Dakar: Repsol stage 11 report

THE LISBON DAKAR RALLY MOVES ON AND MARC COMA, SECOND TODAY, INCREASES HIS OVERALL LEAD On the difficult tracks of Mali, with countless variants and added difficulties, the Repsol rider increases his advantage in the overall lead to 34 minutes.


On the difficult tracks of Mali, with countless variants and added difficulties, the Repsol rider increases his advantage in the overall lead to 34 minutes. Alphand, third, was the fastest Repsol driver. Peterhansel still in the lead with Roma in a comfortable fourth place.

After yesterday's neutralised stage, today the bikers went back into action with the eleventh stage of the rally in Mali, covering 705 kms - 231 timed - between Kayes and Bamako. Participants entered the Sahel area, where it had rained a lot during the last rain season and therefore the terrain had changed significantly. In this stage, participants had their first serious contact with the slippery laterite tracks - volcanic gravel with a characteristic red colour. The plentiful vegetation and the several villages were also an added difficulty.

Navigation became a determining factor today and Repsol rider Marc Coma, navigating impeccably, was able to find and cross all narrow and hidden tracks, allowing him to gain valuable minutes over his immediate follower in the overall standings, Cyril Despres. Second today, behind local rider Duclos, Coma has already an advantage of 34 minutes and 24 seconds over Frenchman Despres, although, as he recognises, there are still very complicated days ahead and one marathon stage where the machines will have to be extremely taken care of.

Different luck for the rest of the Repsol riders in the Mali stage, with a highly competitive Giovanni Sala who finished thirteenth today but keeping his third place in the overall standings, Carlo De Gavardo sixth and fifth overall and young Jordi Viladoms eighth, moving up step by step and gathering experience, being now seventeenth overall.

In the car class, Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team driver Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret saw their overall lead in the 28th Dakar Rally trimmed to 25m 09s after the 231 kms, 11th special stage between Kayes and Bamako in the Republic of Mali, today. The French pair lost 19 minutes with a navigational error before the first passage control. Team mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard began the day's stage in 15th position on the road, after hitting a tree on Tuesday, and set the third fastest time in their Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution, behind stage winner Giniel de Villiers and Frenchman Bruno Saby. Alphand duly trimmed 14m 55s from his team mate's overall advantage, although Peterhansel remains 42m 19s ahead of stage winner De Villiers in the overall standings. Spaniard Joan 'Nani' Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne also fell foul of a similar navigational mistake before the first passage control and arrived in Bamako with the 13th fastest time. But main rival Jutta Kleinschmidt crashed into a hole, cannoned into a tree and damaged her steering and suspension and Roma found himself in an unchallenged fourth place in the overall classification, as teams prepared for Thursday's Marathon stage into Guinea.

The statements

Marc Coma: "Today was a really complicated stage, both as regards the technical level and navigation. Although there were not many kilometres to cover, only 230, we had to work on each one of them; we suffered a lot. We came across the first laterite tracks, but it's been beautiful. The most important is that we're here and that things have worked out well. I'm happy with the stage I've done, but there are still four days to go, including one marathon stage that will be very complicated. But we're calm."

Carlo De Gavardo: "I'm still deeply sorry for what happened to Andy. I was the rider who knew him best, because we were from the same generation. It's been a really a harsh blow. I'm having trouble to get back the pace and I didn't want to go crazy. Today was a stage with a lot of navigation, so I decided to set a medium but safe speed. In this sense I'm satisfied because I didn't make any mistake, although I'm not really happy."

Jordi Viladoms: "Today's stage went very well. It seemed short because there were not many kilometres and because you were working all the time with the road book. I made good navigation, getting all crossings right and I think that eighth is a good result."

Giovanni Sala: "We've arrived at the Savannah and it's been a complicated stage as regards navigation. There were many tracks and it was difficult to get the right one. I didn't make any serious mistake; I might have covered some hundred additional metres. The problem was that I came across many riders, a lot of dust and several holes; it's been impossible to overtake. It was very dangerous and I didn't want to risk the whole job with a crash, so I took it with ease until the finish. I'm satisfied of not having made any significant mistake."

Luc Alphand: "I made my mistake yesterday and there will be no more risks from my side over the next few days. I think that Giniel is playing his last joker with the speed he drove at today. That is not a pace safe enough to reach Dakar. Tomorrow I will try and catch Bruno Saby's dust and try and pass without risks, but it could be an interesting day..."

Stephane Peterhansel: "It was a bad day. There was a small track and we went the wrong way for four kilometres and then came back the wrong way for another four kilometres. Then we found the correct track, but we were in the thick dust behind Carlos Sousa. I used the horn, but we followed behind him for over 120 kms. Luc started 15th today and had a good time, so maybe we will not lose too much time in the dust tomorrow."

Nani Roma: "I saw Stephane's car and he took a track to the left. He doubled back and we followed and then he turned again. I followed him for about six kilometres and then we realised our mistake. The road book was very vague. It was our team's mistake, but the book was so confusing. After that we were just driving in dust. It was too dangerous to take risks."

Dominique Serieys, Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director: "We must congratulate Giniel de Villiers today on his great stage win. He proved that he is a very talented driver and a potential winner of the Dakar Rally in the future. Two of our drivers lost some time today, but we remain in a strong position and Stephane and Luc will try and maintain a safe pace for the last few days."


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Luc Alphand , Henri Magne , Jutta Kleinschmidt , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Gilles Picard , Carlos Sousa , Giniel de Villiers , Cyril Despres , Giovanni Sala , Bruno Saby , Nani Roma , Marc Coma , Jordi Viladoms