Dakar: Gauloises Racing stage 13 report

In the bike race, Giovanni Sala comforted his third place overall by winning the day's stage. With three days to go until the shores of the Lac Rose in the finish line, Giovanni Sala (KTM -- n6) needed to keep an eye on his main rival for...

In the bike race, Giovanni Sala comforted his third place overall by winning the day's stage.

With three days to go until the shores of the Lac Rose in the finish line, Giovanni Sala (KTM -- n6) needed to keep an eye on his main rival for a podium spot, Chris Blais (KTM -- n9), only 21' behind in the overall standing. The Italian did even better than that on the 348km special. He indeed captured his first special win of the year, his 9th success on a Dakar. By doing so, the 32-year-old took a serious option on final third spot. He made it to the finish line with a 9'59" advantage on Chris Blais. Sala now has a 31'34" overall lead on the American.

Second on the day, Cyril Despres (KTM -- n1) finished over three minutes adrift and moved slightly closer to overall leader Marc Coma (KTM -- n2). The Spaniard still has a 31'16" lead on the title holder. In the leading positions, one man had to bid farewell to the rally: Jean De Azevedo (KTM -- n7), 8th overall crashed just after the start of the special. Injured, the Brazilian was forced to pull out of the Dakar.

Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) 2nd (at 3'12) 2nd overall (at 31'16)
"The first 40 km over a laterite piste were relatively straightforward and then we came to some trials type going. And even loaded down with all our body armour, our satelitte phones and all the stuff we carry, on bikes that are much heavier than enduro bikes, it was still good fun to ride. Marc (Coma) stayed with me pretty much the whole time -- only at the end did I break away when he had a little problem with his bike -- but I was surprised not to see anyone else. At refuelling we only saw Chris Blais come in while we were waiting (15 minutes). The only incident of the day for me was when why foot got caught in rut and got bent back. My boots and knee brace meant that the shock went all the way up to my hip... There are only another two specials left and at 31 minutes behind Marc I won't be making any bets on my winning this race. My feelings about that are divided. Obviously I feel disappointed, but on balance I'm more positive than negative. The decision to continue wasn't easy, but I have learnt things by doing so. Nothing new about riding injured or overcoming pain -- that stuff I knew already - but more about tactics, how to manage a race -- things that will come in useful later."

Michel Gau (Gauloises KTM) 11th (at 16'09) 10th overall (at 7.18'00)
"I like that kind of special, technical with plenty of corners to slide round. In places it was like riding the Trophy Andross! But it wasn't a special to attack on. At the refuelling CP I could see other riders were starting to have problems with their bib mousses so I decided to go cool in case Cyril needed my wheel. Apart from that no problem."

David Casteu (Gauloises KTM) 14th (at 20'05) 8th overall (at 5.45'36)
"The organisers said that there would be petrol at the end of the special but (for logistical reasons) there wasn't any and so I ended up running out of fuel three times. Fortunately each time other competitors stopped to give me what they could spare. Apart from that no particular problems. My knee injury means it is difficult to stand up on the bike and attack, but given that there are big time differences in front and behind of me it didn't make much difference -- my position is pretty fixed now."

In the cars Luc Alphand won again today just 0'50 ahead of Carlos Sainz with De Villiers third (at 1'42). Thierry Magnaldi (Gauloises Schlesser Ford) finished in 6th place (at 14'28) despite the technical nature of the terrain, while the 'boss' Jean-Louis was a more prudent 10th (at 29'37). Overall the top three remain the same after yesterday's upset, with Alphand leading De Villiers by 22'13 and Roma third (at 1.32'31). Barring disaster those places look unlikely to change before Lac Rose. Jean Louis (6th at 4.14'30) also has large gaps either side of him, while back in 9th place Magnaldi (at 8.26'53) is more squeezed by his direct rivals Saby (8th at 8.09'47) and Chicherit (10th at 8.40'05).

Thierry Magnaldi (Gauloises Schlesser Ford) 6th (at 14'28) 9th overall (at 8.26'53)
"Chicherit took eight minutes off us yesterday and moved ahead of us overall, so today we concentrated on getting 'our' place back. Happily for us he had a small problem with a wheel and so we were able to achieve our mission with relative ease. Although the special was technical in places it was better than yesterday. Going to Labe the suspension seemed to 'tap' a lot, while today it was less bumpy -- apart from in the trials type going, where you had no choice but to drive slowly.

Jean Louis Schlesser (Gauloises Schlesser Ford) 10th (at 29'37) 6th overall (at 4.14'30)
"The terrain was very technical today and not at all suited to our car -- trials going the whole time. It was the perfect special for damaging your car, and seeing as how we are too far behind the car ahead of us to catch them by attacking, and sufficiently in front of the 7th placed competitor not to be threatened, we just went gently. Although we have arrived here at the bivouac with Thierry (Magnaldi) we didn't drive the special with him. He started ahead of us and was keen to take back the place Chicherit took off him yesterday and so attacked a little harder than us."

Jose Maria Servia (Gauloises Schlesser Ford) 13th (34'30) 14th overall (at 16.12'50)
"We drove most of the day on our own and so didn't suffer too much from the dust. That suited us just fine as all we are doing now is staying out of trouble and concentrating on getting to Dakar. This has been a difficult race, with no real let up since we have started, so we will be pleased to get there!"


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Luc Alphand , Jean-Louis Schlesser , José Maria Servia , Cyril Despres , Giovanni Sala , Marc Coma , Chris Blais , David Casteu , Michel Gau , Thierry Magnaldi