Rest For Some, Deadline For Others ! Due to the cancellation of a second consecutive stage, the Telefonica Dakar 2004 competitors left Mali (they'll be back on Jan 13) and hit the road to Burkina Faso and the city of Bobo Dioulasso. This time,...
Rest For Some, Deadline For Others !
Due to the cancellation of a second consecutive stage, the Telefonica Dakar 2004 competitors left Mali (they'll be back on Jan 13) and hit the road to Burkina Faso and the city of Bobo Dioulasso. This time, the bikers jumped back on their machines to ride alongside the cars and the trucks for a 530km liaison on the road from Bamako. Meanwhile some riders were getting on a plane after finally making it to the finish line of the Nema special, while others were still struggling to get there... and then to the rest day on the 12th before 18h30 !
After a well deserved rest for most riders in Bamako, the liaison to Burkina Faso (4th country of this 26th Dakar) was mentally longer than expected. "A bit boring ! As of now, the important thing is to rest", admitted Richard Sainct (KTM n°1). Others like David Fretigne (Yamaha n°12), "can't wait to be back in the race !". Indeed, the top riders are finding it hard to cope with the lack of rhythm due to this forced break. "We're going to have to find the race rhythm that we've lost, rapidly", insisted 'Nani' Roma (KTM n°4). The Spaniard has command of the overall but with only 3min33 on Sainct. For an in-depth analysis of this 'battle royal', who better than Fabrizio Meoni (KTM n°3) : "I believe that Sainct and Roma will have a good battle for victory. Richard will ride his own race without worrying about Roma. For Nani, it'll be tougher because he has more pressure on the shoulders. He's never won it". The two time winner will be a close spectator of this fight for top spot, a place that he can no longer think about (11th at 2h42min). The Italian adds that for him the end is near. "If I had to take a decision now, I would say that this is my last Dakar. It's not a question of motivation but at 46, I think of stopping. One should know his own limits". Then again, isn't that what Fabrizio says every year at the same time ???
In the car race, the main question mark concerned the Nissan cars of Ari Vatanen (n°205) and Colin McRae (n°202). Where were they ? Well, at 12h30, they were among the nine cars that hadn't yet made it to Nema, finish of stage 9. A few hours later, at 16h30, the Scotsman had been seen on the way to Bamako after going through the Nema CP. On the other hand, the Finn was stopped again at 110kms of Nema with transmission problems. According to Fred Gallagher, Nissan spokesman : "We're expecting Colin tomorrow in Bobo but concerning Ari, we're not sure !"
The organisation has told the competitors that if they make it to the Burkina city before 18h30GMT on the 12th, they would be allowed to remain in the race.
For the remaining car and truck drivers, already in Bobo after a 530km journey, it was time to wash the vehicles and themselves and start thinking about the days to come.
For Bruno Saby (Volkswagen n°221), 7th overall : "The liaison was boring but I'm sure that many are happy it went that way, especially the bikers. After tomorrow, we'll be back in the race. I don't like the rest day. Tomorrow, we'll have a technical meeting to think about how to drive the upcoming stages".
Meanwhile the debate on how hard the rally was carried on. 202 retirements have so far been recorded in this 26th edition after only 9 stages. A little over half of the competitors having left Clermont-Ferrand are no longer in the race.
In his third Dakar (1 as a co-driver, 2 as a driver) Gerard De Rooy (DAF n°417) believes that "this is the hardest one. Last year was a holiday compared to this". Third overall, the Dutchman isn't too concerned about his position in the truck race : "I don't care if I finish 5th in Dakar." His worries are elsewhere : "the only part that wants a rest is my back-side".
De Rooy senior (Jan) who had to retire after an engine failure is currently in Dakar. "Probably having a drink in the sun", adds his son.