Cox second in stage three - his best ever in Europe Anyone close to South Africa's cross-country rally hero, Alfie Cox, would definitely have experienced his absolute joy and relief at the finish of this year's second special stage in the 2005...
Cox second in stage three - his best ever in Europe
Anyone close to South Africa's cross-country rally hero, Alfie Cox, would definitely have experienced his absolute joy and relief at the finish of this year's second special stage in the 2005 Telefónica Dakar race. Riding for the Gauloises team on a 700cc Rallye 660 Replica KTM he finished second in the stage, a marginal 2 seconds behind the current World Enduro Champion, Frenchman, David Fretigne, riding a two-wheel drive 450cc Yamaha.
"Everything went well for me today. Not only because I finished in second place, but above all because my injured right shoulder didn't cause any problems. I am so happy and relieved that I can continue with confidence, now that we are crossing to Africa" said a jubilant Alfie after finishing the special.
He continued saying: "Just before the start I was pretty nervous after all. I didn't know whether I could step on the gas without constantly feeling the pain. But the shoulder didn't bother me. I am truly more than relieved."
Another Frenchman, Cyril Despres, Cox's teammate, and the man who finished ahead of Cox in last year's Dakar, finished in 3rd place on the very dusty flat stage on military grounds outside Granada.
The liaison of about 300 km of tarmac to Algeciras, where they embarked, included a passage control in Anquetera. After the 45 minute ferry-crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar, it was time for the first 250 km on African soil, all be it on a highway, and some of it at night, from Tangiers to Rabat, capital of Morocco, situated on the North West Coast, where they finished at about 21:00.
It was cold in the south of Spain today and even on the ferry everyone felt the bite in the Northern hemisphere's winter temperature. Now it is into Africa and the very high temperatures in its deserts.
"We fortunately managed to arrange my visa into Morocco before the time, so I crossed the Mediterranean with the KTM team, and I could therefore ride the liaison with my teammates," explained the South African.
Breathing African air will bring out new flair and energy in most of the seasoned competitors, because whoever gets involved in the adventure of the Dakar, dreams of stages in Africa, of dunes, ergs, stony tracks and camel grass.
Tomorrow then sees the first action on the African continent and the traditional stages for which the Dakar is so renowned. From Rabat, the crews embark on a 122 km liaison section to the start of the special stage of 123 km towards Agadir.
Marked out through an undulating cork oak forest, Rally specialists may put their driving skills to full use. After this, although the sand and the desert are still far off, the first navigating problems appear. There are many changes in direction, in a landscape sorely lacking in landmarks; even experienced competitors will very likely lose time here. And before reaching Agadir, the gateway to the south, 421 km of liaison must still be covered; a total distance of 666 km.
"The first tracks, the first dunes and also the first traps. To consider this part of the rally as a transition phase is a mistake," remarked race organisers. A navigating error can result in even top competitors losing all hope of ultimate victory, whilst first timers are already face delicate situations.
"I need to make up a little bit of time and I would like to still protect the shoulder a bit, so I am glad that I can take off in second place tomorrow. It helps that I do not have to fight through so much dust, especially in the forest. If there is no wind tomorrow morning, the dust will hang and visibility could very easily pose a major threat," said a very confident Alfie Cox.
With their road books issued tonight, the KTM team would discuss their tactics for tomorrow and then it is Africa tomorrow...
-coen van zyl