Atar to Tichit Connection: 35 km - Special: 589 km - Connection: 2 km Total: 626 km Bike: Marc Coma (ESP - KTM Repsol -- Winner) The stage was long and hard: 8 hours on a bike is not easy. In the beginning, we had a lot of rocks and sand mixed...
Atar to Tichit
Connection: 35 km - Special: 589 km - Connection: 2 km
Total: 626 km
Marc Coma (ESP - KTM Repsol -- Winner)
The stage was long and hard: 8 hours on a bike is not easy. In the beginning, we had a lot of rocks and sand mixed together. Then, terrain was better. I caught up with Cyril (Despres) and at CP 2 we heard that Isidre (Esteve) had problems. Then we drove together Cyril and I at a good pace but not at full speed. It's a pity for Isidre because the battle was interesting and it was providing for a great show. But nothing is settled yet. I only took a little step in the right direction. But those who know the rally know that Mauritania is very demanding. So as long as you're not out of it... Tomorrow I will be the first to start the stage and it's always tricky. I will have to study the road book carefully.
Pal Anders Ullevalseter (NOR -- KTM -- 3rd)
I spent most of my day alone. I couldn't keep up with Coma from km 150 onwards. He is really something. He did not make any mistake. But I had a rather good day, I felt strong. I did not make any navigation error. Tonight I will have to change the wheels because there were many rocky trails. As for the overall rankings: before the start, I was aiming at a place in the top 5, now I just want to take it one day at a time. We will start thinking about strategy in a few days and wait for others to maybe make mistakes.
Cyril Despres (FRA -- KTM Gauloises -- 2nd)
It was really a great stage with 150km of very demanding course at the end of the route: turn after turn on soft sand with camel grass as soon as you leave the trail. At mid special stage, we had almost 200km of sandstorm blowing right in our faces. At one point, I got stuck in a dune; it took me a while to lift up my bike. It's more or less when Marc caught up with me. Then we rode together without attacking because the pace was already high enough. Physically, I feel tired because it is the first really difficult stage. Imagine, it's almost like finishing Paris-Marseille on a bike with just small trails as roads! But I am thrilled; this is what Dakar is all about for me: it's an endurance race in the desert. What is interesting for me is that I may not have the speed of a Coma on 200 km, but on a 600km stretch, I do. As for final victory, it may even be a game of musical chairs because mechanics is involved. With this gearbox problem, we are all crossing our fingers because none of us is safe. The advantage is that five or six days ago I had lost the Dakar and now I am second at 54', but no one can really tell who will win in the end. The problem is that there is a faulty part somewhere on all our bikes and no one is to be blamed for it. KTM does not have the same money as Mitsubishi or VW in the cars category. Personally, I have been riding with them for more than six years and may have driven 150000 km and I had never had any problem before this year.
David Casteu (FRA -- KTM Gauloises -- 4th)
I am sad about what just happened to Isidre. He was the only one who could really counter Coma, now it will be much more difficult to go get him. As far as I'm concerned, I made a mistake in the beginning of the stage already. Actually I think I was looking for a piece of land to buy in Mauritania! I did not even see Isidre and Marc pass me. When I finally found my way, I just saw there was a bit more tracks than previously. It's part of the reason why I lost so much time. But I also did not forget that it was a marathon stage, so I preserved my machine. Actually, the bike did not hit the ground a single time and it's exactly what I wanted. Breaking the gearbox is of course a risk. I can tell you that every time I change gear I do it gently. As I would with a woman!
Isidre Esteve (ESP - KTM Gauloise -- 34th)
Everything was going fine this morning. At CP1 it was perfect. I was with Cyril (Despres) and Marc (Coma). But on km 230 my gearbox broke. And the end of the special stage was at km 589! I had to do all the rest in 1st gear! It really is major bad luck. But let's look at the bright side: doing 40 km/h, I could actually enjoy the scenery. For the rest, all my options to win have vanished even if it isn't ever over till the fat lady sings. Tonight we'll do some mechanical work with the new engine which is the T4 of the in race assistance team. I don't know where I stand now. I will look into it and try having some fun too.
Giniel De Villiers (AFS -- Volkswagen -- Winner)
A very hard day. The first dunes were very soft whereas at briefing we had been told that it would manly be the second series that would be problematic. We just barely managed not to get stuck in sand. Then for the second set of dunes we stopped to deflate out of caution but it was not really necessary. It's a pity because we must have lost 5-6 minutes there. After that it was really difficult to have a clean driving on very curvy and rocky trails. Of course it's good that we stole some time to Mitsubishi. We will have to do the same tomorrow. In the overall rankings, 30' land does not mean much. We saw today with Carlos Sainz that problems can be costly real quick.
Nasser Al Attiyah (QAT -- BMW -- 4th)
It was a long and hard stage. I am delighted that we could stay out of trouble. I attacked on the fast sections and was very careful when it got dangerous. The car is doing well and we haven't had any problem: no flat tire, no being stuck in the sand. As for the overall rankings, I'd rather not say anything. Let's wait and see.
Stéphane Peterhansel (FRA -- Mitsubishi -- 2nd)
Once again we lost a lot of time because I could not do the special stage the way I wanted to: we had two flat tires in the first 25km. As we did not have a second spare, I drove for the rest of the day being extremely careful. All in all, it's not so bad, I climb one place but I did loose time on the leader. The problem is that we keep telling we need difficult special stages and when there is one, we are the first ones to do stupid things. To change things, the first thing we have to do is to drive perfectly without making mistakes. If Giniel De Villiers is in the lead, it's because he has a great car, but more importantly because he is a fabulous pilot. I think he did not have a single flat tire in the whole rally and he did not get stuck in the sand either. But let's not forget that anything is possible in the Dakar. Last year, I was in the same situation at the same time; I had lost it all and I ended up 4th.
Carlos Sainz (ESP -- Volkswagen -- 7th)
After 300 km, we had a leak in our power steering. So I had to drive for almost 300km without power steering. We lost one hour in the day. This is probably due to the new part that was installed yesterday during the rest day. Before that, I got stuck once in the sand, but I managed to catch up with Peterhansel until we had our problem. Now I have to keep fighting.
Luc Alphand (FRA - Mitsubishi -- 3rd)
Not such a good day, but still not too bad a day anyway because we caught up on Sainz. We got stuck twice in an erg, and we had to deflate and reinflate. But we certainly weren't the only ones! Let's say we are back in the game, even if we never were really that far away from it. The tactics are the same: we will attack. But anyway we are trying a lot of different things. If we get stuck in two ergs, it's because we wait for the very last minute to deflate because we are driving at full speed.
Hans Stacey (HOL - Man -- Winner)
I did not expect to win the stage. I just wanted to see what was coming. So I'm very happy. I got stuck in a dune for the first time. It was not a day with a lot of sand but the dunes were very hard to cross for us. 100km from the finish, we were very tired. Finishing was even harder. Fortunately the road book was excellent. We could use it and finish well. But we are exhausted.