Caravan labours under the horrors of the 26th Dakar rally. Despite punctures, no damage for Gerard de Rooy. Jan de Rooy works hard on the repairs of his truck. Who thought it would be an easy one today after the mammoth stage yesterday, got...
Caravan labours under the horrors of the 26th Dakar rally.
Despite punctures, no damage for Gerard de Rooy. Jan de Rooy works hard on the repairs of his truck.
Who thought it would be an easy one today after the mammoth stage yesterday, got the short end. After the battlefield yesterday, which also meant the end for Jan de Rooy, this morning only 236 competitors left for the 8th stage: 112 bikes, 81 cars and 43 trucks.
On 1st January 2004, 400 competitors started at Clermont-Ferrand: yesterday 317 were left and today 236. So less than 60%; realizing that the rally is not even half way yet. In short: an old-fashioned DAKAR with a small persevering core. They know how to cut down the mechanical problems, wrong navigation and weak moments to a minimum.
The 8th stage didn't help. From the first kilometer onwards from Atar to Tidjikja, a special of 335 kilometers, even the most experienced drivers went wrong in this complete new area; navigation was a big problem, even for the veterans.
The leader of the bikes, Despres, got lost early, followed by last year's winner Richard Sainct and multiple winner Meoni didn't perform much better.
Ari Vatanen, the Japanese Shinozuka and Schlesser, and even the leader of the car standing Masuoka also had their full share.
Karel Loprais performed surprising in the truck league. He was first at checkpoint 1. De Azevedo was 5 minutes ahead of Tchaguine.
Hans Stacey, who more and more feels like a fish in the water, needed about 8.30 minutes more. Madeev passed 5th, van Ginkel 6th. Gerard de Rooy clocked the 8th time, a bit more than 35 minutes behind. He did pass ahead of the third Russian, Firdaus Kabirov.
At checkpoint 2, after 258 kilometers, Vladimir Tchaguine showed his absolute top-class. As long as he's not suffering any damage, the end victory will be his, fourth time in a row. He passed first, with a 13 minutes advantage on Loprais and 22 minutes on de Azevedo. The other two Kamaz pilots made the ride a real treat; they passed 4th and 5th at 41 and 43 minutes. Hans Stacey was best Dutchman at 1.07 hour, Bekx passed 8th at 1.27 hour and Gerard 15 minutes later.
After that Karel Loprais took revenge on Tchaguine. He booked his first stage victory since 2002 and finished with a 2.54 minutes advantage on the Russian, and 6.03 minutes on the Brazilian.
Hans Stacey had a good day. He finally finished 6th at 51.52 minutes behind the winner. Gerard redeemed a lot in the final phase and took the 8th place at 1.24.39 hour, more than 8 minutes ahead of the 3rd Dutchman Hans Bekx.
"Today it was a real washout. We got our hopes up high but we got stuck in the dunes once and besides we had two punctures. Again problems with the deflate system. If that happens you can't make up the arrears," reported Gerard on arrival in Tidjikja. "To crown everything, we have to work on our vehicles alone as the assistance trucks went straight to Néma and we won't see them until tomorrow evening. Luckily we don't have much damage so we can take a few hours of sleep."
Young Gerard was very happy of his 4th place: "In fact it's the same as last year. As everything went well until now, everyone readjusted their expectations. Wrong, my target was to reach Dakar, and it still is. I'm 23 years old, my time will come," he knows with a great sense of reality.
So today Tchaguine did very well. He disposed of his rivals. De Azevedo takes the 2nd place at 43.40 minutes, Loprais is 3rd at 1.43.42 hour and Gerard went down to the 4th place at 1.51.39 hour. Kabirov took the 5th place. Bekx and Stacey are on the 8th and 9th place. Especially for newcomer Stacey an exceptional performance.
In the meantime Jan de Rooy works on his truck in hopes that he can go on on his own. Whether he will succeed is unknown yet, also unknown is the final destination, however it's most obvious that he will head for Dakar.
Biker Nani Roma took grateful advantage of the problems that Sainct suffered. As Despres also had an off day, he finished first, ahead of Brucy, Sainct's teammate. Brucy finished 3rd and Esteve Pujol was back in front with a good 4th place.
Meoni fought back during the last part of the stage and finished 5th. Eric Verhoef did very well at the 18th place, just ahead of Alfi Cox on the 19th place and Despres who finished 24th.
In the overall standing Roma takes command ahead of Sainct, Brucy and Cox. Despres takes the 7th place at 1.11.16 hour; Meoni is 13th at 2.09.05 hours and Verhoef 22nd.
Last year's number 3, the French Peterhansel, can be sure of the victory unless he makes very stupid mistakes. Only a few had a perfect day; Peterhansel was one of them. He finished with a 28.55 minutes advantage on Jutta Kleinschmidt, who took the 2nd place.
By the way, it was outrageous that the German pilot was allowed to start with a complete new engine, which is strictly prohibited by the regulations. It's still the question whether the Organization will recall this decision tonight. If not, one may say that they apply double standards and that the commercially sponsored teams like Volkswagen Motorsport, are being judged different from the ordinary competitors.
De Mevius finished 3rd at 32.21 minutes. Schlesser, who got a puncture, took the 4th place, Alphand was 5th and Masuoka, who lost no less than 1.34.14 hour, took a provisional 10th place.
Generally speaking, the Japanese can forget the title. He now takes the 3rd place, 1.22.32 hour behind the new leader Peterhansel. De Mevius is 2nd at 1.04.30 hour. Schlesser is 4th, Alphand 5th. Colin McRae also suffered serious mechanical problems. He had to wait for assistance, so the newcomer can forget his place on the stand.
Tomorrow a legendary stage! From Tidjikja to Néma, a distance of 739 kilometers, containing the longest special of the rally. A special of 736 kilometers through soft sand and the horrors of the Enji Pass where the caravan was brought to a halt by a sandstorm in 1985. However, the magnificent landscape relieves the suffering.
But will the remaining competitors think the same?
To be continued . . . . . .