Dakar: Repsol stage two report

THE DAKAR RALLY LEAVES EUROPE AND WILL ARRIVE IN AFRICA TONIGHT The first African special will start tomorrow. Marc Coma fifth today and second in the overall standings; Giovanni Sala tenth and Carlo de Gavardo thirteenth. Roma already third in...

THE DAKAR RALLY LEAVES EUROPE AND WILL ARRIVE IN AFRICA TONIGHT

The first African special will start tomorrow. Marc Coma fifth today and second in the overall standings; Giovanni Sala tenth and Carlo de Gavardo thirteenth. Roma already third in the car overall standings.

The second stage of the 2006 Lisbon Dakar Rally was no break for participants either. After the start in Portimao a 65 kms liaison took them to the 115 kms special that would lead them to Malaga after a 387 kms road section, to embark on their way to Africa. This second and last special on European ground offered similar conditions than yesterday to riders and drivers, with fast tracks, little complications as regards navigation, but a more mountainous landscape with some more stones along the road.

The Repsol riders got over this second day without important incidents, while taking up their positions in the overall standings, getting ready for the stages to come. Marc Coma was fifth today, moving up to second in the overall standings, behind Esteve. The terrain, with some dry, grippy areas and other mudded and slippery sections, gave rise to several crashes, most of them light and without physical consequences for the participants. This was the case of Marc Coma, who lost the front end of his KTM on a muddy section and crashed, however not hindering him from finishing fifth. Australian rider Caldecott also suffered a crash on the asphalt, at a crossing of the rally route with a secondary road, but he was physically OK.

The organisation, in order to allow riders and drivers to start to get used to masked Way Points and speed controls, included several of them in the route of the special, giving rise to several penalties.

In the car class the Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart finished the last European stage with Alphand, Masuoka, Roma and Peterhansel in second, fourth, fifth and sixth position. The French pairing of Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard now lead the four-car team in a threatening second position in the overall classification. Their three team mates, Roma, Masuoka and Peterhansel hold third, sixth and 10th places, with Spaniard Carlos Sainz maintaining the outright lead of the event out of Europe. The stage across higher ground above the Algarve was drier and faster than the opening day's and took place on narrow, flowing tracks in remote farmland and upland terrain. There was the additional risk for the leaders of having to pass slower quads and motorbikes running at the rear of their category, although hanging dust was not a factor. Alphand and Picard began the stage in sixth position on the road and quickly began a move up the leader board to record the second fastest time and head into Africa sandwiched between their rivals Sainz and Frenchman Bruno Saby.

Team mates Nani Roma and Henri Magne had started the stage in fifth place in their Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution and set the fifth fastest time to move up to third overall. Japanese driver Hiroshi Masuoka and French co-driver Pascal Maimon set the fourth fastest time today and head towards Morocco in sixth place in the overall standings. Twice champion Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret started the New Year with a second flat tire, while the French pair had been running as high as second overall in the stage. The defending champions moved up to tenth nonetheless.

Drivers and riders comments

Marc Coma: "I'm happy about how things have gone on these two days in Portugal, because I thought that we would suffer much more in these two stages. First due to the weather, which we thought would be much worse, and second because we thought that our rivals would open a bigger gap. Our bike is heavier than theirs and we could have suffered more during these stages. Today's stage has been similar to that of yesterday, but a little longer and more technical. It had a mountainous relief and since it had rained, some points were extremely slippery and we had to be on the alert. I had a little crash in one of them, no consequences fortunately, neither for me nor for the bike. I hardly lost any time because I just slipped, got up, took the bike and continued. The end of the stage was much more fun; the tracks were faster and we were able to ride much faster. I'm happy, but the race hasn't really started yet. It's too early to look at the standings."

Carlo De Gavardo: "Today's stage was more technical than yesterday. We thought that there would be a lot of water, but there wasn't, although there were some complicated sections. I had no technical problem and no light crash as yesterday. Although our bikes are heavier than those of our rivals, we haven't lost time compared to them on this mountainous ground, with so many ups and down, which was not supposed to be favourable for us. I feel very strong, technical and fast on my comeback with the 660. Now we arrive in Africa, a terrain where the 40 felt small and lacked power, so I'm really looking forward to getting there."

Luc Alphand: "I expected today's stage to be drier than yesterday, because of the slightly higher altitude. The important thing was to stay in touch with the leaders without taking any risks and dropping too much time. It was a good day for me."

Nani Roma: "I had the same strategy for today's stage as Saturday. That was to take no risks at all. Now we can put Europe behind us and concentrate on the real Dakar. For me the Dakar Rally starts in Morocco on Monday morning."

Stephane Peterhansel: "We had to stop to change another tire and lost more time. I will not have fond memories of my passage through Portugal on the Dakar Rally."

Dominique Serieys, Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart team director: "I am very pleased with the way we finished the last stage in Europe. It is a good feeling to go to Africa with all four of our cars in the top 10. Stephane had a puncture passing a motorbike, but everyone else drove very well and we can look ahead now to the start of a fresh challenge on Monday. Luc put in a great performance to finish so close to Carlos Sainz on a track which was more like a WRC stage."

Tomorrow's stage
Leg 3. Nador-Er Rachidia. 2 January
Liaison: 237 Km -- Special: 314 Km -- Liaison: 121 Km.

For the third rally stage, the first on African ground, the organisation recovers a stage that has only been covered in three of the twenty-eighth editions of the rally, starting in Nador and arriving in Er Rachidia. With a total of 672 kms, this special is the start of the more serious part. After a road section of 237 kms, participants will have to cover the 314 kms special stage, running through the Recam Plateau, bordering the frontier to Algeria, where they will find themselves for the first time facing the traps of Africa and especially of Morocco, such as the stones and the holes on the roads. Already on African grounds, the teams will be able to check that everything works out well and both riders and drivers will try to get their pace. The new layout along the waids and the intense rainfall in autumn that have damaged the terrain, can take participants to make the first navigation mistakes. Although our riders and drivers know the area because they have been testing there more than once, the several ditches created by water will create some danger because they may give rise to spectacular crashes. Participants will have to be on the alert and follow the road book closely to avoid ending up in one of those ditches and in trouble. The aim: not loosing time and be where you have to be in the overall standings at the end of the day.

-repsol-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Luc Alphand , Henri Magne , Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Gilles Picard , Pascal Maimon , Giovanni Sala , Bruno Saby , Nani Roma , Marc Coma , Carlo de Gavardo