On a stage shocked by the sad death of biker JosÃ© Manuel Perez who had suffered an accident during stage 7 to Tichit, Cyril Despres conquered both his first special and the overall leadership of the Telefonica Dakar 2005. The race organisation...
On a stage shocked by the sad death of biker José Manuel Perez who had suffered an accident during stage 7 to Tichit, Cyril Despres conquered both his first special and the overall leadership of the Telefonica Dakar 2005.
The race organisation had announced a very tricky stage going up north to Atar and back again. Well it almost looked like a walk in the park for Cyril Despres. Taking off in seventh position this morning for the 483 kms of the special, the Frenchman on his KTM 660cc stormed past all his rivals, clocking best times at CP1 (km 203) and CP2 (km 293) and negotiating the difficult dune portions in impressive manner. Always in the leading ten on all specials (including a second spot and three third positions), the KTM Gauloises rider clinched his first success on the 27th edition, his eighth overall.
After riding most of the day with Cox and Ullevalseter, Despres took off just before CP2 when the riding got tough. He eventually caught Meoni and Esteve and crossed the finish line with a huge 10'08" lead on the Italian and 12'24" on the Spaniard. Fourth on the day (after taking off in 15th spot) David Frétigné finished 12'51 adrift alongside Marc Coma (at 14'06) who ran out of fuel and lost precious time before CP2. In the top ten of the overall (6th), Norway's Pal-Anders Ullevalseter suffered a fall at km 410 and was forced to retire from the race with a shoulder injury.
Despres grabbed the overall leadership for the second time (after Zouerat) but this time the 30-year-old biker has a significant 9'13" lead over Meoni. Third is now Marc Coma, over 16' adrift.
While Despres took a first, but slim option on overall success, the Mitsubishi team carried on its fantastic run in the Mauritanian desert. Taking off in first and second position this morning, Alphand and Peterhansel took control of matters from the very first kilometres. After 'Peter' caught his team mate, the two Evos remained together, for the whole special. The Reds in front and the others, far far behind. Together the French drivers stopped to deflate before the dune portions and later on when it was time for Peter to add some air, Alphand enjoyed moments alone in the lead but not for long. On the finish line, Peterhansel took advantage of his second position at the start to win the special, his third this year, and add an extra 1'24" to his overall advantage on Alphand. The title holder now has a 21' advantage on the former alpine skier.
In the race behind, Jutta Kleinschmidt (VW), third overall, finished over 30' adrift after 'enjoying' some shovelling moments in the dunes. The German now has a 1h10' deficit on the Mitsus and spent her day with Robby Gordon as her luxurious fast assistance driver. The American finished 37' adrift of the day's winner.Also stuck in the sand for a while, the Nissan Pickups of Ari Vatanen (fifth at 43') and Giniel De Villiers (sixth at 49').
But it didn't all go like in a dream for Mitsubishi. Indeed Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka who had already had mechanical problems a few days ago suffered an engine breakdown at km 100 and was heading back to the bivouac in the opposite way of the other vehicles. At the same time, Andrea Mayer was also stopped but this time with electrical worries. Mechanical hiccups for Mitsu but also for the Nissan Pickup of Carlos Sousa. Fourth overall the Portuguese driver saw his hopes of a Dakar podium fade away with a destroyed front nose gear after CP2.
Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) 1st on the special and overall
Yesterday I said that I would try and attack and as it turned out all the conditions came together to allow me to do so. The special was a nice mix of sand, navigation, dunes and camel grass. I caught Sala very quickly, probably because he was waiting for one of 'his' riders, and then at about km 60 I came up behind Alfie. By CP2 I was up with Meoni and Esteve Pujol and when we left refuelling Meoni was reluctant to attack -- no doubt hoping that the others would catch and come between us. When I saw what he was up to I went to the front and forced the rythme and in the end it worked out well for me.
Now I have a little lead overall but in reality it isn't a lot. What makes me much happier is that I enjoyed myself and felt good on the bike. That might sound like I'm just out to have fun and not taking the race seriously, but that isn't it at all. I have noticed when I'm happy on the bike I have no trouble concentrating, don't make mistakes and ride quickly -- and that is how you put in a good result.
Fabrizio Meoni (Gauloises KTM) 2nd (at 10'08) 2nd overall (at 9'13)
This morning I opened the piste for Cyril and gave him an easy ride. Then after CP2 I was worried about destroying my bib mousse and so reduced the pace, allowing to Cyril go past. Unfortunately nobody came between us...
David Fretigne (Gauloises Yamaha) 4th (at 12'51) 6th overall (at 26'26)
I used the 2-wheel drive for first time and it really helped me through the dunes. The problem was that the last 200 kms, after CP2, were super fast and while they were all popping along at 180 kph I was left in their wake.
Alfie Cox (Gauloises KTM) 5th (at 16'26) 5th overall (at 19'55)
Up until refuelling everything was going perfectly. Then after that you came out of a village off-piste before picking up a track. I went too far over to the left and then had to cut across some really stony ground to get back on the road book and lost quite a bit of time. When you realise you have made a mistake like that I can tell you, you give yourself a hard time!
Stephane Henrard (Gauloises VW Buggy)
We broke down right at the beginning of the special, barely 3 km in. Our T4 assistance truck came in to pull us out and towed us back to the bivouac where we tried to fix the problem. Unfortunately sand has got into the engine and there was nothing we could do.