Colin McRae climbs to third place in the overall classification Giniel de Villiers and Colin McRae set the 2nd and 3rd times respectively in today's special stage. Colin has risen to 3rd place in the overall classification, after his penalty for...
Colin McRae climbs to third place in the overall classification
Giniel de Villiers and Colin McRae set the 2nd and 3rd times respectively in today's special stage. Colin has risen to 3rd place in the overall classification, after his penalty for speeding was removed. Giniel is now lying in 4th position. Ari Vatanen suffered a flooded engine while fording a river, forcing him to stop for nearly three hours. A bad day for the Finnish line-up...
The Dakar caravan reached Tan Tan this evening, the final Moroccan bivouac before crossing into Mauritania tomorrow, for the first Marathon stage. As had been predicted, today's 351 km special stage claimed some victims. A stage that did not forgive the slightest driving error, with a fast-paced start, followed by a route full of potential traps.
Yesterday evening, Giniel de Villiers was awarded a five-minute penalty for having passed too far from a GPS point (over 200 metres) during the special stage between Er Rachidia and Ouarzazate. After this penalty, the South African lost two places in the overall classification. This morning, determined to set the right pace in this tricky stage, he was concentrating very hard. It was a nearly perfect day, as he finished only 2 min 57' behind Masuoka and claimed fourth place in the overall classification.
"Today's stage was very fast, with plenty of potential traps. It did not go too badly for us. However, we had quite a scare when fording a river. We plunged into a hole, and the water went up to the bonnet. The sprays of water were enormous. Water even came in through the ventilation vents on the roof. I accelerated so that we were able to get out of that spot of trouble. Then we lost our wing over a bumpy section. Apart from these little incidents, we have had no problems with the car. I think we managed to maintain a good rhythm without taking any stupid risks."
Behind him, his team-mate Colin McRae set an excellent third-fastest time : "I was bothered by the dust in today's special stage. You really can't drive when the visibility is so poor. There is no point trying slightly crazy things or to try to attack, because you have to keep on remembering that the rally is far from over.
Tomorrow's stage will be a long one, and I am preparing myself psychologically for the long distances, which I am not used to. Tina tells me regularly how many kilometres are left on each stage, and that helps me a lot. Visibly, the pace we have set is not so bad ... but it will only be the day after tomorrow, when we have got through the first Marathon stage, that we will have tackled all the conditions that you can encounter on the Dakar."
The penalty of 7 minutes and 30 seconds that he had been given yesterday was not confirmed by the readout from his GPS system. As for four other competitors in similar situations, the Sporting Stewards have removed all the penalties awarded yesterday.
The only problem encountered by both Nissan Pickup vehicles was the loss of their wing over bumpy sections, but this incident did not prevent them from finishing in the top positions.
Unlike his team-mates, Ari Vatanen did not have a problem-free day. Going through a ford at km 117, his engine flooded. Forced to stop, the Finnish driver had to wait nearly two and a half hours before he could start again. A lot of time lost, and many places in the overall classification have disappeared...
"We crossed over a hole, perhaps the deepest of all the wadi ... a lot of water got into the engine. We started to dismantle it, but unfortunately we didn't have a spark plug socket wrench. René Metge and Bernard Chevalier stopped and lent us this indispensable tool. After emptying out all the water, we were able to get going again without problems, but we lost a lot of time. I am a bit disappointed this evening, but that's the Dakar for you..."
Yoshio Ikemachi and Thierry Delli Zotti also arrived quite late at Tan Tan. After stopping nearly an hour to help Ari, they had to drive in the dust thrown up by the trucks, and also had to overtake many slower vehicles. But Yoshio appreciated the exercise, as well as the Dakar spirit ... their Patrol did not have the slightest problem over this route full of potential traps.
Gilles Martineau, the Team Manager, gave a short report after these first days of the race : " I am satisfied with everyone's positions, considering the relatively late preparation of the cars. If Ari had not had his little problem, we would have had a fine group finish. At the moment, we are playing for position. Our rivals have also had some problems. We have to wait another day or two to see how the vehicles behave over the longer stages."
Tomorrow's stage will be a first judge for all those competitors still in the race. A "Marathon Stage" means that there will be no assistance at the evening bivouac. All the teams will therefore have to cope alone. They will start from Tan Tan in the night for 345 kilometres of liaison. This will be followed by over 700 kilometres of special stage in Mauritania, including the famous Oumaghawaba Erg, the only access route into Atar, the end of this stage...