Dakar: Gauloises Racing stage one report

DESPRES STARTS IN STYLE The first special of the 2006 Dakar saw huge crowds turn out to cheer on their heroes, over what turned out to be an extremely slippery 83 km special stage. In the bikes victory went to Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM)...

DESPRES STARTS IN STYLE

The first special of the 2006 Dakar saw huge crowds turn out to cheer on their heroes, over what turned out to be an extremely slippery 83 km special stage.

In the bikes victory went to Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) ahead of local entrant Ruben Faria, with Marc Coma third (at 0'07). Despres' team mate Esteve Pujol was 5th (at 1'00), David Casteu was 7th (at 1'26) with Michel Gau a prudent 22nd (at 4'56).

Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) 1st (in 58'10)

"Up in the mountains, where I live, you can't ride much in winter so it has been a while since I have been on a bike. But it felt really good to be back in the saddle again, the bike felt right and apparently I posted a good time.

I didn't set out to stamp my authority on the race or anything like that -- you're not talking to Peterhansel here -- but obviously it is always good to win -- especially given the conditions. For the last 30 kms the rain fell a little and it was pretty slippery. Congratulations to the organisers for laying out such an excellent special. It was a great way to start the rallye."

Isidre Esteve Pujol (Gauloises KTM) 5th (at 1'00)

"I had some problems with my navigation equipment which meant that it was difficult for me to check my speed -- and of course this year we have to be careful not to go over 160 kph. Fortunately they were able to fit a new system at the assistance point after the special stage and so now I am ready for tomorrow's stage."

David Casteu (Gauloises KTM) 7th (at 1'26)

"I am not here to take any risks and just concentrated on staying as close possible to Isidre and Cyril. The special was excellent, with just a bit of rain making it very slippery."

Michel Gau (Gauloises KTM) 22nd (at 4'56)

"Apart from a few kilometres testing at Château Lastour I haven't really ridden a bike since I broke my collarbone two months ago so all in all I am pretty happy with my day. I took it easy and just concentrated on getting back into the groove. It was like riding a WRC stage -- I have never ridden in front of so many people before."

In the cars victory went to rallye-raid 'novice' Carlos Sainz (VW Touareg) who beat Carlos Sousa by a staggering 1'30, with Bruno Saby third (at 1'51). The lack of grip made it hard work for the 2-wheel drive buggies, with Thierry Magnaldi (Gauloises Schlesser Ford) first man home in 9th (at 3'30). 'Boss' Jean Louis Schlesser (Gauloises Schlesser Ford) was just behind in 11th place (at 3'40), while Jose Maria Servia took it steady to finish in 17th place (at 6'08).

Thierry Magnaldi (Gauloises Schlesser Ford) 9th (at 3'30)

"It was very slippery, with lots of spectators on the side of the track. It was like we were in a bullfight and we were the bulls! The first 300 metres were a complete disaster and we stalled off the line, but after that I settled down. It took a little time to get used to there being so many people running out in front of us -- rallye raid drivers don't usually have that -- but eventually we found our rythme. I ended up really enjoy myself and am surprised how well we finished. We always knew we were going to lose time in Portugal, but if you ignore Sainz, we aren't so bad."

Jean Louis Schlesser (Gauloises Schlesser Ford) 11th (at 3'46)

We had a little problem with the brakes -- caused by the mud -- and we didn't take any risks, so to be honest I am surprised that we are so close to the leaders. There was an incredible number of people out to watch us and that was a real pleasure. It was like the Tour de France except that instead of travelling at 40 kph we were doing 150! Sometimes you had no choice but to back off. Hopefully it will be a little less muddy tomorrow and we can go into Africa without too much of a handicap.

Jose Maria Servia (Gauloises Schlesser Ford) 17th (at 6'08)

"We took it very steady and had no problems."

-gauloises-

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Series Dakar
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Jean-Louis Schlesser , Carlos Sousa , José Maria Servia , Cyril Despres , Bruno Saby , Marc Coma , Isidre Esteve , David Casteu , Michel Gau , Thierry Magnaldi , Ruben Faria