Dakar: Gauloises Racing stage four report

The first African stage of the Telefonica Dakar 2005 ended up in a long liaison for the bikers after the short 123km special was cancelled due to heavy fog. Meanwhile on four wheels, in better conditions, Robby Gordon clinched his second Dakar ...

The first African stage of the Telefonica Dakar 2005 ended up in a long liaison for the bikers after the short 123km special was cancelled due to heavy fog. Meanwhile on four wheels, in better conditions, Robby Gordon clinched his second Dakar victory ahead of Peterhansel, proving once again how well he had adapted to the rally and how impressive his Volkswagen Race Touareg was. In the truck race, Vladimir Tchaguine is already on top of the leader board.

The rally left Europe and Spain under beautiful sunny conditions, but for the start of the first real African stage, the weather had completely changed with heavy fog on the Rabat area. Impossible in the early hours of the day for the bikers to take off for a special that would have been dangerous with very poor visibility! The same incident had already happened back in 1994 when the conditions forced the organisers to also cancel a special.

All bikers were therefore asked to head to CP 1 (km 63) nice and easily in a liaison before using a normal asphalt road all the way to the Agadir bivouac. Certainly a big disappointment for overall leader David Frétigné (YAM -- n°12) who would have gone through a nice first test against the KTM armada.

Two and a half hours later, the fog had disappeared and the weather was perfect for the cars to take off for their 123km special. The first man to take off was yesterday's special winner Colin McRae, but the Scotsman was rapidly caught by his main race contenders. At CP1 (km 63), the best time was for the ever-surprising Robby Gordon (VW -- n°317). For his very first Dakar and in an impressive Volkswagen Race Touareg, the US driver (who left in 5th spot) flew to special victory, clocking best times at both the second CP (km 88) and the finish line. Gordon clinches his second win on the rally after the Barcelona super special although this one is way more significant on a longer distance and in real Dakar rally conditions. The former NASCAR racer who had overtaken De Villiers (NIS -- 314) early in the race, could have done even better if he hadn't been forced to remain behind Ari Vatanen's Nissan (n°311) during the last 20kms of the special where overtaking became very tricky. Gordon's closest rival on the day was last year's winner Stephane Peterhansel (MIT -- n°306), finishing just under a minute behind. After the Nissan show in yesterday's Granada special with 3 Pickups in the leading four, it was Volkswagen's turn to impress with their four Touaregs in the leading seven cars. Bruno Saby (VW -- n°307) captured third spot while Jutta Kleinschmidt (VW -- n°310) finished fifth and Juha Kankkunen (VW -- n°313) seventh. And to add to the German brand's excellent day, Robby Gordon claimed the new overall leadership with a 1" lead on Peterhansel. In T1 Simon Jean Joseph (Team Gauloises Groine) finally got a chance to show what he is capable of, winning the stage and moving up to fourth overall just behind Thomasse, Gauloises Groine team mate Jean Pierre Strugo and Simon Jean Joseph.

In the truck race, Vladimir Tchaguine (KAM -- n°515) showed that he was already well in shape for a fifth triumph on the Dakar. The Russian driver clinched the special with a 1'34" advantage on Gerard De Rooy (DAF -- n°516) and 1'57" on team mate Firdaus Kabirov (n°520). After a smooth start to the race in Europe, Tchaguine takes command of the overall.

Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) 2nd overall (at 00'11)

We were all ready to race our first 'real' special and so obviously disappointed when it was cancelled. In a way though it was perhaps lucky for me as I realised that my 'tripmeter' was well out compared with the organisers distance, which would have made navigation difficult at race speeds.

Alfie Cox (Gauloises KTM) 22nd overall (at 1'41)

We were all buzzing on the start line and then we got word that we wouldn't be racing... Given my injured shoulder though I suppose the more time I get to recover the better. Tomorrow we will see how it really is as we have a long way to go...

Eric Verhoef (Gauloises KTM) 5th overall (at 00'51)

I think for all the first timers it was a good thing that the special was cancelled today. It gave them a chance to work on their navigation and generally find their feet without too much pressure.

David Fretigne (Gauloises Yamaha)

From my point of view it wasn't great that they cancelled today's special. Being short and twisty it would have been suited to my bike. The further we go south the more open the terrain becomes and the more the 'small' engine on my bike becomes a handicap.

Jean Louis Schlesser (Gauloises Schlesser Buggy) 15th (at 6'39) 16th overall (at 8m03)

The special wasn't really suited to our car but nice to drive nonetheless. Not everybody was paying attention to their Sentinel system but we didn't lose too much time -- maybe 3 or 4 minutes. The good news is that we start 15th tomorrow and so logically won't be held up so much. Whether the special will be good for our car we will have to wait and see.

Jose Maria Servia (Gauloises Schlesser Buggy) 13th (at 4'38) 12th overall (at 5'12)

You had to take care because it was slippery and there were some big stones, but in general everything went well.

Jean Pierre Strugo (Team Gauloises Groine) 50th (at 18'24) 45th overall (at 21'42)

It was a good special and everything went well. We just made a small navigation error, overshot our turning and allowed one of our direct rivals to slip past... I'm very impressed with Simon's (Jean Joseph) performance -- he drove really well.

Simon Jean Joseph (Team Gauloises Groine) 30th (at 1h26'18) 49th overall (at 1h48'25)

I'm happy and frustrated all at the same time. Happy that we finally managed to put in a good result, win the T1 class and move up substantially overall. Frustrated that we lost so much time in the dust behind slower competitors. Maybe their Sentinel systems weren't working, or maybe they weren't being very fairplay -- but either way some people took a long time to move over. Hopefully, by starting earlier tomorrow, overtaking won't be so much of a problem.

Gerardus De Rooy (Gauloises De Rooy) 2nd (at 1'34) 2nd overall (at 1'09)

We got stuck behind one of the Russian trucks for a long time and had to stop for 4 minutes for a train! Apart from that no problems.


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Colin McRae , Jean-Louis Schlesser , Jutta Kleinschmidt , Stéphane Peterhansel , José Maria Servia , Cyril Despres , Alfie Cox , Eric Verhoef , Bruno Saby , David Fretigne , Firdaus Kabirov