Dakar: Repsol stage 12 report

MARC COMA'S SECOND POSITION IN THIS COMPLICATED STAGE STRENGTHENS HIS LEAD IN THE OVERALL STANDINGS The Repsol rider has an advantage of 32 minutes with three days to go. Sweet-sour day for the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team, after ...


The Repsol rider has an advantage of 32 minutes with three days to go. Sweet-sour day for the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team, after Peterhansel lost his leadership following an accident to team mate Alphand

Riders and drivers of the Dakar Rally have visited, or rather flown low over Guinea, for the first time since 1996. A total of 872 kms covered, starting from Bamako and arriving in Labe, made this stage the second longest stage of the rally and in addition, given the fact that it is a marathon rally, not allowing any mechanical assistance, both participants and machines are intensively suffering during their visit to Guinea.

In the motorbike class, Marc Come is firmly riding towards Dakar, leading the overall standings. He ceded some 2 minutes to his highest rival Frenchman Despres today - Despres won the special and Coma finished second - but his advantage of 32 minutes and 39 seconds allows him to ride without taking too many risks for the rest of the race. The third place of honour is for Repsol KTM team mate Giovanni Sala. The Italian bent the brake disc of his KTM and lost a lot of time repairing it, but finally managed to finish 21st fastest, 39m59s behind the lead, keeping his third place in the overall standings. Chilean rider Carlo de Gavardo had problems too. Trying to pass a deep river, he got stuck and lost around thirty minutes. He managed however to cross the finish line in 22nd place 44m48s behind Despres and keeps his fifth overall place in the standings. A special highlight was the performance of the team's junior member, Jordi Viladoms, who keeps on improving in his first participation in the Dakar setting an impressive seventh fastest time today, moving up to the thirteenth place in the overall standings.

After a morning liaison of 197 kms, participants faced today a 368 kms special, followed by a 307 km road section that took them to the bivouac in Labe. The layout, very varied, combined fast laterite tracks with some enduro-like sections, which were in worse state and took them through the forest and water fords. These tracks are rather trial like, but wider, and need a very technical riding/driving style. There is plentiful vegetation in the area, as well as dust and animals. But the major difficulty of the stage lied in the several critical navigation points; where making a mistake meant riding/driving all the way back to take the right way.

In the car class Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team driver Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret lost the outright lead of the 28th Dakar Rally to team mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard, after a dramatic 368 kms special stage between Bamako and Labe in the Republic of Guinea, today. Defending champion Peterhansel had begun the day with a 25-minute lead over his team mate and was classified fifth through the first passage control.

But the Frenchman stopped 15 kms from the second control point after hitting a tree and damaging his Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution at the 278 kms point. He lost a little over one hour making repairs to the rear left-hand suspension and transmission of the car, but was forced to stop again shortly after the second passage control. The crew were still waiting for the Mitsubishi assistance truck near the end of the stage. Peterhansel crossed finally the finish line little over three hours after Alphand and is now fourth in the overall standings. Team mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard had been fastest overall at the 214 kms point, until they caught Bruno Saby's dust. They passed the Frenchman before PC2 and arrived at the control in the dust of front-runner Giniel de Villiers. But last year's runner-up went on to set the outright fastest time and moved into the overall lead of the event for the first time in his career. He will take a 20m 31s advantage over De Villiers and 1n 20m 46s over his team mate Nani Roma, who is third. The Spanish driver and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne began the day unchallenged in fourth place and were sixth through the opening passagecontrol and eighth through PC2. They completed the stage in sixth position and moved up to third overall following Peterhansel's problems.

The statements

Marc Coma: "Today we found tracks with a lot of sand and big holes. The Organisation had announced that there was going to be a lot of laterite on the roads today, but in the end there wasn't. It's been a very dangerous stage, so I preferred to set a good pace, to avoid risks and mistakes, and therefore I didn't try to attack. I'll have to do some smaller fixings on the bike tonight, but nothing serious."

Carlo De Gavardo: "Today hasn't been a much favourable stage. At the beginning of the special the road book stopped working and I had a lot of trouble navigating. That made me take a wrong way and enter a very deep river ford, where the engine stalled. When I got out of the water, some local people helped me to raise the bike to let the water out and I had to dismantle the carburettor, take out the spark plugs and dry everything. That made me loose a lot of time. Then I took up the route again trying to shorten the distance but it was very dangerous, because I could hardly see anything due to the dust. I lost a lot of time and I'm not happy at all. I hope that tomorrow will be a better day."

Luc Alphand: "My goal was to catch up Giniel, to gain a few minutes on him, just to increase a bit my advantage at the overall. Since I shot a tree two days ago, I no longer thought about the overall victory. But first of all, I am disappointed since Mitsubishi lost a car today. There are still two stages to complete, and I only have a little twenty minutes advantage on Giniel. One or two punctures, a tree, a stone... I know that anything can happen. But tomorrow, I will have the advantage of starting first. The others will have to attack to overtake me. I won't lie. I am very pleased to take the lead, even if it is sad for Peterhansel."

Dominique Serieys, director del equipo Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart: "I said in Nouakchott that anything can happen at any time on this race. Stephane had a collision with a tree today, but Luc did a great job for us. We had a lead of over one hour, but then we had navigation trouble and both our drivers hit a tree, so now Luc must be very careful. I am pleased that he is first on the road on Friday. It means he will stay out of the dust. Nani will need to try and protect Luc without taking any risks."

Tomorrow's stage
Stage 13. Labe-Tambacounda. 13 January
Liaison: 7 kms - Special: 348 kms - Liaison: 212 kms

After a short visit to Guinea, the Rally will reach Senegal tomorrow. The caravan will continue its route through the Savannah, where they will find several fast tracks with laterite combined with slower and more complicated ones. The peculiarity of this 567-kms stage, starting in Labe and arriving in Tambacounda, is that participants will reach the highest mountain top of the rally, with almost 1,000 metres in height, when travelling along several mountain passes. It will once again be a hard riding/driving stage, where they will have to watch out with navigation and take care of the machines, which have already suffered a lot in this marathon stage.


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Luc Alphand , Henri Magne , Jean-Paul Cottret , Gilles Picard , Giovanni Sala , Bruno Saby , Nani Roma , Marc Coma , Carlo de Gavardo , Jordi Viladoms