Dakar: Stage 12 report

"Peter" tumbles Stage 12 of the Euromilhoes Dakar 2006 took the competitors from Mali and its capital Bamako to Guinea and the city of Labe. On the 369kms of timed special, Cyril Despres captured his fourth success so far, only gaining over a ...

"Peter" tumbles

Stage 12 of the Euromilhoes Dakar 2006 took the competitors from Mali and its capital Bamako to Guinea and the city of Labe. On the 369kms of timed special, Cyril Despres captured his fourth success so far, only gaining over a minute on Marc Coma. The race in the car division was a lot more dramatic on this stage in Guinea because Stephane Peterhansel (MIT -- n 300) dropped an enormous amount of time and thus relinquished his lead of the Rally to Luc Alphand (MIT -- n 302), who also was the winner of today's stage. In the truck division, Vladimir Chagin (KAM -- n 508) remains in command despite the stage victory of Hans Stacey (MAN -- n 524).

After his upsets on Mauritanian soil suffering a severe crash on his way to Zouerat, Cyril Despres (KTM -- n1) will certainly have the satisfaction not to have withdrawn from the rally. The courageous Frenchman clinched a fourth success on this 28th edition. On his way to a 14th stage win on a Dakar, Cyril Despres beat his main rival Marc Coma (KTM -- n2) by only 1'45". A tiny advantage for Despres considering his time deficit overall: now 32'39".

But the day was very eventful when it came to the following positions of the leaderboard. Fourth before the start this morning, Pal Anders Ullevalseter (KTM -- n5) struggled and crossed the finish line losing 1h25'. The Norwegian drops down to sixth spot of the race, over 3 hours adrift. It was also a bad day for Carlo De Gavardo (KTM -- n4), suffering mechanical problems after crossing a river. Water in the engine of the Chilean's KTM forced him to lose over 44min. De Gavardo keeps his fifth spot overall but sees Chris Blais pass him and move up to fourth position. The American who had claimed fourth place of yesterday's special did even better today, finishing third, 2'29" adrift. Blais, 25-years-of age looks to be headed to an excellent fourth spot in Dakar after capturing 9th spot last year for his first Dakar. He could even do better: he is indeed 21'35" behind Giovanni Sala, third.

The size of gaps, for as impressive as they are, are always relative to the troubles than can happen. Despite not being able to make his way around Carlos Sousa for 100kms the day before, one still could have found his reaction a little bit over the top. While Luc Alphand clung on to the slightest of hopes to win the 2006 Euromilhoes-Lisboa-Dakar, one could equally be amused with this nearly out of place optimism. Both had reason to think they were right.

On a nightmarish day that certainly can happen on the Dakar, even men who own all of the records can lose it all in one stage. Stephane Peterhansel already had one such an experience in 2003, the year we lost the rally on the day before the arrival at Sharm-el-Sheikh. The lesson would not be enough. This time, it came three days before the finish. The defending two-time winner saw his hopes of a three-peat stop dead in their tracks. Handicapped with brake problems at the start of the special stage was not a good sign; "Peter" went off course at km 278. The tree that he hit damaged the left rear of his Mitsubishi Pajero Evo IV and stopped him for a good hour. His will wasn't lacking, and he tried, along with co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret, to carry out the repairs. The effort paid off, but the repairs lasted for just some 20 kilometres. Stopped for a second time, Peterhansel finally resigned himself to the idea of waiting for his service truck. Now all concerned turned their attention to the stopwatch: Alphand first, then De Vlliers (VW -- n 305) and Roma (MIT -- n 4) already moved ahead in the general standings as the mechanics arrived. The brief repairs (roughly 15-minutes) served to limit the damage. In arriving at the finish 3h16' behind team mate Alphand, he is now fourth in the overall standings, just ahead of Mark Miller (VW-n309).

Luc Alphand wasn't content to be a passive onlooker in moving into the leadership of the rally. Certainly, the minutes won on the track represent just a small part of the enormous amount of time Peterhansel lost. But the former skier decided to focus on the work at hand. For his first visit to Guinea, Alphand proved to be the fastest on the day and claimed his fourth career win on the Dakar... his first in this edition. The timing was ideal.

While too far behind to battle Vladimir Chagin for the overall win in the truck division, Hans Stacey is trying perhaps to rival with the Russian for stage wins. The Dutchman posted another victory in Guinea, with a 12'26'' margin over Firdaus Kabirov (KAM-n500) and was 18'36 better than Vladimir Chagin. The " Tsar " has a 7-4 advantage. But he does have three match points left.


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Series Dakar
Drivers Mark Miller , Luc Alphand , Stéphane Peterhansel , Carlos Sousa , Cyril Despres , Marc Coma , Chris Blais , Vladimir Chagin , Firdaus Kabirov , Pal Anders Ullevalseter , Hans Stacey