Dakar: De Rooy stage 9 report

Forget the sighs, reaching Dakar only looks like surviving. Another 9 days to go but the field has decimated to an unacceptable level. Due to the risk of plundering gangs, the competitors will drive in convoy to Bobo-Dioulasso the next 2 ...

Forget the sighs, reaching Dakar only looks like surviving.

Another 9 days to go but the field has decimated to an unacceptable level. Due to the risk of plundering gangs, the competitors will drive in convoy to Bobo-Dioulasso the next 2 days. Gerard de Rooy fights against the East European force and takes the 3rd place in the overall standing.

Hubert Auriol, Dakar's inspired leader until a few months ago, sure must be happy that he kicked the bucket before the 26th edition of Le Dakar. Patrick Zaniroli, the current leader, is typical French; he misses Auriol's charisma and he just has an eye for rules and technique. However, after what happened yesterday, one could say that he plays fat and loose with the regulations when he allowed Jutta Kleinschmidt to continue with the rally despite a new engine. A poignant offence against the regulations, which will undoubtedly furnish a precedent. Maybe it's better that Jan de Rooy also takes a spare engine with him next year. Ok, you loose about 2 hours to change engines, but you can go on. Or would it be too expensive to make the Organization look the other way?

Fact is that Zaniroli forced the matter too far in putting his flock to the test, to speak with Thierry Sabine, the founder of the rally.

Imagine: this evening at 10.00 o'clock, only 28 bikes and 7 cars were reported in the bivouac. Only 13 trucks reached checkpoint 2 at that time and were still 300 kilometers away from today's finish.

Only 210 out of the 400 competitors started this morning for the special to Néma. The day before yesterday there were still 317 starters and yesterday 236. The question seems to be justified whether the Organization didn't go too far in inventing the testing.

A Dakar without amateurs, who scrimp and save all year long in order to fulfill their dreams, means the end of the Rally. If the Organization has to depend on the profs only, there will be an exodus, which can also happen now. If the chances for the amateurs to reach the Dakar beaches are being confined to a minimum, their pleasure for saving their money for next year will disappear like snow in summer.

Take for instance the Dutch competitors. Only good old Arjan Brouwer, van Pelt and Robbe are left after Henk Vercoelen and veteran Eric Verhoef had to quit earlier today. The last Dutch car at checkpoint 1 was Bob ten Harkel. Only the trucks were doing well, with Gerard de Rooy on the lead at checkpoint 1 and 2 and Hans Stacey and Hans Bekx at an honourable 8th and 9th place.

While the scruffy bunch of survivors is still fighting the elements, the Organization had to swallow another bitter pill. The Rally will be neutralized for the coming 2 days as the French and the Malian authorities fear for the danger of plundering gangs. Anyhow, this thread in Mali was brought up already before the rally and perhaps Zaniroli and his staff could have decided at that time already to avoid this country. This means that the stage from Néma in Mauritania to Mopti in Mali, a track of 910 kilometers with clear signs of robberies, is cancelled, as well as the stage from Mopti to Bobo-Dioulasso, the rest place on Monday. The bikers are exhausted, reported the Organization and so the bikes will be transported by plane to Burkina-Faso.

Of course neutralization is not unique. It happened several times that attacks by African gangs were feared of and several stages were cancelled. Last time this happened was in 2000 in Libya. Four stages were cancelled. But the question whether the Organization took the political situation in those countries into consideration, remains still open.

Gerard de Rooy made a fantastic start. Despite his only priority -- reaching Dakar -- he showed again to be a terrific pilot at an early age.

At checkpoint 1 he already had an advantage on the Russian Kabirov of 3 minutes, 8 minutes on Tchaguine, 9 minutes on de Azevedo and 13 minutes on Karel Loprais.

At checkpoint 2, after 428 kilometers, he was even better. Kabirov followed at 9.07 minutes. Tchaguine at 14.07 minutes, de Azevedo at 19.05 minutes and Karel Loprais even at almost 23 minutes.

Hans Stacey attracts the attention more and more with Uncle Jan's "old" truck. He passed 8th at 1.12.00 hour. Hans Bekx followed at 1.32.00 hour.

The Russian combine -- Tchaguine, Kabirov and Mardeev -- did everything to keep Gerard de Rooy away from the victory and at the end they succeeded.

Kabirov won the stage with Tchaguine's permission. The winner of the last 3 years followed at 4.06 minutes and Gerard de Rooy took the 3rd place at 5.17 minutes. De Azevedo lost ground and so did his Tatra stable mate Loprais.

Gerard de Rooy takes the 3rd place in the overall standing, behind Tchaguine and de Azevedo and ahead of Kabirov and Loprais.

A tremendous performance after the tough day yesterday. Of course young de Rooy was willing to say at the finish that he had a wonderful day: "Everything went fine and we have no damage," he beams. At a distance the admiring words from the Kamaz- and Tatra-pilots and their crew. They tried to put de Rooy through the wringer but the 23-year old pilot didn't lose his concentration. Only the cracks in rally sports bear this mark. "And now I'll take a shower after 3 days and put on some clean clothing," said a remarkable lively Gerard.

The bikes reshuffle daily. Today Despres was fastest, ahead of Cox, Sainct, Esteve Pujol and Nani Roma. Meoni took the 10th place.

Roma stays on the lead with a 3.38 advantage on Richard Sainct. Cox takes the 3rd place at 28.24 minutes and Despres is 4th at 44.54 minutes. Meoni is 11th.

Masuoka recovered from his bad day yesterday. He finished 1st with an advantage of 18.32 minutes on stable mate Peterhansel. Kleinschmidt took the 3rd place; Schlesser and Alphand were 4th and 5th.

Peterhansel keeps the lead with an advantage of 1.04.00 hour on Masuoka. Schlesser is 3rd at 2.22.28 hours and de Mevius 4th at 3.52.17 hours.

Will the overall standings change? Two tough stages, including 2 specials of in total 800 kilometers, are being cancelled so after the rest day only another 2.037 "Special" kilometers to go, plus the last 2 days from Nouakchott to Dakar of which only the stage from Nouakchott may be interesting.

The last day is only a show for the many supporters who did the trip to Dakar.

To be continued. . . . . .

-dr-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Jutta Kleinschmidt , Richard Sainct , Gerard de Rooy , Eric Verhoef , Hubert Auriol , Nani Roma , Karel Loprais , Jan de Rooy , Hans Stacey , Arjan Brouwer , Hans Bekx