VICTORY FOR CALDECOTT IN MOTORBIKES. NANI ROMA TAKES THE OVERALL LEAD IN THE CAR CLASS AFTER THE FIRST AFRICAN STAGE Repsol rider Andy Caldecott wins the stage with an advantage of more than 3 minutes. In the car class, Nani Roma finishes sixth...
VICTORY FOR CALDECOTT IN MOTORBIKES. NANI ROMA TAKES THE OVERALL LEAD IN THE CAR CLASS AFTER THE FIRST AFRICAN STAGE
Repsol rider Andy Caldecott wins the stage with an advantage of more than
In the car class, Nani Roma finishes sixth and takes the lead in the overall standings
Positive first contact with African grounds for all Repsol riders and drivers, with Andy Caldecott winning the bike's special and Nani Roma taking the overall lead in the car class after setting the sixth fastest time of the day. This third stage of the rally, the first in Africa, was recovered by the organisation for this edition, because it had only been raced in three of the 28 editions of the Dakar Rally. With a total of 672 kms, this special made participants aware about the fact, that Europe and comfort have been left behind and that they are now entering Africa.
Marc Coma, who finished sixth today, keeps the second place in the overall standings, a bit more than one minute behind the leader, Frenchman Despres. Marc did not want to take any risk today and preferred to ride keeping a good safety margin. Carlo de Gavardo was also prudent, but managed to finish fourth and is already fifth overall. Caldecott's excellent performance allowed him to move up to fourth in the overall standings, almost four minutes behind the leader. Jordi Viladoms, who continues with his learning process, was twenty-eighth today, while Giovanni Sala finished fourteenth, after some navigation mistakes.
After a 237 kms road section, participants had to cover the 314 kms of the special stage that took them through the Recam Plateau, bordering the frontier to Algeria. They all expected an easy day, but today's stage made them remember that Africa hides many traps - and especially Morocco - with its tracks filled with stones and treacherous holes. The new route running through treacherous waids and the intense rainfall in autumn which damaged the terrain took many participants to make the first navigation mistakes. Although it is a well-know area for the Repsol riders, the several ditches created by the recent rainfall meant an major danger, thus giving even more importance to the road book in order to avoid frights and crashes.
In the car class, the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart team, with Nani Roma in the lead, holds, first, second, sixth and ninth overall place after the second, third, sixth and eleventh places taken by its drivers Hiroshi Masuoka, Stephane Peterhansel, Nani Roma and Luc Alphand on today's stage. Spanish driver Nani Roma and Andorra-based co-driver Henry Magne had begun the day in fourth place before setting the sixth fastest time of the day on their arrival at the finish in Beni Tadjite. After this first stage on African grounds, the result has allowed them to become provisional overall leaders of the 2006 Dakar Rally. Completing the positive day of the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart team, Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka and French co-driver Pascal Maimon, set the second fastest time in another Mitsubishi Montero Evolution, behind French stage winner Jean-Louis Schlesser.
Masuoka and Maimon, with whom he won the Dakar Rally for the first time in 2002, held third overall through the opening passage control, but were the first car across the finish line after starting sixth on the road. The other two members of the Repsol team finished the stage in third and eleventh position and are now sixth and ninth in the overall standings. Defending champion, Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret, who had entered Africa in tenth position in the overall standings, rose to sixth place after finishing the special with the third fastest time. Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard were the mostly harmed by the dust of the stage. They took the start behind the early leader Carlos Sainz but slipped to ninth in the results after losing time in rivals' dust.
Andy Caldecott: "Winning today's stage has been a big surprise. I think that I've been lucky with navigation. Other riders who started ahead of me had some orientation problems, such as Cyril, who, despite getting lost, managed to find the right way quickly. I felt very comfortable on the bike, I had a good pace and in the end managed to win the stage and that's been fantastic."
Carlo De Gavardo: "I'm happy with today's special, because we've had a little bit of everything. I gave it all throughout the route, despite the several rocks and eroded sections that made it very dangerous. But I was very careful in order not to crash even though the bike was shaking a lot. I made a small mistake when I caught Cyril Despres, but we quickly found the right way to follow. There was however no complication, so the valuation is very positive."
Marc Coma: "Today we've been able to see how complicated the rally will be, especially as regards navigation. We must be very concentrated at all times, because any little lapse may mean a big mistake. I started alone this morning, but around km 9 I found the first lost riders; in fact, all riders that had started ahead of me, except for Isidre, had got lost. That's when I lost some minutes, trying to find the right track. Eventually I found it without loosing too much time. From then on, and on the right track, I was able to set a higher pace until the end, when I had to suffer a bit due to the tyre. Today, except for the small mistake I made at the beginning, things went well. We have to be calm, enjoy and move on."
Giovanni Sala: "The first stage in Morocco has finished with a little mistake and some lost minutes. I took the wrong track at the beginning and, when I noticed I had to ride back, loosing time. Then I lost some more time looking for a masked waypoint, which was finally cancelled by the organisation because it was badly signalled. The dust made things hard as well and it was better not to take risks under those conditions."
Jordi Viladoms: "I took it with easy and calmly. Maybe too much at the beginning, because several riders passed me, but as the stage moved on and I saw what everything looked like, I was able to set a better pace. I caught the group, but then the dust made it impossible to overtake them. I had to stay behind and wait until the dust had settled. What I also wanted to do is to follow the road book and not the wheel tracks of the other motorbikes to learn something. I'm happy in general terms with my first African stage."
Nani Roma: "I am very surprised and happy to be leading. I just tried to reach the finish without any mistakes. I had no real problems and I will continue with this strategy tomorrow - just drive and make no mistakes. It is dangerous to push in the dust. At one point there were 10 or 15 bikes together."
Hiroshi Masuoka: "Today there was a lot of dust. We drove for about 200 kms with Carlos (Sainz), Luc and (Nasser) Al-Attiyah. Then I overtook Luc, Carlos lost his way a little and I was in second position. Then I overtook Nasser and was first at the end of the stage. There were many motorcycles."
Stephane Peterhansel: "Today's stage was difficult with the number of bikes and cars running closely together. I kept my distance to avoid the dust and to avoid having any problems in some big holes in the rocky tracks."
Luc Alphand: "We let Carlos, Nasser and Hiroshi passed us today and then we were in dust. If you want to finish the stage safely you need to leave a gap behind the car in front in the dust. It was just like a long train of cars and bikes today. There was no chance to get into a rhythm."
Dominique Serieys, Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Team Director: "We opted for a safe strategy over the first few days in Morocco, but it is very pleasing to be, not only in touch with our rivals, but actually leading the rally with the first two places. Nani' has really benefited from his recent experience and again proved that we have four drivers who can win the Dakar this year. I told our drivers that Volkswagen are the main rivals, but we should also watch out for Jean-Louis Schlesser and Robbie Gordon and 'Schless' proved the point and was the fastest today. We will maintain our strategy and see what develops. But it was a good day for us."
Stage 4. Er Rachidia-Ouarzazate. 3 January
Liaison: 56 kms - Special: 386 kms - Liaison: 197 kms.
The fourth stage of the rally, 639 kms in length with start in Er Rachidia and finish in Ouarzazate, takes participants back to the classical route, although including some novelties to turn the 386-kms special into the most varied and complete of the rally. Riders and drivers will see the first dunes, before facing chotts and waids on their way to Ouarzazate. This stage had been included in the route for several years, but the organisation has already announced, that the tracks are going to be different to those participants already know. In addition to having to deal with the first dunes, riders and drivers will have to run along the stony Moroccan tracks, using their best of skills to overcome the traps of the terrain. From Er Rachidia to Ouarzazate, the terrain changes a lot; fast, stony tracks at the beginning, then dunes and finally fast tracks in the middle of the desert. The last section is much more winding because it is the entrance to the Atlas mountain area.