Dakar: Rest day report

At last a well deserved rest After the first 9 stages of the rally and over a week on the rally, the remaining competitors of the Telefonica Dakar 2005 enjoyed a well deserved rest. Time to have a shower, work on the car, check out the overall...

At last a well deserved rest

After the first 9 stages of the rally and over a week on the rally, the remaining competitors of the Telefonica Dakar 2005 enjoyed a well deserved rest. Time to have a shower, work on the car, check out the overall position and start thinking of the upcoming stages...

Mauritania is usually known for its desert landscapes and hot sun. Well desert and sand is certainly what the competitors of the 27th edition of the race got in the second African country crossed. On the other hand, the weather conditions were not quite what many were expecting. Sand it was but not only on the ground and concerning the sun, well it was nowhere to be found (especially during the Zouerat-Tichit stage that should be remembered for a long time). In his thirteenth year in the rally organisation, never had race director Patrick Zaniroli witnessed such horrible conditions. A grey (or rather brownish) sky, sand winds and bad visibility made the rally "30% harder than planned" according to Zaniroli. And to add to that, the 276 remaining competitors in Atar (129 bikes, 99 cars, 48 trucks) had their share of rain while enjoying the rest day.

At the same time (around 13h00), Fabrizio Meoni (KTM) discovered that he was once again overall leader of the bike race. Just before going to bed, the Italian had been told that he was given a 10' penalty (5' + 5') based on the XTE GPS corridor rule. The next afternoon, the penalty had been reduced to 2' (1' + 1') as the officials had considered that there had been no intention of cheating. Meoni now leads the rally with a 55" advantage on Despres and 2'51" on Coma. The bike race remains absolutely fascinating with the seven leading riders in a 15' gap which obviously means that nothing is yet decided for the final podium in Dakar. The KTM bikers on the same machine are having problems to make a difference and remain bunched while David Frétigné (7th overall) on his lighter Yamaha is proving to be just as competitive. The enduro World champion has not only won three specials but is also showing that when it comes to the long desert and dune stages, he's still around...

Meanwhile, in the 'first time' standings, American duo Blais and Walch (10th and 12th overall) are promising prospects for the next editions. In the marathon category, Frenchman David Casteu (16th overall) has the lead while Amparo Ausina (114th overall) heads the women's standings in front of courageous Ludivine Puy (123rd and ... only 21 years of age).

The first part of the rally in the car category saw the fast stage drivers dominate the European and Moroccan stages, with McRae (NIS) and Gordon (VW) sharing the first four special victories. But the Scotsman was forced to withdraw during stage 6 to Zouerat after a crash while newcomer Gordon also went for a roll but was able to carry on however bidding farewell to a good overall position.

Time then for the Mitsubishi armada and the more experienced competitors to take over the leading positions in the heart of the rally: Mauritania. After getting rid of a bad cold, Stephane Peterhansel posted two consecutive stage wins including an outstanding performance in the toughest special to Tichit and over 25' on Al Attiyah (BMW) second on the day. 'Peter' then let his team mate Luc Alphand capture the following stage to Atar. The third Mitsubishi Pajero Evo 3 driver, Hiroshi Masuoka is however no longer in the race for final victory after losing 3 hours during stage 6 due to mechanical problems. The Japanese is now a "very very fast" assistance for the leading Mitsus.

A question now remains in the car race: who can worry the Mitsubishi duo? Well, one would have thought that in Barcelona, Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser in his buggy had a car to compete with the very best. A rear wheel problem before CP1 of stage 7 forced the two-time Dakar winner to quit the race. What about Ari Vatanen? Damage on the transmission box of his Nissan Pickup meant that the Flying Finn lost close to 8 hours on his way to Zouerat... Third overall, Jutta Kleinschmidt looks now like the most serious rival. In her Volkswagen Race Touareg, the German is only 40' adrift. In the other race standings, the T1 class lost both Jean-Pierre Strugo and World champion Isabelle Patissier, and is currently led by the Toyota diesel of Asaga (19th overall) with Pascal Thomasse, (31st) leading the fuel class category. Concerning the first timers, Daniel Locatelli is the best placed (26th overall) ahead of the 18 other newcomers.

The truck race lost its strongest contender for final victory on the road to Tichit. Indeed Vladimir Tchaguine (KAM), a winner of three stages so far, had to wait for fuel assistance in the Mauritanian desert and dramatically lost all hopes of a fifth crown. But Kamaz still have control of the race with Kabirov in top spot with a 1h41' advantage on Bekx.

The race is still long and the upcoming two stages promise to be very difficult and as Patrick Zaniroli insists: with the tough weather conditions expected until Mali, the rally could again be 30% harder...

-www.dakar.com

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Luc Alphand , Jutta Kleinschmidt , Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Ari Vatanen , Fabrizio Meoni , Isabelle Patissier , Jean-Pierre Strugo , David Fretigne , David Casteu , Pascal Thomasse