A day in blue After yesterday's triumphant orange day with three KTM Repsol riders in the leading positions of the special and the overall, today's stage heading from Atar to Nouakchott crowned a member of the blue KTM-Gauloises team....
A day in blue
After yesterday's triumphant orange day with three KTM Repsol riders in the leading positions of the special and the overall, today's stage heading from Atar to Nouakchott crowned a member of the blue KTM-Gauloises team. David Casteu captured his first ever success on a Dakar while his injured team mate Cyril Despres gained time on the event leaders.
All had predicted yesterday's stage as being the most eventful of the Euromilhoes Dakar's first week, but this 7th stage had its lot of surprises and upsets. Navigation, even more than on the previous day proved to be crucial. David Casteu (KTM -- n°8) riding alongside team mate Cyril Despres (KTM -- n°1) made the best of an almost perfect day, finding the necessary way-points and flying over the dunes.
A newcomer in the KTM-Gauloises team, Casteu had one mission today: to take good care of his French compatriot Cyril Despres, who had seriously injured his shoulder two days ago, and take him safely to Nouakchott where both would enjoy a well-deserved rest day. That's exactly what he did. Both men managed a decisive move at km 280 when they easily found a way-point while the front group including Coma and Esteve took a wrong direction and struggled to find the GPS check point.
The former privateer who finished 13th of last year's event clocked the fastest time at CP2 before capturing his first ever success. Casteu beat USA's Chris Blais (KTM -- n°9) by 2'13". The 25-year-old American managed his best ever performance in a Dakar. Third was Cyril Despres who was taking it easily until the first check-point (18th over 11" adrift) resting his shoulder, before making the right move when it really mattered. The title-holder finished 2'17" behind but gained time on his Spanish rivals: over 2' on Esteve and close to 4' on Coma. Despres still remains well behind the race leaders and seemed to have forgotten his shoulder worries but was complaining about a wrist tendonitis.
Indeed in the overall standing Marc Coma (KTM -- n°2) can enjoy a 6'23" lead on Esteve (KTM -- n°3), 11'49" on De Gavardo (KTM n°4) and 26'54" on Despres.
The day's honour roll in the car division is clearly multicoloured, but the blue equally ran a strong race. While Stéphane Petrerhansel's rise to the top of the leader board is of no surprise, Thierry Maganaldi's victory confirms both the panache and seriousness of the Schlesser-Ford team. The generally rolling route of the stage offered the blue buggies, reputed for having a superior top speed, serious chances for success. While the navigation difficulties and crossings were previewed as being nothing more than anecdotal they could have posed problems for the outsiders of the rally. Even " Mr. Jean-Louis " (SCH-n°314) fell victim to a misadventure that became the old refrain of the day. The erg at km 240 was in fact fatal for Josep-Maria Servia (SCH-n°316), Nasser Al Attiyah (BMW-n°308), Guerlain Chicherit (BMW -- n° 322) and Stéphane Henrard (VW -- n° 310). Thierry Magnaldi ' flew over " the dunes, then let the power of his V8 do to the talking in posting his second career four-wheel class win after his victory at Zouerat.
For quite a long time, Stéphane Peterhansel gave the impression that the record for stage wins he shares with Ari Vatanen would be his own at the end of this day. Starting first with Luc Alphand (MIT -- n° 302) in the dust, the " Mitsus " first rid themselves of Jutta Kleinschmidt (VW -- n° 303), who was stopped for a long time at km 179. The run of two then turned into a " Peter " breakaway, who unlike his team mate, wasn't caught out by the small dunes at km 285. Obviously, Peterhansel was the big winner in moving into the overall lead of the rally in running hard by himself just to the Mauritanian capital, but Alphand's mistake was not crippling as he is a mere 32'' behind.
However, the situation in the Volkswagen camp is much more critical. Except for Mark Miller (VW-n°309), who covered today's stage in exactly the same time as the new leader, and Bruno Saby (VW-n°301) who salvaged a 7th place finish after having coping with several miscues, the day's result is gloomy. Jutta Klienschmidt, who had a tough go of it staying in contact until now was, like last year, dropped by the two " Mitsus " in the general standings: she is 1h06' minutes adrift. Giniel De Villiers (VW-n°305), 3rd at 26'26'', still has a shot at a podium finish. He will still have to battle with " Nani " Roma (MIT-n°304). Carlos Sainz (VW -- n° 307) was stuck for ages at km 26, after a brutal encounter with a stone. After several hours of repair work, he is now racing against the clock to reach Nouakchott within the allotted time.
In the truck division, Firdaus Kabirov set the best stage time with a 5'25 " advance from Mans Stacey and a 51'56 '' gap over Vladimir Chagin, who once again got caught in the sand, at km 230 of the stage. He still leads in the general standings with a 30'32 lead from Kabirov. Once again the blues!