Dakar: Gauloises Racing stage six report

For the first dunes of the Telefonica Dakar 2005, Fabrizio Meoni was still well in form by clinching the best time of the 492km special. Meanwhile his KTM-Gauloises team mate Cyril Despres captured the overall leadership. In the car special, ...

For the first dunes of the Telefonica Dakar 2005, Fabrizio Meoni was still well in form by clinching the best time of the 492km special. Meanwhile his KTM-Gauloises team mate Cyril Despres captured the overall leadership. In the car special, Peterhansel claimed the special ahead of Bruno Saby who takes command of the overall.

Experience proved to be key on the day's difficult stage 6 where the riders had a long awaited appointment with the dunes of Mauritania. Until check point 1 (km 245) everything was going rather well for the less experienced. On a fast track, Marc Coma who left in second spot this morning proved to be the fastest ahead of Andy Caldecott, winner of the previous special. No worries at that point of the race for the fast and furious KTM bikers... But things became a lot tougher with the first dune portions and soft sand: in other words, Meoni territory. The Italian made the best of his huge Dakar experience moving closer to Coma (second at only 18") at CP2 (km 312) and then grabbing the best time at CP3 (km 421) and on the finish line ahead of Pal Anders Ullevalseter (KTM -- n°5). The two-time rally winner claimed the stage with a 1'38" on the Norwegian biker and team mate Alfie Cox (KTM -- n°3). Cyril Despres finished fourth which gives him the overall leadership with a 35" advantage on Marc Coma and 1'16" on Fabrizio Meoni. Meanwhile, Caldecott, like many others, suffered navigation worries in the dunes. The Australian ended the special close to 9min adrift in 7th position.

The car special was full of drama. Leaving in first position after his fine win yesterday, Colin McRae (NIS -- n°308) took a flying start to the race clocking the fastest times at the first two check points (km 245 and 312) and proving that not only was his Pickup extremely powerful on fast sections but also that when it came to dune crossings, the Scot remained the fastest. But at km 410, the McRae show was harshly stopped. The former WRC rally driver suffered a crash that saw his Nissan go for a flip and was forced to withdraw from the race. Shocked by the accident, he was then taken straight to the finish bivouac in Zouerat. Just an hour before Robby Gordon, the other main actor of the first part of this Dakar (winner in Barcelona and Agadir), also went for a flip. Both the US driver and his co-driver were luckily unhurt but were still repairing the rear part of their Race Touareg and awaiting assistance.

Meanwhile, Stephane Peterhansel (MIT -- n°306) left aside his puncture worries of the previous stage (that he finished over 20' adrift) and grabbed his first special win of this Dakar. Taking off in 16th position, the title holder overtook 11 vehicles on his way to his 12th stage success in the car category for a total of 45 victories in the Dakar history book (added to his 33 wins on two wheels). 'Peter' beat his team mate Hiroshi Masuoka (MIT -- n°309) by 5'58". The Japanese managing the performance of the day after taking off in 121st spot. Another very experienced driver, Bruno Saby (VW -- n°309) carried on his excellent first part to the Dakar with a third spot at over 7' that gives him the overall leadership. The Frenchman has a slim 40" lead on compatriot Luc Alphand (MIT -- n°311).

In the biggest of the three categories, Vladimir Tchaguine (KAM -- n°515) captured his third consecutive stage success on the 2005 Dakar earning himself a total of 32 wins. The Russian driver beat Dutchman Hans Bekx (DAF -- n°524) by over 18' while team mate Kabirov (KAM -- n°520) finished third at 19'17".Tchaguine comforts his lead overall with a 25'34" advantage on Kabirov. After his bad crash in yesterday's special, Gerard De Rooy (DAF -- n°516) was eventually able to start the stage and clinched 7th spot on the day.

BIKES

Fabrizio Meoni (Gauloises KTM) 1st and 3rd overall (at 1'15)

The pace over the first 250 km, up until refuelling, was very fast and I was thinking to myself 'I'm getting too old for this game'. Then after that we came to some difficult navigation and I pulled back a lot of time. Towards the end my bib mousse went -- I don't really understand why -- and so I asked Alfie (Cox) to stay behind me ready to help out if necessary.

Alfie Cox (Gauloises KTM) 3rd (at 2'58) 5th overall (at 3'20)

Fabrizio was without a doubt the star of the day. Caldecott and Coma took a lot of time out of us over the first part, but then Fabrizio took it all back with some brilliant navigation. I just don't know how he does it. The way he reads the road book and finds his way is almost supernatural.

Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) 4th (at 4'37) 1st overall

This morning Coma and Caldecott took maybe 6 or 8 minutes off us. It was fast with no real navigation and they were just flying. Then after refuelling there was about 50 kilometres of really tricky navigation and they lost everything they had gained. I also made a little navigation error -- I went too far over to the left at a Chott -- but in the end it didn't turn out too badly. What we saw today is that with a lot less GPS points, compared to previous years, navigation becomes extremely important. At one point the next GPS point was 150 km away and in those conditions the race can be turned on its head very quickly. It is going to be a very interesting race!

Jean Brucy (Gauloises KTM) 12th (at 18'18) 11th overall (at 30'28)

I had to turn back on the liaison before the start of the special with a front brake problem, but in the end managed to start on time.

David Fretigne (Gauloises Yamaha) 8th (at 10'03) 8th overall (at 13'14)

"This wasn't at all a special for me so I am pretty happy with how it turned out. I lost quite a bit of time over the first, rapid part of the special but reckon I made up quite a lot after that. From refuelling to the end I swapped places with Ullevalseter. He was slow through the dunes but faster everywhere else but together we maintained a good pace. Last year I was 22nd at this stage of the race so I'm definitely progressing."

Ivo Kastan (Gauloises KTM) 53rd (at 1.40'28) 51st overall at 2.53'48)

"I have been suffering from a cold but the bike is excellent. Today I had a couple of little crashes and helped two other bikes with battery problems. Apart from that everything is OK."

CARS

Jean Louis Schlesser (Gauloises Schlesser Buggy) 4th (at 11'07) 10th overall (at 23'59)

"The car went very well through the dunes and I'm happy with my result. My objective today was to get into the top 10 overall and so it is mission accomplished."

Thierry Delavergne (Gauloises Megane) 21st (at 51'42)

"We really enjoyed ourselves today. The car went well on both the sand and the stones and we finally had a clear run. Obviously it is risky to enter a brand new vehicle that has had so little development time but we are learning a lot and the car is showing great promise."

Jean-Pierre Strugo (Team Gauloises Groine) 25th (1.08'27) 22nd overall and 1st T1 (at 2.03'11)

"Another trouble free run today -- just the sort of thing we needed to hold on to our overall lead. We knew there would be a few dunes early on so we started with not much air in the tyres and drove carefully so as not to puncture. Isabelle Patissier came past us later on as we were putting some air back in them but then we repast her later on. Our two Toyota rivals finished not far behind us but apart from that an almost perfect day."

Simon Jean Joseph (Team Gauloises Groine) 49th (at 1.53)

"I tell you this is some event. Yesterday I learnt a ton of things, today I learnt even more and I have no doubt that I will continue to learn every day til the end. If yesterday's lesson was how to drive in the stones, today's was how to drive in the dunes.

We started off very gently. The first 250 kms were a little bit like yesterday and so remembering our lessons we drove carefully and didn't get any punctures. Then after CP1 we got to the dunes. We let down the tyres and got through the first three condones without any trouble. We were lining up the fourth, but the ideal route was blocked by a camera tripod. We tried to go round it and got stuck. We got going again, but instead of stopping on a downhill slope we stopped on a slight incline and got stuck again. All this in front of the TV cameras. Jacques (Jean Joseph's co-driver) was fuming and I wasn't too happy either. The thing is you can't learn without making mistake. The problem is that each mistake is very costly and there is so much to learn!"

-gauloises-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Colin McRae , Luc Alphand , Jean-Louis Schlesser , Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean Brucy , Fabrizio Meoni , Cyril Despres , Alfie Cox , Bruno Saby , Marc Coma , Isabelle Patissier , Jean-Pierre Strugo , David Fretigne , Ivo Kastan , Andy Caldecott , Pal Anders Ullevalseter , Hans Bekx