 km liaison to Guelmin. Although the temperature has lifted somewhat, it is still freezing cold in Morocco and the Gauloises KTM Team will wear additional warm jackets and winter gloves on the liaison section. Then they will leave the kit for the T4 support truck to collect at the start of the special stage.

Hopefully, the motorcyclists and helicopters will have clear visibility early tomorrow morning. The first long special of 381 km will test man and machine on the way from Agadir in Morocco to the town of Smara in Western Sahara. The road book indicates lots of wash-away's and marble type stone patches between the hills although the speeds will be pretty high through the military training grounds. After 300 km it opens up to flat countryside, but the very rocky tracks that follow will force drivers to reduce their pace. The level of difficulty will move up a scale, whilst the rest of the Special Stage will alternate between slow and fast stretches, on a winding track.

The second part of the stage has never been used by the Dakar, and will end with a very long pass. An exciting day if the weather gods are in favour of the rally.

-coen van zyl

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Colin McRae , Ari Vatanen , Alfie Cox , Chris Blais