Dakar: Stage six report

A day for the experienced... For the first dunes of the Telefonica Dakar 2005, Fabrizio Meoni showed he was still well in form by clinching the best time of the 492km special between Smara and Zouerat. Meanwhile his KTM-Gauloises team mate ...

A day for the experienced...

For the first dunes of the Telefonica Dakar 2005, Fabrizio Meoni showed he was still well in form by clinching the best time of the 492km special between Smara and Zouerat. Meanwhile his KTM-Gauloises team mate Cyril Despres captured the overall leadership. In the car special, Colin McRae was forced to retire from the race after crashing his Nissan. Peterhansel claimed the special ahead of Hiroshi Masuoka while Bruno Saby, third, takes command of the overall.

Experience proved to be key on the day's difficult stage 6 where the riders had a long awaited appointment with the dunes of Mauritania. Until check point 1 (km 245) everything was going rather well for the less experienced. On a fast track, Marc Coma who left in second spot this morning proved to be the fastest ahead of Andy Caldecott, winner of the previous special. No worries at that point of the race for the fast and furious KTM bikers... But things became a lot tougher with the first dune portions and soft sand: in other words, Meoni territory. The Italian made the best of his huge Dakar experience moving closer to Coma (second at only 18") at CP2 (km 312) and then grabbing the best time at CP3 (km 421) and on the finish line ahead of Pal Anders Ullevalseter (KTM -- n5). The two-time rally winner claimed the stage with a 1'38" on the Norwegian biker and team mate Alfie Cox (KTM -- n3). Cyril Despres finished fourth which gives him the overall leadership with a 35" advantage on Marc Coma and 1'16" on Fabrizio Meoni. On the other hand, Andy Caldecott, like many others, suffered navigation worries in the dunes. The Australian ended the special close to 9min adrift in 7th position.

The car special was full of drama. Leaving in first position after his fine win yesterday, Colin McRae (NIS -- n308) took a flying start to the race clocking the fastest times at the first two check points (km 245 and 312) and proving that not only was his Pickup extremely powerful on fast sections but also that when it came to dune crossings, the Scot remained the fastest. But at km 410, the McRae show was harshly stopped. The former WRC rally driver suffered a crash that saw his Nissan go for a flip and was forced to withdraw from the race. Shocked by the accident, he was then taken straight to the finish bivouac in Zouerat. Just an hour before Robby Gordon, the other main actor of the first part of this Dakar (winner in Barcelona and Agadir), also went for a flip. Both the US driver and his co-driver were luckily unhurt but were still repairing the rear part of their Race Touareg and awaiting assistance.

Meanwhile, Stephane Peterhansel (MIT -- n306) left aside his puncture worries of the previous stage (that he finished over 20' adrift) and grabbed his first special win of this Dakar. Taking off in 16th position, the title holder overtook 11 vehicles on his way to his 12th stage success in the car category for a total of 45 victories in the Dakar history book (added to his 33 wins on two wheels). 'Peter' beat his team mate Hiroshi Masuoka (MIT -- n309) by 5'58". The Japanese managing the performance of the day after taking off in 121st spot. Another very experienced driver, Bruno Saby (VW -- n309) carried on his excellent first part to the Dakar with a third spot at over 7' that gives him the overall leadership. The Frenchman has a slim 40" lead on compatriot Luc Alphand (MIT -- n311).

In the biggest of the three categories, Vladimir Tchaguine (KAM -- n515) captured his third consecutive stage success on the 2005 Dakar earning himself a total of 32 wins. The Russian driver beat Dutchman Hans Bekx (DAF -- n524) by over 18' while team mate Kabirov (KAM -- n520) finished third at 19'17".Tchaguine comforts his lead overall with a 25'34" advantage on Kabirov. After his bad crash in yesterday's special, Gerard De Rooy (DAF -- n516) was eventually able to start the stage and clinched 7th spot on the day.

-www.dakar.com

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Series Dakar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Colin McRae , Luc Alphand , Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Fabrizio Meoni , Cyril Despres , Alfie Cox , Bruno Saby , Marc Coma , Andy Caldecott , Pal Anders Ullevalseter , Hans Bekx