Dakar: Stage six report

A crash and the end for Despres ? Carlo De Gavardo (KTM -- n° 4) won the Zouerat stage, where Cyril Despres (KTM n°1) crashed and now his title defence is in question. Suffering from a dislocated left clavicle, he has decided to continue on...

A crash and the end for Despres ?

Carlo De Gavardo (KTM -- n° 4) won the Zouerat stage, where Cyril Despres (KTM n°1) crashed and now his title defence is in question. Suffering from a dislocated left clavicle, he has decided to continue on the rally, without much hope. In the car division, Thierry Magnaldi (SCH-n°315) took his first stage win on four-wheels, ahead of Jean-Louis Schlesser (SCHn°314). Giniel De Villiers (VW-n°305) is now the overall leader. In the truck division, Vladimir Chagin celebrated his 36th birthday with his sixth consecutive stage win.

Cyril Despres was prepared for this important day, entering Mauritania, but he had no idea how decisive it would be for the rest of the rally. The strategy considerations, which have been ever present since entering Morocco, continue to dictate the attitude of the leaders, who began the day's stage according to what has now become classic. After 221 km of the stage; the first three to leave, Esteve (KTM -- n° 3), Coma (KTM -- n° 2) and Despres, joined up to ride together, the best intermediate time was set by Esteve.

The daily routine seemed to be continuing for these exceptional riders, but a race accident immediately changed the situation. Cyril Despres crashed at km 273, his riding companions first stopped, then set off after they realised the somersault wasn't as serious as it looked (a brief loss of consciousness all the same). Handicapped with an injured shoulder, the defending titleholder found the resources to re-join Esteve and Coma, while all three were caught by De Gavardo. Further back, the pursuers were confronted by their limitations, only Andy Caldecott (KTM --n°10) tried, without success, to chase the lead group.

Logically, Carlo De Gavardo started off 8 minutes after Cyril Despres posted the best time at the finish, for the fifth time in his career on the Dakar. But there was other news that shook things up at the finish line. " I think I broke my clavicle " complained Despres as he dismounted his motorcycle. Verification by rally doctors, confirm that his injury is a level 2 dislocation of the left shoulder. The diagnosis is not alarming; no word of immediate retirement but Despres is suffering for sure. He managed to keep pace with his rivals for more than 170 kms, but will he be able to deal with this pain for the 5184 kms to be run just until the podium at Lake Rose ? Despres will try to go on and start the next stage with the support of a powerful strap tomorrow morning. What now remains to be known is if a miraculous cure at the Zouerat bivouac can restore Despres' confidence and envy to remain in contact with the leaders?

The result in the car division resembles a lot more of what we could expect from a transition stage. The confirmation of many strong contenders was furthered by the strong performances of the Schlesser-Ford buggies, with the one-two finish of Thierry Magnaldi and Jean-Louis Schlesser. The two-time winner 1999-2000, who observers have freely thought of as an outsider and not a favourite, already showed the competitiveness of his car in winning the first African stage. Today, he equally proved that the recruitment of Thierry Magnaldi into his team was a wise choice. A former motorcycle competitor, 2nd overall on the Dakar in 1999 and winner of seven stages, Magnaldi began an ambitious re-conversion in choosing buggies in 2004. He has since twice finished in the top ten in the car division. It was, most notably, his second place finish on the Lake Rose stage last year that caught the eye of " Schless ".

After the demonstration of these team mates this afternoon, Magnaldi relegated his " Boss " by nearly three-minutes at the finish line after trailing by 50 seconds at CP2, the competition now knows what they are capable of. Those who already identified the V8 as the fastest car in the field were not mistaken. Schlesser will now attempt to prove that a lack of reliability is just a figment of the imagination. Starting six-minutes after Peterhansel " Mister Jean-Louis " first passed Nani Roma, then Mark Miller before wisely positioning himself in the dust of the defending Dakar winner without provocation or aggressiveness.

The goal now for Schlesser like for Mitsubishi will be to attack the Volkswagen Race Touareg IIs, which are still leading the rally overall. The five prototypes entered are in the top seven; Giniel De Villiers leads for just 22 '' from Carlos Sainz at the top of the leader board. Discretion has paid off for Mitsubishi's Luc Alphand. Despite not having won a stage he remains the biggest Mitsubishi threat for De Villiers in the overall standings in 5th place at 2'02''. Tomorrow matters start to become serious.

The stage however started without Swedish pair Tobias Johansson and Bo Holmstradn... The winners of this year's " Dakar Chalenge " were forced to pull out of the race after serioulsly damaging their Nismo Challenge vehicle yesterday. A sad day for the Swedes who had impressed for their first ever Dakar, entering the top 100 of three stages and managing and excellent 25th spot at the end of the first African stage. Before withdrawing from the event the Nismo crew was 51st overall.

It is often said that gaps are counted in minutes at the start of the rally, then in hours once in Dakar. In the truck division, Vladimir Chagin has turned tradition on its head, because after his sixth consecutive stage win, he is exactly two-hours ahead of his closest rival, who, in addition, is not a rival. Firdaus Kabirov, Chagin's Kamaz team mate; has in fact replaced Karel Loprais in the role of second best.


Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Mark Miller , Carlos Sainz , Luc Alphand , Jean-Louis Schlesser , Cyril Despres , Nani Roma , Karel Loprais , Vladimir Chagin , Firdaus Kabirov , Andy Caldecott , Thierry Magnaldi