Dakar: Repsol stage eight report

The Toughest Side of The Dakar The race is starting to get harder; and the most expert participants get ready for what is yet to come... The Dakar is starting to show its less friendly side and there's no more celebration or relaxing. Bad ...

The Toughest Side of The Dakar

The race is starting to get harder; and the most expert participants get ready for what is yet to come...

The Dakar is starting to show its less friendly side and there's no more celebration or relaxing. Bad weather, important lack of far-sightedness of the organisation and the excessive hardness of the last stages have broken the race completely. It's more or less the same situation as last year...

In the 2004 Dakar, the havoc caused by the Tan Tan-Atar stage was solved with supposed threats and lack of safety in Mali, leading to the cancellation of the following stage, which allowed regrouping the caravan. In this Dakar 2005, it's been the stage from Zouerat to Tichit that has taken good part of the race with it. It was the first day of the marathon stage riders and drivers had to deal with, but a serious mistake of the organisation as regards the fuel for motorbike riders left many of them in the lurch, in the middle of the dunes. Consequence: well, what was supposed to be the second day of the marathon stage, a 520-km special to be run today between Tichit a Tidjikja, became yesterday evening a special of a bit more than 100km and ended-up this morning in nothing due to the inclemency of the weather. The fog and the intense sand storm in the area have allowed riders, drivers, assistances and organisers to have a little rest, and it will be a big help to regroup the race in Tidjikja.

Despite everything happened these last days, the three riders of the KTM Repsol Team are still in the race and are now in the Tidjikja bivouac recovering and checking the road book for tomorrow. The one who suffered most yesterday was Isidre Esteve, who, due to the fuel problem, was left in the middle of the track after CP2, a bit more than twenty kilometres before the arrival. In the end, Esteve lost "only" ten minutes due to this incident because fortunately, his team-mate Giovanni Sala, arrived and gave him some of his fuel to let Isidre reach the finish. For Esteve, "what happened yesterday with the fuel was a lack of precaution that ended up with many riders left in the dunes, without fuel, giving way to very tense situations. When I arrived at CP2, there was a group of riders in front of me that were already leaving. You usually take as much fuel as you need and move on. At CP1 they gave us 20 litres, enough to get to CP2, but from there to the finish, with only 20 litres more--, it was just impossible to cover the remaining 260 kilometres. So, together with my team-mate Sala I had to confront the marshal at the refuelling to insist that we should get more fuel. We managed to get 30 litres each, but we knew that it wouldn't be enough... Later on we found out that those riders who left ahead of us had got 40 litres...

And in the end it happened: I ran out of fuel. I was lucky that suddenly, like an apparition in the desert, Sala arrived and gave me fuel from his bike." Esteve, who is eighth in the overall standings, some 18 minutes behind the lead is not really satisfied with his performance so far. "I've made too many mistakes, that's why I'm in this position. Yesterday, for example, I crashed at km 20 of the special. These are the kind of mistake you should not make if you want to fight for the victory in the Dakar. But the race has still many surprises left and for the moment, these differences are recoverable. I watch my team-mate Marc doing very well, he is calm and he hasn't had any problem. In general terms, I think that all of those who are in the top positions are keeping calm. They know that the race is long and they are waiting for the others to make mistakes. Let's see what happens the next days..."

Marc Coma has made no mistake so far, he's calm and he knows that it's a long race. Right now he doesn't care at all whether he is first or second. He knows that there are many things yet to happen and that he has to wait for his moment, for his chance. So his leadership, with a 16-second advantage over Despres, is right now, almost nothing. "We've actually had three days of race; the stage from Agadir to Smara, from Smara to Zouerat and yesterday's stage from Zouerat to Tichit, and therefore it's too early to talk about leaders, approach for the race and things like that. The tough part of the race is starting now and that's when I start to feel better. I would have preferred today's stage not to be cancelled because there are hardly any differences between the top eight; down to Isidre we're separated by only 18 minutes and that's nothing at this stage of the race. I would have preferred a first gap to get opened, but we'll have to wait a little longer. I don't think that the leading riders are nervous or willing to increase the pace right now. I rather think that we're controlling each other, waiting to see who is the one who makes a mistake and gets out of the fight. The race is going to make its own natural selection, and I only hope that we, the riders of the KTM Repsol Team, are in the group of the fortunate. We'll have to stay cool during the next days. Now we're starting to feel tired, both physically and mentally; we're lacking hours of sleep and the pace is going to get faster. We'll move on with patience and concentration."

And while Marc and Isidre are planning their strategy to get ready to fight for the victory, with their team-mate Gio Sala taking good care of them, Nani Roma, now on four wheels and in his Mitsubishi Montero MPR11, continues moving forward in this edition of the Dakar. Nani was seventh fastest of the hard special between Zouerat to Tichit and is already sixth in the overall standings. His boss, Dominique Serieys, insists that he has to stay cool, keeping a calm pace and waiting for the rest stage in Atar to see where they are. But Nani and his team, without expecting it, found themselves up in the sixth position of the overall standings after the disaster of the Zouerat stage. "It's not the most important thing right now, there is a lot of Dakar left yet and tomorrow, a problem or a mistake can send us back to the positions we had only a couple of days ago. We have to keep on learning, trying not to make any mistake and keeping concentration until the end. The most important is to reach Dakar, because everyday I do a special is a further day of learning and this is actually what this is all about. The hardness of this rally is starting to become clear now and fortunately my whole team is still in the race, Peterhansel has taken the lead and Alphand has a good position as well. "

The truck driven by Jordi Juvanteny, Francesc Pardo and Jose Luis Criado is still in the race, they are fifteenth in the overall standings. Who could not continue in the race is Carlo de Gavardo, who suffered a crash yesterday and wasn't able to take the start today.

Stephane Peterhansel: "For us the position will still be the same, so it is not a major problem. But there are many teams still stuck in the dunes and in the sand with fuel problems".

Luc Alphand: "It is a decision which has been forced on the organizers and we must go along with that."

Hiroshi Masuoka: "It would have been a great chance for us to make up even more time and move up the leaderboard. The stage would have suited the Mitsubishi. Now we must wait until the stage into Atar to get back on track. A podium finish is still possible."


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Luc Alphand , Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Giovanni Sala , Nani Roma , Marc Coma , Carlo de Gavardo , Jordi Juvanteny , Jose Luis Criado , Francesc Pardo