A dusty stage... A 213-km special stage, similar to conditions in a Safari Rally stage, saw the normal running of this 26th edition of the Dakar resume. A stage which, as well as going through many villages, saw plenty of animals and inhabitants...
A dusty stage...
A 213-km special stage, similar to conditions in a Safari Rally stage, saw the normal running of this 26th edition of the Dakar resume. A stage which, as well as going through many villages, saw plenty of animals and inhabitants along the roads. There were numerous potential dangers to be avoided on this laterite track, and thick dust reduced visibility considerably. The three Pickup vehicles got to the finish line in 13th, 14th and 15th positions, a group finish, without taking any risks, on a section which had little sporting interest.
Giniel de Villiers, who started in 15th position this morning, behind three trucks, complained of the dust and the occasion lack of co-operation they showed when being overtaken. The South African driver, slightly disappointed by special stage, which he called 'useless', explained : "Dust, dust and more dust ! We were stuck behind three trucks for ages. We kept exactly to the speed limit, unlike some people. The special stage was not very interesting, and quite frustrating. A day to be forgotten..."
Colin McRae, fastest of the 3 Pickups, started a long way back this morning. He commented : "This special stage was relatively dangerous. We went through many villages, I think Tina counted 25, and the speed was limited to 30 km/h in these sectors, which really broke the rhythm. We overtook 7 or 8 trucks and around 15 cars. After everything I've seen in the Dakar up till now, this special stage does not really fit in with the rest of the rally. We also came across a lot of people along the way, villagers, but also animals, all of which could cross the track at any time. Not really a great day..."
Ari Vatanen slotted in between Colin and Giniel, in 14th position. Juha Repo, his co-driver, who has plenty of World Rally Championship experience, does not appear to have appreciated the day's route either : "It was like Kenya, but not as good ... dangerous and boring. It was almost like being in a train out there, it was so difficult to overtake. And we were in the dust over the whole route. Not fantastic."
Ari Vatanen's comments are similar to those of his team-mates : "I am pleased to be here. But the special stage in the forest had no real purpose. This sort of track is not interesting. The only ones who had an advantage were those who started first. It could also be very dangerous. We saw cars which had left the road and turned over. I think that it's better to stay in the desert, out in the wide open spaces, to really appreciate the Dakar."
Yoshio Ikemachi did not have any problems. Having a decent gap from the car ahead of him, he did not suffer too much from this atrocious dust. He finished in 30th position and is currently 4th in the Production category.
Quite frankly, most of the car and motorbike competitors did not enjoy this day. The organisers had foreseen that it would be a transitional stage, and it proved to be so. The coming days will see the competitors face some major difficulties, as well as marking a return to the Dakar conditions everyone expects and loves. Tomorrow, leaving the Mali capital city and heading north, the rally will return to Sahel and Mauritania. After 200 km of fine tarmac, the special stage, 478 km long, is entirely new. This itinerary should please the drivers ! The stage will be fast, on a sandy track, with fine sweeping sections but also many changes of direction. The navigation should be the main factor. During the reconnaissance sessions undertaken by the organisers, it was necessary to make many detours to avoid wadis, which were still in flood. It should certainly be a fine day.