Dakar: Repsol stage six report

CARLO DE GAVARDO WINS THE SIXTH AND FIRST MAURITANIAN STAGE The Repsol rider was fastest in the complicated stage going from Morocco to Mauritania. Team mate Marc Coma, fifth today, strengthens his position in the overall lead Repsol KTM Team...


The Repsol rider was fastest in the complicated stage going from Morocco to Mauritania. Team mate Marc Coma, fifth today, strengthens his position in the overall lead

Repsol KTM Team rider Carlo de Gavardo was the winner of the sixth special of the rally, the first on Mauritanian ground, raced today between Tan Tan and Zouerat. The Chilean rider took the victory of this already classical Dakar stage, ahead of his team mate Gio Sala, who set the second fastest time and is already seventh in the overall standings. Marc Coma, fifth fastest today, keeps the overall leadership, enlarging the advantage over his rivals. The Repsol rider has already a plus of 3 minutes and 43 seconds over Després, and 4 minutes and 25 seconds over Esteve, who is third. De Gavardo was one of the first riders to reach the finish in Zouerat, together with Isidre Esteve, his team mate Marc Coma, who was fifth, and Ciryl Després. The French rider suffered a heavy crash on kilometre 273, hurting his shoulder. At first it seemed that Després would not be able to stay in the rally but the doctors, after doing the corresponding examinations and applying a support bandage, allowed him to continue in the race. Andy Caldecott arrived in sixth place, ten minutes behind the quartet and after having been riding almost all day in solitary. With a good performance, the Australian is now fifth in the overall standings. Today was also a positive day for the team's junior, Jordi Viladoms, who finished the stage in a meritorious ninth position, allowing him to climb up six positions in the leader board.

The sixth stage of the rally has been a long stage as regards time, but not the longest in kilometres (792 kms in total). The first riders left the bivouac in Tan Tan around 1 o'clock at night to cover the 336 kms road section first on an asphalt road and then on a track, in the dark, to reach the border between the Sahara and Mauritania -renowned and known among participants as "The Wall"-, where the first riders arrived at around 4 o'clock in the morning. They had then the chance to have a fundamental rest of some hours before taking the start of the timed stage early in the morning. The first rider to take the start of the 444-kms special was Cyril Després at 8 o'clock and only two minutes later it was the turn of Repsol KTM team rider Marc Coma. The start was located on the other side of the border, a mined area with only one delimited passage track that has to be covered under daylight and with precision in order to minimise the risk. The first stage took participants along the last sinuous tracks of the Sahara to then enter the large extension of the Mauritanian desert. It is a very fast and straight area, with the first big challenges as regards navigation. Precision in following the CAP and the road book were essential. Towards the middle of the stage, participants faced a sand track, extension of the Mauritanian desert, and later on the first dune chains. After a first contact with the camel grass, riders and drivers took again a fast track to the finish in Zouerat.

In the car class, the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart team completed the first timed special stage in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania in fifth, sixth and 12th positions and team drivers Luc Alphand, Stéphane Peterhansel and Nani Roma now hold fifth, ninth and 10th in the overall classification. Defending champion and winner of yesterday's stage Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret were the first crew into the stage today. The French duo was aware that the lightweight Buggies would have the advantage on the high-speed piste, which was a feature of the stage in northern Mauritania. Today's timed section was duly won by Frenchman Thierry Magnaldi followed by team mate Jean Louis Schlesser, both in a Buggy, with Spaniard Carlos Sainz slipping 22 seconds behind South African team mate Giniel de Villiers in the overall classification after six special stages. Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard began the day in the final podium place and arrived at Zouérat setting the fifth fastest time, thus moving up to fifth overall, 2 minutes behind the leader. Spaniard Nani Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne were 12th quickest today and now hold 10th place in the overall standings.

The statements

Carlo De Gavardo: "Today we've had a fantastic, beautiful stage with a lot of dunes and very fast. I'm very happy to have won. It's a big satisfaction, because more than a victory, this has been one of my best stages. I did good navigation, set a high pace and made no mistake entering Mauritania. Therefore it is a double victory. From now on, as I've already said other times, the Dakar becomes aggressive and unpredictable. Anything can happen and you have to be ready. Winning today's stage is very good because tomorrow we'll start in reverse order, meaning that I won't have to open the track. It will be, however, a very dangerous stage and since the leaders will probably get lost and leave several wheel tracks, we'll have to be very careful. We cannot rely on the tracks and we'll have to trust our own orientation, the road book and the GPS. I hope that everything will work out well. I want to thank everybody, especially those in Chile, who are following me and supporting me. My victory is also for them."

Giovanni Sala: "Today things went really good. I've felt much more confident on the bike in this fourth stage in Africa. I also did good navigation and now I only have to recover some speed. During the first section, I found a lot of dust, but later, in the dunes, everything worked out better; I made things right as regards navigation because I took the right CAP. In the last section, on the camel grass, I tried to push a bit harder to make up some time. The last section was a bit more complicated, but in the end I managed to finish second. I'm very happy and this result makes me feel in high spirits to continue."

Marc Coma: "The first stage in Mauritania has been very long. The first part was very fast and after the refuelling we found the off-road sections and the first dunes. It was then when Cyril suffered the crash and both Isidre and I, and also Carlo, who arrived there later, stopped to help him. We lost a bit of time, but that doesn't matter, what really matters is that he's all right. We are people above all and this is the spirit of the Dakar. We restarted all together and when he told us that he felt better, we increased the pace. It was a bit difficult to regain concentration at the beginning but bit by bit it went better. Cyril managed to follow us quite well and we reached the finish in group."

Andy Caldecott: "The sixth stage went quite good. I'm satisfied with my riding style; I've felt very comfortable and the bike worked very well. We have already a couple of long days behind us and I'm happy with my position in the standings and how things are working out. It was important to arrive here in good conditions and I think that I have."

Jordi Viladoms: I enjoyed today's stage a lot, although I didn't like it much at the beginning. There were very fast, straight tracks, where you had to continuously control the speed, but it went well because I was able to overtake several riders. I caught David Fretigné and stayed at his wheel to learn. We found our way almost until the finish, where I ran out of fuel in the front tank and had to stop to change the tap. Then I lost him. My aim was improving the position I had yesterday and I did, so I'm very happy."

Luc Alphand: "It was a case of surviving today. It was not really a stage suited to the strengths of the Mitsubishis. It was interesting to compare our speed with the Volkswagens and now they have the twin turbo engines, there is really very little difference between us in terms of the top speed. We crossed the first camel grass and the first dunes and I feel I have arrived in Africa now. We have to push to stay in the group. I feel that our team's experience and car reliability will be the key to winning this race. Tomorrow I will start in the middle of the leading group and that is great. That will place less of a burden on navigation."

Stéphane Peterhansel: "This morning I said that a Buggy could be leading tonight and I was early right. It was a very fast stage. We were fine with the navigation, but we did not expect to win the stage today. I will start in sixth place in the morning and I feel that this could give me a little advantage. We will see."

Nani Roma: "It was not the best of stages for me. I need more experience in the camel grass and the dunes. I followed close behind Mark Miller and lost some time in the dust, but I am happy at the moment. I will keep plugging away and make sure that I make no mistakes. Tomorrow is a hard day and one mistake could cost you 10 minutes and your place in the top group of cars. It is that close at the moment."


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Series Dakar
Drivers Mark Miller , Carlos Sainz , Luc Alphand , Jean-Louis Schlesser , Henri Magne , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Gilles Picard , Giniel de Villiers , Cyril Despres , Giovanni Sala , Nani Roma , Marc Coma , Carlo de Gavardo , David Fretigne , Andy Caldecott , Jordi Viladoms , Thierry Magnaldi