Dakar: Gauloises Racing stage three report

The competitors in the Dakar 2007 edition got to the heart of the matter today with their arrival in Africa after the night's crossing between Malaga and Nador. Taking advantage of his start in 5th position for today's special stage, Marc Coma ...

The competitors in the Dakar 2007 edition got to the heart of the matter today with their arrival in Africa after the night's crossing between Malaga and Nador. Taking advantage of his start in 5th position for today's special stage, Marc Coma recorded the best time on a bike. The title-holder leads Chris Blais, who left in 79th position this morning. Isidre Esteve sits at the top of the rally's rankings whilst Cyril Despres lost more than 20' after having broken his gear-box.

As regards the challengers for overall victory, Coma has therefore made up time on his rivals in the KTM-Gauloises team: 2'57 on Isidre Esteve and 3'28 on David Casteu. Nonetheless, Esteve heads the motorbike category with a lead of 26'' over Coma and 1'03'' over Casteu. The day's biggest loser was Frenchman Cyril Despres. Although he kept the pace until CP1, where he was classed third, the winner in 2005 broke his gear-box in the last part of the course and was obliged to finish the special section in first gear. Although he lost more than 22' on Coma during the day, the leader of the KTM -- Gauloises team still harbours hope: "There's still a race to be won", he declared before setting off along the 192 km connection section to Er Rachidia... in first gear.

Isidre Esteve (Gauloises KTM) 3rd (at 2'57) 1st overall
"The first part of the special, until CP1, the navigation was very tricky and you had to be extremely careful. After that it became a bit more straight forward and then towards the end the recent rain made things a little more complicated again as there were a lot of washouts. Obviously I am pleased to be in the lead overall but that is not what makes me really happy. What really pleases me is that I opened the piste and didn't make any navigation errors. That is how you win the Dakar and to have a trouble free run like that is very good for your confidence."

David Casteu (Gauloises KTM) 4th (at 3'28) 3rd overall (at 1'03)
"I came up behind Isidre after about 40 kilometres and then just tucked in behind. He did a great job with the navigation and didn't put a wheel wrong. Then over the last 80 kms there was a lot of dust and so I hung back a bit. This is the first time that I have raced the new bike in Africa and it felt really good. I'd say the main difference compared with the old bike is in terms of stability. The new bike gives you a lot of confidence and allows you to concentrate on the riding and navigation."

Frans Verhoeven (Gauloises KTM) 9th (at12'20) 9th overall (at 16'31)
"I started 36th this morning and didn't want to get too far behind Cyril, which meant that I had a lot of overtaking to do. Fortunately there were loads of parallel pistes which worked out well and I was able to get by 3 or 4 at a time without riding in anybody's dust. At refuelling I was pleased to see I hadn't lost too much time on Cyril and then at about 205 km I could see a bike going slowly in the distant and eventually realised it was 'my' rider. I pulled up alongside him and asked him if he wanted me to stay with him but he waved me on. Then towards the end I lost my gear lever and did the last few kilometres in second. On the liaison Cyril and I rode in together."

Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) 21st (at 22'26) 16th overall (at 25'55)
"The day started really well. I got past the slower riders without too many problems and was feeling very good on the bike. By CP1 I was just 30 seconds behind Marc Coma and looking to win the stage. Then at km 170 I was in sixth gear when I lost drive to the rear wheel. I kept going down through the gears but didn't get anything til I was in first and rode like that for the remaining 80 kilometres, riding at 60 kph and cutting every corner possible. Obviously it is disappointing to lose so much time so early on in the race, especially when I was going so well. But at the same time you have to be philosophical about these things. In motor sport anything can happen -- especially in rallye-raid. Plus there is still a long way to go. We have the whole of Mauritania to get through yet, and as last year proved yet again, it is never over til to get to the final finish line."

Tomorrow a long 405 kilometre special with a 'no assistance' bivouac for the motorcycle competitors 100 kilometres before Ouarzazate.

-credit: gr

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Cyril Despres , Marc Coma , Chris Blais , David Casteu , Frans Verhoeven