In the bike special between Agadir and Smara (380kms), Andy Caldecott won his first ever a stage on the Dakar rally. Meanwhile Marc Coma, second on the day, captured the overall lead. In the car special, Colin McRae clinched his second special on...
In the bike special between Agadir and Smara (380kms), Andy Caldecott won his first ever a stage on the Dakar rally. Meanwhile Marc Coma, second on the day, captured the overall lead. In the car special, Colin McRae clinched his second special on the rally to capture overall leadership.
Year after year, the Telefonica Dakar rally gets more international and touches far away nations. A major nation on the sporting scene, it became a winning country on the Dakar scene again thanks to Andy Caldecott (KTM -- n°23), 6 years after Andy Haydon grabbed two stages back in 98. The 40 year-old KTM rider had already impressed last year for his first appearance by earning himself an excellent third spot on the stage to Tan Tan but was forced to retire from the race in Atar while in 7th position overall.
Taking off the rally on a KTM 660cc in the KTM Team Australia alongside teammate David Schwartz, Caldecott insisted in Barcelona that his goal was "only to make it to Dakar". Well, he added a touch of triumph to his African quest on the tricky special to Smara in Southern Morocco. The Aussie clocked the best time at the first CP1 (km 111), before Marc Coma (KTM -- n°6), his closest rival on the day, had the best times at the following two CPs (km184 and 290).The tall KTM rider eventually managed to beat the Spaniard by a tiny 3sec advantage on the finish line of the special.
Third was Cyril Despres (KTM -- n°2), who suffered trip master problems and finished over 3' adrift, ahead of team mate Alfie Cox (KTM -- n°3) and Isidre Esteve (KTM -- n°7).
While Australia will probably be celebrating Caldecott's glorious day, Spain and Catalunya who welcomed the rally just a few days ago will be going wild with Marc Coma becoming the new overall leader. The young KTM-Repsol official rider leads the rally with a 42" advantage on Caldecott and 2'42" on Despres. Meanwhile, former leader David Frétigné (YAM -- n°12) suffered navigation problems after following the tracks of amateur tourist bikers. The Frenchman took a wrong direction for 4km and eventually finished the special over 10' behind the day's special. Fretigné is now 7th overall, at 9'34". A good day it was for Coma... a sad one for his compatriot Jordi Duran (KTM -- n°16). The newcomer who had claimed a promising fourth spot in Granada crashed at km 100 and broke both his femur and his collar bone. Duran was forced to withdraw from the race.
On extremely rocky tracks, the car special was just as spectacular with maximum speeds close to 190-200km/h for the favourites. And when it comes to fast stages, Colin McRae has become a Dakar specialist. Already a winner in Granada, two days ago, and in Ayoun El Atrous and Dakar a year ago, the British driver flew to stage 4 success with an impressive 6'15" advantage on his teammate Giniel De Villiers (NIS -- n°314) and 7'18" on Jutta Kleinschmidt (VW -- n°310). By doing so, the 95 WRC World champion moved back to the overall leadership he had left after yesterday's special. This time, however, the Scot has a rather interesting 5'28" advance on De Villiers.
Fourth on the day, Qatari driver Nasser Al Attiyah (BMW -- n°318) kept hope alive for BMW after a rather calm start to the rally. Finishing over 7' adrift, Al Attiyah who finished of last year's edition, proved to the German brand and his rivals that he would be one to keep an eye on. On the other hand, it was a dreadful day for the Mitsubishi. Except for Luc Alphand (MIT - n°312) who finished in 5th position, the two other leaders of the Japanese team suffered serious technical hiccups. Title holder Stephane Peterhansel (MIT -- n°306) had to settle with a 24' deficit on McRae due to numerous punctures. Meanwhile, and in a far worst position, Hiroshi Masuoka (MIT -- n°309) was still in the Moroccan desert struggling with severe transmission problems. Jean Louis Schlesser (Gauloises Schlesser Buggy) was 15th just ahead of Stephane Henrard with Jose Maria Servia (Gauloises Schlesser Buggy) 20th.
Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) 3rd (at 3'30) 3rd overall (at 2'45)
Just 4 kilometres into the special my main trip broke, forcing me to use my back up trip that is situated much lower and out of my line of sight. As I spent most of the day opening the piste my trip problem obviously cost me a little time. In addition there was a little confusion at the refuelling which cost me over a minute - so all in all not a brilliant day. On the positive side it was good to finally have a good long special to race over and I enjoyed the riding.
Alfie Cox (Gauloises KTM) 4th (at 5'59) 4th overall (at 6'44)
The first 300 km were over stony piste and you had to watch out for your tyres. Then the last 40 km were sandy and at first I thought I had a problem with the bib mousse. In fact it was just the rear end moving around in the soft going.
Fabrizio Meoni (Gauloises KTM) 6th (at 7'44) 6th overall (at 7'38)
I'm just waiting for the sand and the navigation -- until then I'm taking it easy. I can't win the rallye in Morocco but I could easily lose it.
David Fretigne (Gauloises Yamaha) 7th (at 10'30) 7th overall (at 9'34)
The day didn't start too well for me. There were some trucks on the piste kicking up a lot of dust and as I was overtaking them I missed a turning. I went 5 km before I realised my mistake and in all must have lost at least 6 minutes. After that everything went OK, but it is a pity because without that little mistake I could have finished in the top 3. When I did manage to catch the others up I could see that my bike was pretty competitive. It is just on top speed that I lose out. Where they can go up to 180 kph I can't go any faster than 150. On the positive side I still lack a lot of experience -- this is only my second Dakar -- and riding a smaller bike means I can't get into so much trouble!
Alain Duclos (Team Gauloises Toni-Togo) 18th (at 30'04) 17th overall (31'05)
I had never seen my 450 before Barcelona so I am still learning how to ride it but so far so good -- I should be second 450 overall.
Eric Verhoef (Gauloises KTM) 35th (at 54'00) 33rd overall (at 53'55)
I had a little crash between CP1 & CP2. Fortunately there is nothing broken but I strained my neck and wrists. At least the bike isn't badly damaged.
Jean Louis Schlesser (Gauloises Schlesser Buggy) 15th (at 23'14) 15th overall (at 27'31)
There was only one track today and it was very difficult to overtake the bikes. Then we punctured once and so backed off to avoid puncturing a second time.
Jean-Pierre Strugo (Team Gauloises Groine) 34th (at 51'27) 35th overall and 1st T1 (at 1.09'23)
Everything went pretty well today. We went carefully through the stones and fast when we could and are pretty happy with our result. There was just 500 metres of soft sand today and one of our rivals (Thomasse) got stuck in it. We stopped to ask him if he wanted any help but he waved us on -- we didn't ask twice!
Simon Jean Joseph (Team Gauloises Groine) 83rd (at 1.54'56) 77th overall (at 2.13'11) )
Up until CP1 everything was going very well. After that we punctured once and then 30 km before CP2 we hit something in the dust and punctured the front and rear left tyres simultaneously. We changed the front but didn't have another spare and so had to limp on to CP2 with a flat rear. There we waited a long time for another car to come through that could give us another wheel. In all we must have lost 1 hour. To say it has been a frustrating day would be an understatement but we learnt a lot and that is what we are here for.
De Rooy Junior came flying past us and just after they had gone by they hit a bump and rolled. It was a massive crash! We stopped to see if they were ok and as we were running towards the truck Gerard De Rooy kicked the windscreen out with his feet. They were obviously a little shaken and Gerard had cut his arm but apart from that were fine. They are going to have to do a lot of work on their truck!
Jan De Rooy (Gauloises De Rooy) 5th (at 9'13) 6th overall (at 15'48) )
About 80 km from the end we came upon my son's truck lying on its side. We pulled them back on to the wheels, made sure they had everything they needed to fix their truck and then carried on to the finish. They are going to be out there a long time but they should be okay.