MARC COMA IN THE MOTORBIKE CLASS AND THE TEAM REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART SAFELY THROUGH STAGE INTO KAYES TO MAINTAIN OVERALL LEAD Coma finishes 16th due to a navigation mistake and only looses 2 minutes to the second classified rider. Alphand ...
MARC COMA IN THE MOTORBIKE CLASS AND THE TEAM REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART SAFELY THROUGH STAGE INTO KAYES TO MAINTAIN OVERALL LEAD
Coma finishes 16th due to a navigation mistake and only looses 2 minutes to the second classified rider. Alphand closes the gap on team mate Peterhansel to 6m 29s. Spaniard Roma sets the fifth fastest time into Kayes; Masuoka slips to sixth.
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart drivers Stephane Peterhansel and Luc Alphand continue with their duel for the leading position after the 257km special stage between Ayoûn-el-Atroûs in Mauritania and Kayes in north-western Mali on Thursday. But Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard managed to reduce Peterhansel's and Jean-Paul Cottret's overall lead to just 6m 29s.
Peterhansel and Cottret began the day in fourth position and were a cautious eighth through the first passage control. They finished the stage in sixth place and maintained a reduced lead in the overall standings. Alphand and Picard were sixth into the stage this morning and the fourth fastest crew through PC1. Despite taking no risks, the defending champions set the third fastest time and managed to reduce their team mates' overall lead to 6m 29s with three stages remaining. Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon followed Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah into this morning's stage in second position and were under team orders to slow down and wait for team mate Peterhansel and shadow him to the stage finish. Masuoka was 19th at PC1 and reached the stage finish in 19th position, although he duly slipped behind the American Marc Miller into sixth overall. Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz started eighth on the road into Kayes, but were six seconds faster than Carlos Sainz at the first PC and the virtual leaders on the stage. Roma eventually finished fifth on the special, which was won by Sainz from Portugal's Carlos Sousa.
In the motorbike class, this stage was a transition day for the Repsol KTM rider Marc Coma. He controlled his main rival, Frenchman Despres, who started right behind him at all times. Coma started second and was soon caught by Despres and a further group of riders. The difficult navigation of the stage caused the creation of a large group of riders, a situation that Coma managed to take with ease while watching over the movements of his main rival. Thus he managed to arrive at the finish of the stage that was won by Spaniard Esteve. Coma was finally sixteenth.
Tomorrow (Friday) is the penultimate of the longer Dakar Rally stages and begins with a 180km liaison across the border into Sénégal. Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart will then tackle a varied 260km special on stony terrain and across laterite piste to finish a mere 18km from the Sénégalese town of Tambacounda, a regular stopover on the Dakar Rally and the final bivouac on this year's event. There are now only around 1,127km for competitors to cross before they reach the finish in Dakar and a mere 501km are competitive.
"Today has been a typical Black Africa stage, with several parallel tracks. There was one point at kilometre 81 which was difficult to interpret in the road book, and where a whole bunch of riders gathered and continued riding together until the finish. It's been fun, it seemed a motocross race, but it made riding more difficult due to the dust. In the end we stretched and each of us set his own pace. We have been over very sandy ground, with a lot of dust and lots of parallel tracks. We have finished the special without loosing hardly any time to our main rivals and that's the most important."
Jordi Arcarons, Repsol KTM Team Manager
"It is the last rally week, we are getting closer to Dakar and everything is working well son far, as we wanted, but the days ahead are also important and they also count. The stages are still important and it is essential not to loose the concentration needed for this race. IT is true that Marc has a good advantage but anything can happen any time and we'll have to be very watchful and ready for anything. We try to deal with everything as good as we can, following the set line and without loosing concentration or the interest in every stage. Marc is doing really well, compared to the others I think that he's in good shape. That means that he's arrived well prepared for this race."
"We started behind Carlos (Sainz) and he really pushed, so we had a clear track for much of the stage and were able to gain some time. Now we have to be quiet and intelligent. We had a little navigation problem, about 600 metres the wrong way, but it was the same for several drivers."
"The stage was very narrow in places between many small trees and we touched one tree on the right-hand side of the car. But the car was perfect otherwise. The stage offered very tricky navigation. About 50km from the end we lost the track and a little time."
"I was running very well to the first PC. But, after the water, I caught a Mitsubishi and thought it was Luc in the dust. I followed him, but it was Hiroshi. We both took the wrong route and both cars had to turn around. I lost a little time there, but more time following in Hiroshi's dust. There are only about 500km of racing to go, but they will feel very long..."
"I played the waiting game today to make sure that the other team drivers were okay. It was difficult to avoid the small trees. It will be very difficult for the trucks running behind us on the stage."
Dominique Serieys, Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart Sporting Director
"It was a good day for us. We now have to be very careful over the next three days and keep our concentration. There is a great spirit within our team. I will have a chat tonight with Isao Torii and we will discuss a team strategy. Tomorrow's stage through Black Africa is very narrow and technical and we don't want a fight between our two drivers on the stages. They are professional and will fully understand the situation."