Dakar: Stage four report

Bikes on a halt, Gordon impresses! The first African stage of the Telefonica Dakar 2005 ended up in a long liaison for the bikers after the short 123km special was cancelled due to heavy fog. Meanwhile on four wheels, in better conditions,...

Bikes on a halt, Gordon impresses!

The first African stage of the Telefonica Dakar 2005 ended up in a long liaison for the bikers after the short 123km special was cancelled due to heavy fog. Meanwhile on four wheels, in better conditions, Robby Gordon clinched his second Dakar victory ahead of Peterhansel, proving once again how well he had adapted to the rally and how impressive his Volkswagen Race Touareg was. In the truck race, Vladimir Tchaguine is already on top of the leader board.

The rally left Europe and Spain under beautiful sunny conditions, but for the start of the first real African stage, the weather had completely changed with heavy fog on the Rabat area. Impossible in the early hours of the day for the helicopters to take off (including the medical helicopters) and for the bikers to compete in perfect security a special that would have also been dangerous because of the very poor visibility! Safety being the key issue on the rally... The same incident had already happened back in 1994 when the conditions forced the organisers to also cancel a special. All bikers were therefore asked to head to CP 1 (km 63) nice and easily in a liaison before using a normal asphalt road all the way to the Agadir bivouac. Certainly a big disappointment for overall leader David Frétigné (YAM -- n°12) who would have gone through a nice first test against the KTM armada.

Two and a half hours later, the fog had disappeared and the weather was perfect for the cars to take off for their 123km special. The first man to take off was yesterday's special winner Colin McRae, but the Scotsman was rapidly caught by his main race contenders. At CP1 (km 63), the best time was for the ever-surprising Robby Gordon (VW -- n°317). For his very first Dakar and in an impressive Volkswagen Race Touareg, the US driver (who left in 5th spot) flew to special victory, clocking best times at both the second CP (km 88) and the finish line. Gordon clinches his second win on the rally after the Barcelona super special although this one is way more significant on a longer distance and in real Dakar rally conditions. The former NASCAR racer who had overtaken De Villiers (NIS -- 314) early in the race, could have done even better if he hadn't been forced to remain behind Ari Vatanen's Nissan (n°311) during the last 20kms of the special where overtaking became very tricky.

Gordon's closest rival on the day was last year's winner Stephane Peterhansel (MIT -- n°306), finishing just under a minute behind. After the Nissan show in yesterday's Granada special with 3 Pickups in the leading four, it was Volkswagen's turn to impress with their four Touaregs in the leading seven cars. Bruno Saby (VW -- n°307) captured third spot while Jutta Kleinschmidt (VW -- n°310) finished fifth and Juha Kankkunen (VW -- n°313) seventh. And to add to the German brand's excellent day, Robby Gordon claimed the new overall leadership with a 1" lead on Peterhansel.

In the truck race, Vladimir Tchaguine (KAM -- n°515) showed that he was already well in shape for a fifth triumph on the Dakar. The Russian driver clinched the special with a 1'34" advantage on Gerard De Rooy (DAF -- n°516) and 1'57" on team mate Firdaus Kabirov (n°520). After a smooth start to the race in Europe, Tchaguine takes command of the overall.

-www.dakar.com

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Series Dakar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Colin McRae , Juha Kankkunen , Jutta Kleinschmidt , Bruno Saby , David Fretigne , Firdaus Kabirov