Sainz starts in style For a first start in a Dakar, what a start it was for Carlos Sainz! The Spaniard Volkswagen driver flew to an impressive special victory on the 83km of the stage going from Lisbon to Portimao. Sainz clocked the fastest time...
Sainz starts in style
For a first start in a Dakar, what a start it was for Carlos Sainz! The Spaniard Volkswagen driver flew to an impressive special victory on the 83km of the stage going from Lisbon to Portimao. Sainz clocked the fastest time ahead of Portugal's Carlos Sousa. Eager to take off this 28th edition of the Euromilhoes Lisboa-Dakar 2006, bike title holder Cyril Despres managed the best time of the day's 83km special. The surprise however came from the excellent results of the Portuguese privateers with three bikers in the top 10.
The Portuguese fans had gathered in numbers around the starting podium close-by the Jeronimo Monastery, to cheer the first competitors taking off for stage 1 of the event. The first competitor to take off was quad rider Antonio Ventura (BOM -- n252), under the interested eyes of Portugal's president Jorge Sampaio.
But the real action took place, 186kms further south for the start of the timed special. Taking off last due to his number 1 bib, title holder Cyril Despres (KTM -- n1) managed the fastest time on the muddy tracks of the 83km special, in 58'10". The Frenchman finished his effort with a big smile on the face capturing the first overall leading position of this Dakar.
Despres' main rival wasn't exactly the one that was expected. Indeed Portuguese privateer Ruben Faria (KTM -- n160) certainly managed the performance of his life. Taking off early, the KTM rider had the fastest time for almost all the morning until 'Monsieur' Despres showed up. He eventually was beaten for only 4". His compatriot Helder Rodrigues (KTM -- n55) saw his podium dream vanish when Marc Coma (KTM -- n2) the best rider of the KTM-Repsol team clocked the third best time, at 7". Like Faria, Rodrigues took advantage of his knowledge of a familiar terrain to finish fourth.
In the leading ten positions were 3 French riders (Despres 1st, Fretigne 6th and Casteu 7th), 3 Portuguese (Faria 2nd, Rodrigues 4th and Goncalves 10th), 3 Spaniards (Coma 3rd, Esteve 5th and Pellicer 8th) and an Australian (Caldecott 9th).
David Fretigne (YAM -- n12), who had clinched victory in the four European stages in the last two editions, indeed had to settle with 6th position on a special a lot longer than those of the past few years.
The slight disappointment came from Norway's Pal-Anders Ullevalseter (KTM -- n5) who captured 32nd place, 6'20 adrift, but the Norwegian will certainly be a lot more comfortable on African soil. The US bikers of the KTM-Red Bull team, Andy Grider (KTM -- n23) and Chris Blais (KTM -- n9) had to settle with 23rd and 31st positions, over 5' slower than the best time of the day.
The car race saw a newcomer triumph. Indeed Carlos Sainz (VW -- n307) for his first ever kilometres in the event, the two-time WRC World champion proved that he was just as impressive in a bigger rally-raid car. On muddy tracks made for WRC specialists, Sainz made the best of his brand new Race Touareg to clock the fastest time in 56'20". One man that certainly wasn't surprised at the Spaniard's success was Portugal's Carlos Sousa (NIS -- n311). He indeed had announced that Sainz would be difficult to beat on such a special. The National hero behind the steering wheel of his Nissan Pickup had to settle with a very good second spot but would have loved to thank his many fans on the side of the road by grabbing the win. Sousa finished 1'30" adrift while another former WRC driver, Bruno Saby (VW -- n301) captured third spot at 1'51", just ahead of Jutta Kleinschmidt (VW -- n303) at 2'24". Volkswagen impressed with their 5 vehicles entering the leading ten. The two other VW drivers, Giniel De Villiers and Mark Miller were 8h and 10th.
It was a slightly different for the Mitsubishi team. Title holder Stephane Peterhansel (MIT -- n300) stopped to change a punctured tire and finished 3'46 (in 12th spot). The same problem hit Hiroshi Masuoka who however decided to carry on driving despite a puncture (13th at 4'34). The best Pajero driver was Nani Roma, 5th (at 3'12") ahead of Luc Alphand 6th (at 3'20").
One of the best performances of the day was that of Guerlain Chicherit. The winner of last year's 'Volant Dakar' competition that allowed him to start the rally in a Bowler, clinched 5th spot of the special. A best ever result for the young Frenchman, now driving an official BMW X3.
In the truck race, four-time Dakar winner Vladimir Tchaguine stormed to stage victory after the 83km of the special. The Kamaz driver clocked a time of 1h12'59", beating former WRC World champion Mili Biasion and his IVECO truck by over 2'. Third was Brasil's Andre De Azeevedo in his Tatra, 3'15" adrift. The big upset concerned title holder Firdaus Kabirov who lost close to 30' on the day.