Dakar: KTM stage 14 report

Roma wards off all attacks His beaming calmness might just be on the surface. Nani Roma must be boiling on the inside. What kind of triumph will he be gaining? The Spaniard suppressed all thoughts about the finish at Dakar yet. "Of course I'm ...

Roma wards off all attacks

His beaming calmness might just be on the surface. Nani Roma must be boiling on the inside. What kind of triumph will he be gaining? The Spaniard suppressed all thoughts about the finish at Dakar yet. "Of course I'm really content about my 3rd place today. Especially do I like how I accomplished it." Roma was able to ward off any attacks from Cyril Despres and Richard Sainct. In the dunes he was able to catch up with them. While the two Frenchmen made a navigational mistake again, Nani Roma did not have any problems orientating. Almost - at least. "At km 30 I made a small mistake, but afterwards everything worked out well. Especially, since this slip did not make me nervous at all. I think that I have learned a lot from Jordi. We talk together every night and work on my road book. Jordi has collected lots of experience here in Africa. He is the calming influence of our team. He makes me feel secure about myself."

Jordi Arcarons, manager of the Team Repsol KTM Spain, has had an irritating night. So he was even more relaxed at the finish line. "Nani rode an exceptional race. Yesterday we were more than worried about Marc Comas' the state of health. Marc has been very important for Nani as well. Now he has to take care of everything by himself. Luckily it worked out perfectly today."

Cyril Despres was much quieter than the Spaniard while walking through the bivouac. His third victory of a stage did not really make him happy. And he didn't want to listen to questions about his chances of the top place in the overall standings. "I'll be attacking tomorrow again for sure. At least I'm going to try to do so." The young Frenchman is mad about the navigation mistakes that he made today."

What about Richard Sainct? The leadership in the overall standings has moved in a far distance. However, he is much more relaxed in his situation. "I have won this rally three times already. Tomorrow will be the last possibility to close in on the 4th victory. And I'm going to do anything that is necessary. Today I had to lay the track for the field. Fretigne has chosen his starting position and decided to start second. It is a regulation which neither one of us follows."

For all members of the KTM team it still astonishes that in spite of the injury on his arm Richard Sainct is performing so well in the race. He claims an excellent 2nd place in the overall standings. After today's stage his leeway on Nani Roma is about 10 minutes, while Cyril Despres is about 41 minutes behind the Spaniard.

Let's take a look at the team-rankings. Team Gauloises KTM France (91 points) leads ahead of Team Repsol KTM Spain (109 points). If nothing unexpected happens there is hardly a chance that this will still change. In 3rd place is Team Gauloises KTM International (161). In the professional rankings Team Red Bull KTM USA is in 4th place (410). The Scandinavian team (217) is better than the Dakar newcomers from America. They lead the amateur rankings. There should not be a question who rides in that team. It is P.G. Lundmark and Pal Anders Ullevalseter. Respect!

After the first part of the marathon stage, at the bivouac in Tidjikja, the only help the riders can hope for comes from the fast assistance trucks. These are the trucks that participate in the race. The service-trucks and --cars are already on their way towards tomorrows finish at Nouakchott. Among the participants in the cars are:

Silent heroes
They drive their own race -- the people from KTM that take care of that the material and mechanics reach the next bivouac on time. It is not unusual that the service-crews pack up everything when it is still dark and leave for the next finish line of the stage. Sometimes they lay more than 1000 km away. Today it was 830 km from Ayoûn El Atroûs to Nouakchott.

It is a 24-hour-job for the boys and girls from KTM. Right after arrival they need to unpack, organize and work on the bikes. Even after a 12-or-more-hour drive they need to fully concentrate on their work. "It demands a lot," explains Wilfried Kershhaggl, KTM head of marketing. He rides in a Nissan assistance-vehicle. "Sometimes it is close to everyone's limits. As an average we sleep about 6 to 7 hours within two days." In order not to endanger the crews in the cars and trucks by the over-fatigue of the driver they switch driving. "Driving is really tough," tells Ernest Loedl.

Everyone calls him Arafat. For a cure, the experienced assistance-truck driver suggests to get stuck once in a while, to drink a lot and to exercise. It isn't the first time Loedl participates, but the route the assistance has to drive is exceptionally hard. "Daily you are put under time pressure and you drive on tracks that are similar to the rally routes," he states. "Partly we are driving on the race tracks. And we carry along 3 to 3.5 tons of weight. This isn't all that easy."

Nevertheless nobody wails and nobody complains. Everyone contributes its best that the rally becomes a full success for KTM. After all everyone knows that the Dakar is the toughest rally in the world -- for the assistance too!

Tomorrow the second part of the marathon stage has to be challenged. The special is about as long as today's (579 km). The dreaded camel grass will probably annoy the riders. Further their navigational skills are asked for. The stage towards Nouakchott is the last one that can mix up the overall standings.

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Cyril Despres , Richard Sainct , Nani Roma , Marc Coma , Jordi Arcarons , Pal Anders Ullevalseter