Dakar: Repsol stage 13 report

THE VICTORY AND DAKAR GETTING CLOSER TO REPSOL RIDERS AND DRIVERS With one complicated stage left to arrive at Lake Rose, Marc Coma and Luc Alphand face the final straight of the Dakar Rally leading the car and motorbike leaderboards After a...


With one complicated stage left to arrive at Lake Rose, Marc Coma and Luc Alphand face the final straight of the Dakar Rally leading the car and motorbike leaderboards

After a short visit to Guinea, the rally arrived today in Senegal, and although there is still the difficult stage of tomorrow -Tambacounda-Dakar, with a special of 254 kms and two road sections, the first one of 107 kms and the second of 237 kms -, the truth is that the caravan of participants who have managed to reach this point of the race feel closer to "home". After covering 8,299 kms, there are only two specials left - the second at Lake Rose- and 744 kms to finish this 2006 Lisbon Dakar Rally.

Today Marc Coma, who is moving firmly but sensibly towards his first victory in the Dakar Rally, was fourth, giving a little over one minute to Frenchman Despres, highest rival of the Repsol rider in the fight for the final victory. Marc's advantage of 31m16s allows him to face the specials of tomorrow and Sunday with a certain comfort, although without loosing concentration and lowering his guard. The victory of the special went today to the brave Repsol rider Giovanni Sala, who strengthened even more his third overall position in one of his best participations in the Dakar. Carlo de Gavardo, who had a lot of technical problems yesterday and confirms that now he will only be able to fight to secure his fifth place in the overall standings, finished 16th today, 27m56s behind team mate Sala. And young Viladoms, big revelation of this 2006 Lisbon Dakar Rally, confirms his progression day after day, and today setting the sixth fastest time, becomes stronger in his excellent eleventh position in the overall standings.

In the car class Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team driver Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard extended their overall lead in the 28th Dakar Rally to 22m 13s, after winning their second successive special stage between Labe in Guinea and Tambacounda in eastern Senegal, today. The French crew had begun this morning's stage first on the road and with a lead of 20m 31s over South African Giniel de Villiers. They took advantage of a clear track to post the fastest time at both the first and second passage controls and Alphand maintained his pace to the stage finish. Spaniard Joan 'Nani' Roma and Andorra- based co-driver Henri Magne began the day sixth on the road and in third place. Roma was seventh through PC1 and finished the section with the fifth fastest time to maintain the final podium place on the penultimate major African stage. Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret had arrived in the Labe bivouac at 20.10 hrs on Thursday evening, after losing three hours with damaged rear suspension following an accident. The defending champions began this morning's stage in 60th place on the road, after losing 3h 10m on Thursday and slipping to fourth overall. But they began a charge through the backmarkers over today's stage and had overtaken more than 30 slower cars by the first PC to post the eighth fastest time. Peterhansel was up to seventh at PC2 and completed the stage in seventh place to maintain fourth overall.

The statements

Giovanni Sala: "It's been a complicated day because I was starting from the back and I had to overtake several riders who were slower than me. The first eighty kilometres had a lot of dust and there were several holes; it was easy to crash. I tried to set a fast pace, but without taking risks. Then the hilly section began, where I knew that I could be a bit faster, because it's a terrain I manage quite good. I pushed and when I saw that the American was still refuelling I pushed harder to recover some more time. I was able to win the stage with this strategy and that makes me very happy."

Marc Coma: "Today the machine was a bit weaker because we had the marathon stage yesterday, but it's been the same for all of us. The stage has been beautiful; I enjoyed it a lot because it was enduro-like. Easy as regards navigation, but with a lot of dust and riding technique. Moreover, we had to find the right pace in order not to force the machine too much and keep the rear tyre. Tomorrow's stage will be short, not so many kilometres, but complicated because there will be several changes of direction. It will be more complicated than people think."

Jordi Viladoms: "When you start from the front it's a bit easier. Although the dust is still there, the fact of the first riders starting separated by 2 minutes makes it less disturbing, you have more references on how the stage is going and it gives you the chance to dose. Today's stage has been physically hard because it demanded a lot of riding technique. There were many stones and closed bends and the bike is big. It felt a little long but I'm happy. We're getting closer every day."

Carlo De Gavardo: "I'm calm and without problems. I made a good special although it was very slow and technical. Due to the large amount of suspended dust, I was very concentrated avoiding to make mistakes and to be penalised again due to the speed. That's why I didn't take any more risks than necessary trying to catch the riders ahead. The difference with respect to the fourth and sixth is big and it would have been of no use in this stage. Only a mistake would have allowed me to get closer, but right now we're all looking to finish the Dakar, which has been, with no doubt, sweet and sour. Technically, my bike has worked well and thanks to the competing KTM truck I was able to solve the problem with the road book that made me dive yesterday. I hope to make a good stage tomorrow, looking forward to reaching Dakar and that's very satisfying. It would be even more satisfying if I could achieve one of my aims, which is nothing more than doing it within the top five. I hope everything works out fine."

Luc Alphand: "It was a big advantage to be first on the road We had an excellent pace, but were under pressure from Giniel and wanted to make no mistakes with the navigation. It was a tough stage with many turns, like a trial sometimes in first gear among the rocks. I knew that the BMW was not far behind as well, so it was quite exciting. We can control the race tomorrow. We can let Giniel past and then follow the dust. To be here was the goal. We hit a rock, but all is okay."

Nani Roma: "I can sense Dakar is very close. Today I had two punctures and broke a wheel. Every kilometer was so dangerous. It is not possible to catch Giniel now, but we have a big lead over Stephane and will be able to drive our own race on Saturday. I am not concerned with the VWs. The race and my destiny are in my own hands."

Dominique Serieys, Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director: "Luc was first on the road and I suppose he drove a perfect stage today. He showed that he can cope with the pressure of being in front. I am sure that our cars and those of our competitors are not as strong as they were at the start in Portugal. It was been a very tough rally. But I am confident that Luc and Gilles can hold off the cars behind. It has been a great competition so far - a really exciting race. Stephane did a good job today. He is a champion, but he made a mistake yesterday. We must remember that he is a human being and not a machine."


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Luc Alphand , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Gilles Picard , Giniel de Villiers , Giovanni Sala , Nani Roma , Marc Coma , Carlo de Gavardo , Jordi Viladoms