A day for specialists Before the crossover to Africa, Europe hosted a last Telefonica Dakar 2005 show for the numerous Andalusian fans with a 10km special just outside Granada. After the long 920km liaison, the competitors faced a dirt track ...
A day for specialists
Before the crossover to Africa, Europe hosted a last Telefonica Dakar 2005 show for the numerous Andalusian fans with a 10km special just outside Granada. After the long 920km liaison, the competitors faced a dirt track in Armilla before heading to Morocco and its capital Rabat, via a boat transfer from Algeciras to Tangiers. In the bike race, Frétigné proved once again he was the king of European specials while McRae used his WRC skills to capture the best time of the car race.
Close to half a million fans gathered in Barcelona yesterday to bid farewell to the Dakar competitors and the crowds in Granada were just as impressive. After a short 6km liaison to make it to the military terrain of Armilla, the bikers and drivers were all unanimous on one issue: the conditions were perfect for a great show with the sun shinning and the fans cheering. And that certainly helped David Frétigné (YAM -- n°12) in his quest for a fourth special win on European soil in just two years... and four stages (not counting the Clermont prologue)! In a final time of 7'57", the Yamaha official rider indeed continued his 100% success run. On a lighter 450cc bike and with all the talent of an enduro World champion that he is, 'Fretos' flew to his 5th stage win on the rally. "It's fantastic but I have to keep cool. It's always good to feel well and to ride with pleasure. Concerning the special, I really enjoyed myself. It was really beautiful with nice bends but I didn't expect it to be so slippery". The Frenchman beat a rejuvenated Alfie Cox (KTM - n°3) by a slim 2sec margin. "I'm very happy because my shoulder hurts less and less, claimed the South African. Yesterday, after the very long ride, my shoulder ligaments hurt a lot so I had to take pain-killers, but now, everything is all right. It hurt a little during the special but it's getting better and better". Fourth of the last Dakar, Cox indeed suffered a bad fall in the first special of the rally.
Second in Castelldefels, Cyril Despres (KTM - n°2) had to settle with third spot, 3sec adrift. Meanwhile, to the great satisfaction of the crowd, local rider Jordi Duran (KTM -- n°16), a newcomer on the rally, captured a very promising 4th place. "It was an enduro type of special. I felt really comfortable. It's a good result for me but the most important thing is to make it to Dakar and the Lac Rose".
In the bike overall, Frétigné comforts his lead with a tiny 11sec advantage on Despres. A strategic satisfaction for the Yamaha rider: "To take off in the leading position will give me the possibility to be careful. My secret dream is to be on the podium in Dakar. If I can make it to the top ten positions in every stage, it should be possible for the overall".
With 229 bikers having gone through the dirt track of Armilla, it was slightly trickier for the cars. "It's getting really difficult on the course, explained title holder Stephane Peterhansel (MIT -- n°306). It's starting to look like sand and you lose a lot of power when accelerating". 'Peter' eventually finished second on the day behind 'mister WRC' himself, Colin McRae (Nissan -- n°308). The Scotsman finished in 7'48" (9sec better than enduro specialist Frétigné) which earned him a third stage victory in his two years on the Dakar after successes in Ayoun El Atrous and Dakar last year. "I had a lot of fun. I had a blast driving the car this morning".
McRae looks indeed very satisfied with his brand new Nissan after the upsets of last year. A point of view that Ari Vatanen (NIS -- n°311) seems to share: "the car has nothing to do with last year's one". With Giniel de Villiers (NIS -- n°317), fourth, the Japanese brand has its three Pick-ups in the top four spots. Winner of the opening special in Barcelona for his debut on the rally, Robby Gordon (VW -- n°317) confirmed he would be one to follow with 5th place today.
In the overall, McRae clinches top spot for the first time in his Dakar career ahead of Gordon, 1sec adrift. The former WRC World champion knows however that it doesn't have much significance although it has its importance for the upcoming days. "I just wanted to go fast to be able to leave in the first positions for tomorrow's stage between Rabat and Agadir, because I believe there won't be a lot of overtaking possibilities on the special".
The truck race was almost a copy of what happened two days ago on the beach of Castelldefels with Hans Bekx (DAF -- 524; the first to start... and that proved to be key) winning his second ever Dakar special. Firdaus Kabirov (KAM -- n°520) finished second at 9sec while the only change compared to the 1st special concerned third position with Gerard de Rooy (DAF -- n°516) managing to beat father Jan (DAF -- n°521).