Dakar: Team Repsol stage eight report

THIRD STAGE VICTORY FOR MARC COMA AT THE 2007 LISBON DAKAR RALLY The Repsol rider increases his advantage on top of the overall standings to 54 minutes. Team mate Giovanni Sala breaks the brake lever in a light crash and finishes eighth ...

THIRD STAGE VICTORY FOR MARC COMA AT THE 2007 LISBON DAKAR RALLY

The Repsol rider increases his advantage on top of the overall standings to 54 minutes. Team mate Giovanni Sala breaks the brake lever in a light crash and finishes eighth today Positive day for the interests of the Repsol KTM Team at the 2007 Lisbon Dakar Rally. After enjoying the rest day in Atar yesterday, the riders have been back into action today with a further typical Mauritanian stage in which they have faced all kinds of difficult terrain. It has been a marathon stage starting in Atar and arriving in Tichit and therefore one of the most important objectives of the Repsol KTM riders today was taking care of their machines.

Marc Coma clinched the victory of today's stage -- third stage victory of the Repsol rider at the 2007 Dakar -- and has considerably increased his advantage in the overall standings. After the rest day, the motorbike riders have been through a really hard time today. The special was endless and very uncomfortable, as defined by Marc Coma. Enormous stones hidden in the sand, more similar to a trial World Championship event, fast tracks combined with off-road sections, an intense sand storm and 628 km ahead. Coma, who started sixth this morning, began to catch his rivals until reaching Depres and Esteve, who were riding alone in the front. Together they were able to overcome obstacles and covered kilometres until Isidre Esteve --second in the overall standings behind Coma -- started to have mechanical problems with his bike --broken gear- and stayed behind. The Repsol rider and Després have finished the stage together, with Coma setting a comfortable pace in the lead. With this new stage victory Marc Coma has increased his advantage over the second classified, Després by a further ten minutes. Després has moved up to second after the more than two hours lost by Esteve today and is now 54 minutes behind the leader, Marc Coma. Third classified in the provisional standings is Frenchman Casteu, 1 hour and 3 minutes behind.

Giovanni Sala lost 44 minutes to his team mate today due to a light crash halfway the special in which he broke the lever of the rear brake having to cover the rest of the stage without being able to use the rear brake, thus having to slow down the pace and be extremely cautious. With the time set today, Sala is seventh in the overall standings.

The absence of servicing and the mystery of whether the T4 truck -- a racing vehicle carrying a mechanic to work on all the official KTM bikes- will be able to arrive at the bivouac on time, has forced Sala and Coma to work on the checking of their bikes themselves. The marathon stage tomorrow will end in Nema after a 494 km special and a 3 km liaison to the bivouac.

Marc Coma
"It's been a typical Mauritanian stage; very long, with 600 km special and many hours on the bike. This is always punishing. The first part was a bit uncomfortable because there were a lot of stones in the sand which you couldn't see. Bit by bit I was able to get the pace and the terrain became much better to ride on. The weather became complicated later, because there was another sand storm and visibility was low. I started sixth and went on catching the riders in the front. We made small groups and I went on until reaching Cyril (Depres). From then on we continued together until the end, at a good pace and without pushing too hard. At CP2 they told us that Isidre was having trouble. There is nothing definitive in this Dakar. Everything is working well so far but there won't be anything definitive until we cross the finish line. Today has been a little step, that's all because here, if you lower your guard or get too confident, problems happen. I'm happy with the result and with how everything is working in general, but it doesn't mean anything yet. There is a lot of Mauritania ahead and then we'll reach black Africa where navigation will be very complicated, so we'll have to be watchful and completely focussed."

Giovanni Sala
"I was sure that making an almost 590 km stage after the rest day would be quite hard. The organisers have made some very difficult tracks, because they were really twisty, filled with stones and very demanding as regards the riding technique. The stage has been good for me until almost halfway. Then I didn't see a stone that was in the sand and crashed, so unlucky that I broke the rear brake lever and hurt my wrist. With my hand hurting and without rear brake I haven't been able to ride at a hundred percent. I tried to continue riding fast, but always within the limits of possible, because it's quite dangerous without a rear brake. I haven't had any more problems during the last kilometres but I'm really tired, because it's always difficult to get back into action after a rest day and such a long special makes it even more difficult."

PETERHANSEL MOVES UP TO SECOND PLACE AS TEAM REPSOL MITSUBISHI RALLIART MAINTAIN THE PRESSURE

Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart applied fierce pressure on rivals and leaders Volkswagen on the longest stage of the entire 2007 Dakar Rally - the punishing 589km special between Atar and Tichit in Mauritania on Sunday.

One hundred and twenty-seven of the original 180 starters left the start in Atar on Sunday morning and Mitsubishi's Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret moved into second position in the overall standings by setting the second fastest time. The French duo are now 31m 13s behind overall rally leader and stage winner Giniel de Villiers, while team mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard were third fastest and now hold third overall. Peterhansel and Cottret began the stage behind de Villiers, but the South African had extended his overall lead over the twice former winners by 13m 55s at the 201km point when the Frenchman had two punctures and lost time in soft sand. Peterhansel hit back into the next PC at 357km and reduced the leader's on-stage lead to 6m 48s. The margin was identical at the final PC as the paid headed across the camel grass towards Tichit, with De Villiers eventually winning the stage by 6m 35s. Alphand and Picard were classified third at the first passage control, albeit 6m 34s behind De Villiers and fourth at PC2. They maintained their momentum through the remainder of the stage to record the third fastest time. Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon began the stage in fourth place, but were forced to stop at the 25km point with clutch problems. The crew benefited from the quick-change technology of the clutch in Mitsubishi's new MPR13, but still lost 1h 19m changing the clutch and replacing no less than four flat tires. The Japanese reached the first passage control in 4h 05m, 1h 13m behind team mate Alphand and in 29th place. He went on to record the ninth fastest time and slipped to eighth overall. Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz were classified 23rd at the start of the special. The cylinder head had been successfully replaced at the rest day by team technicians, although Roma admitted that his position within the team had changed to a support role for his team mates. Unfortunately, they lost over 90 minutes before PC1 with clutch problems and further time later in the stage with a down-on-power engine and unofficially finished the stage in 12th position.

Tomorrow (Monday) marks the ninth timed special stage of the Dakar Rally -- a 494km section that starts near the Tichit bivouac and finishes a mere three kilometres from Néma. This promises to be one of the classic Dakar stages across a huge expanse of sandy wasteland with few landmarks and vast areas of deep sand and dune complexes at the start of the special and camel grass, stony terrain and laterite piste further into the stage.

Stéphane Peterhansel
"I had two punctures today after just 30km. We had one after six kilometres, we were stuck after 22km and then another flat tire again at 28km. What a start to a 589km stage! With a full tank of fuel and spare parts, the car was very heavy on the big rocks, so we always ran a risk of flat tires. It was also difficult to cross the dunes with a heavy car. After the punctures I only had one spare wheel for more than 550km, so I just had to be very careful and take no risks. If I had punctured again, I would have needed to wait for Hiroshi or 'Nani' and that would have cost even more time. I was waiting for the hard stage today and I made a mistake. Now I have to plan another attack tomorrow."

Luc Alphand
"It was a tough and very long stage. We were stuck twice in the sand in the first dunes and had to deflate and inflate. Then we had to change one wheel near the end when we had a slow puncture. In total, we stopped five times. You cannot expect to win the stage when this happens and you lose 20 minutes. But a big positive is that there are no problems at all with the car for the Marathon stage."

Hiroshi Masuoka
"I had four punctures today, as well as the problem with the clutch. I am very disappointed after the rest day when the whole car was rebuilt. 'Nani' stopped and gave me one tire and then I drove 500km with no spare tires, But this is life."

Nani Roma
"This morning the clutch broke in the first dunes at about 28km and we had to stop and change it. Then, about 120km from the end of the stage the engine started to splutter a little and it was not possible to push harder. I think it a sensor fault or a minor electrical problem. Hopefully the race truck mechanics can take a look at it tonight."

Dominique Serieys (MMSP Sporting Director)
"It was one of those days where Stéphane and Luc lost time in the sand and had flat tires. But both the cars are in good condition and we will try and gain some time on Monday. It was never going to be an easy stage, but we are still very much in contention and that is important."

-credit: repsol

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Luc Alphand , Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Gilles Picard , Giniel de Villiers , Pascal Maimon , Giovanni Sala , Nani Roma , Marc Coma , Lucas Cruz Senra