A day full of changes... Leaving the bivouac in the early hours of the morning (at 2 am...), the competitors reached the starting point of the special stage after 413 kilometres of liaison. It has to be said that this last stage, the longest of...
A day full of changes...
Leaving the bivouac in the early hours of the morning (at 2 am...), the competitors reached the starting point of the special stage after 413 kilometres of liaison. It has to be said that this last stage, the longest of the rally, was hardly restful ! The stage, which took place in the Sina? massif, alternated between magnificent green valleys and difficult, rocky, narrow passes. The last true stage before reaching the seaside resort of Sharm el Sheikh, the end point of the 25th edition of the Dakar.
Today, anything was possible ... and, as it turned out, everything happened. At the front after the first three checkpoints, with a healthy lead of 20 minutes, Giniel de Villiers, followed like a shadow by Ari Vatanen, lost the benefit of this advantage over just 20 km, when he got lost... The same misadventure befell Thierry De Lavergne, who arrived at the first checkpoint almost 90 minutes late. As for the leaders of the event, the day did not spare them either. St?phane Peterhansel lost the race today after hitting a rock, tearing off a wheel. Hiroshi Masuoka, who now has a lead of 1h54 over Fontenay, and 2h20 over his team-mate Peterhansel, will undoubtedly be crowned as the winner of the 25th Dakar tomorrow.
Giniel de Villiers was extremely disappointed this evening. Determined since the start of the rally to show his potential, and impatient to claim, at last, a stage win, he could have achieved his goal today. Inaccuracies in the road-book and a navigation error deprived him of that pleasure. Pascal Maimon was perhaps the most disappointed this evening. Ari, who was following Giniel, suffered the same fate. Nearly 25 km to find the right road -- and his lead melted like snow in the sunshine. Giniel finished 5'20 behind Biasion, with Ari 13'55 behind.
Alec Poole, the Nissan Rally Raid Team Team Manager, drew up the day's report : " The day was not that bad. Both our cars got to the service area without major problems. The special was particularly difficult and broken. Even if we are a bit disappointed not to get the result, Giniel and Ari proved the car's qualities on such hostile terrain. That's racing, and we know that anything can happen at any moment. St?phane Peterhansel's problems during today's stage can testify to that. It is true that Giniel is very disappointed this evening, and I can understand that. He had a 20-minute lead in the special stage, and then a navigation error penalised them by 25 km, taking Ari along with him. We had a good chance for a one-two, but that's life. When you see the problems that some other teams have had, we are not doing too badly. Ari, as always, was very philosophical after the stage. He knows the ups and downs of racing well, and accepts them. Tomorrow, Giniel's objective will be to try to take a place from Carlos Sousa, who he trails by just over 5 minutes, and to get into the Top 5. We will see, nothing is over yet..."
Thierry de Lavergne also had his fair share of problems today : " We took the wrong valley before the first checkpoint, and found ourselves in a difficult situation. To get out of the valley, we had to go cross-country over some big rocks, and my clutch did not stand up to what I was asking it to do. The car landed a few times on big rocks, and we couldn't go forwards or backwards. It was crazy ! After than, we really pushed hard, overtaking cars and trucks. Finally, we got out of the stage without too much damage.... It's a pity ! But considering what could have happened, we are not complaining. "
Sharm el Sheikh is the biggest seaside town of Sina?. With an extraordinary all-year climate, the transparent water has made it a favourite location for those who enjoy diving. Tomorrow, the final event of the rally will take place around Sharm, with a 34-km 'show' stage, which can be watched by all those guests invited to be present for the end of the rally. Mr Sasaki, the President of Nismo, will be among them, having travelled especially from Japan for the event.