Dakar: Team Repsol stage four report

MARC COMA REPEATS VICTORY AND TAKES THE LEADERSHIP Jordi Viladoms is fourteenth after loosing time helping two crashed riders. Giovanni Sala improves during the stage and finishes twelfth The 2007 Lisbon Dakar Rally enters deeper into Morocco as...


Jordi Viladoms is fourteenth after loosing time helping two crashed riders. Giovanni Sala improves during the stage and finishes twelfth The 2007 Lisbon Dakar Rally enters deeper into Morocco as participants cover more and more kilometres. Today was an especially hard stage due to the starting time and the low temperatures. Moreover, given the fact that it is a marathon stage, machines and tyres, especially the rear one that has to be used tomorrow, had to be well taken care of, as well as the physical shape.

Today's stage, the first part of a marathon, started in Er Rachidia and ended in Foum Zguid, where the motorbike riders are staying in a separated bivouac, some 100 kilometres from Ouartzazate. Tonight they will have to check their bikes and repair them, if necessary, all by themselves, to face the second part of the marathon stage tomorrow, including a 325 km special and a 280-km liaison to reach Tan Tan.

Repsol rider Marc Coma was the first to start today from the bivouac at 05.45 a.m. with a temperature of -2º C. After a 96 km liaison, Coma started the 405 kilometres of the special stage at 07.20 a.m. and rode alone until the finish, arriving with an advantage of 12 minutes over the second classified rider, Spaniard Isidre Esteve. After this result, Coma has taken over the leadership in the overall standings with an advantage of more than 11 minutes over Esteve, who is second.

Despite the good performance in the special, Jordi Viladoms, lost some time stopping a couple of times in order to help crashed riders. Viladoms finished fourteenth, but is now waiting for the Organization to restore the lost time. Giovanni Sala, who is still adapting to his new bike, keeps a careful pace and was twelfth today.

Marc Coma
"It's been a complicated and hard stage. We had to start very early this morning and it was very cold. The special started after a liaison of some 100 kilometres. There were lots of stones and ditches, so you had to be very careful. Moreover, the route was filled with alternative routes and you had to follow the road book to the letter. I've been riding all alone throughout the stage, so I haven't had any problems with dust or overtaking. The bike is working well and I haven't had any problem, a very important detail considering that this is a marathon stage. Tomorrow we'll have to continue taking care of our machines to arrive trouble-free to the finish in Tan Tan."

Jordi Viladoms
"It's been a difficult day because despite the good start and standing the cold early in the morning, I had to stop shortly afterwards to help Duclos, who crashed and had trouble with his leg. I called the organisation and stayed there with him until the helicopter arrived. Then I went on but shortly afterwards I had to stop again with other riders to help another crashed rider. That hindered me from getting a good pace during the special but, anyway, there are a lot of days ahead and I hope that the organization takes care of the time lost."

Giovanni Sala
"I'm still getting the pace and adapting to this bike, but I'm not really happy. I'm lacking the pace of having raced at some raid over the last months, but well, I don't want to take too many risks either and harm the team, so I'm progressing bit by bit. It's a long race and we have just started, so we have to be patient."


Roma, Masuoka and Alphand in fourth, fifth and sixth. Clutch problems prevent Peterhansel from taking potential overall rally lead Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart maintained the pressure on their main rivals after a punishing 405km special stage through the heart of Morocco between Er Rachidia and Ouarzazate on Tuesday.

Team drivers Joan Roma, Hiroshi Masuoka and Luc Alphand now hold fourth, fifth and sixth in the overall standings, although team mate Stephane Peterhansel lost a potential stage win with minor clutch problems and slipped to ninth overall.

Roma and co-driver Lucas Cruz began the day in seventh place and were running fourth through PC2, before reaching the stage finish in third position behind stage winner Jean-Louis Schlesser and rally leader Carlos Sainz. The Spaniards duly climbed the leaderboard into fourth place.

Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret began the stage third on the track behind rivals Sainz and Giniel de Villiers, but the French duo were in sparkling form over familiar terrain and were the first car to reach the second passage control in just over three hours, 8m 19s ahead of Sainz - the overnight rally leader - although Schlesser was in the fastest car at that point. The twice former winners looked set for a top stage finish and the outright rally lead, until they got stuck in soft sand in a series of tricky sand dunes. After extricating the car from the sand they experienced clutch problems and were forced to stop and make emergency repairs. A clutch replacement was carried out swiftly and the crew dropped a total of 25 minutes, but slipped from fourth to ninth in the overall standings. Hiroshi Masuoka and Pascal Maimon were running sixth on the stage at PC2 and finished the section in fifth place in a third Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution. The Japanese duly moved up to fifth overall, despite sustaining two flat tires. Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard were fifth through PC2 and arrived at the stage finish in seventh position. The defending champions now hold sixth place in the general classification.

Today's special offered a fine balance of fast tracks, rocky roads and sand dunes and was a far cry from the chilly night most of Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart had spent at the Er Rachidia bivouac, where external temperatures plunged to just above zero.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) marks the final special stage in Morocco and a punishing 768km section through the heart of the country from Ouarzazate to the southerly coastal town of Tan Tan. A 164km liaison takes teams to the start of the 325km special stage, before a tiring 279km liaison to Tan Tan. The region is well known to regular competitors on the Dakar and Morocco rallies, but the Dakar organizers, the ASO, insist that this year's special offers a balance of sinuous tracks through the Anti-Atlas mountain range and fast stony terrain to a finish to the east of Bouizakarne.

Nani Roma
"Every day is different and it was not so bad for me today. There was a lot of dust. I was behind Schlesser and we had some problems finding the way, but it is okay, nothing too serious. Tomorrow's stage will not be easy through the mountains. For me, the difficult stages start on Thursday. It is important not to make any mistakes."

Stephane Peterhansel
"I never really seem to have much luck in Morocco. And I don't know why...At the beginning it was a good stage, but we got stuck 300 metres from the end of some small dunes, three times, and we burned out the clutch. Two kilometres later we decided to change the clutch and this cost us around 25 minutes. Before that I passed Carlos (Sainz) when he lost his way and Giniel - when we stopped to clean some debris the front of his car - so I know that we have the pace and the car to beat our rivals in this race. The design of our clutch is so important. I remember last year, when Carlos Sainz burned his clutch, it took three or four hours to change it and it only took Jean-Paul and I 25 minutes today. Things like this make a major difference on an event like the Dakar."

Hiroshi Masuoka
"Two punctures today, one about 90km from the start and one near the finish. It was a difficult stage. There were two moments when I had big landings over jumps. I needed to be careful. We stopped to change the first tire and 'Nani' and Schlesser came passed. Then they lost their way and we passed them again. It was quite funny."

Luc Alphand
"It was more difficult than we thought today. The dunes at Merzouga are easier than they used to be, but there was some camel grass, more sand dunes and some big holes on the stage. With the navigation and the fesh-fesh, it was a varied and difficult stage. We did not have a clean run. I hit a rock and we had a puncture and we had another small navigation problem, so it was not possible to be clean today. The bikes made a good path through the dunes, but the tracks before were more difficult. Tomorrow, we need to make no mistakes. We are suffering at the moment, but the positive is no problems at all with the car."

Thierry Viardot (MMSP Technical Director) "On a normal car the clutch is between the engine and the gearbox, but in the Mitsubishi Evolution the clutch is designed outside the gearbox so that it can be changed quickly. Its quick-fit shape is designed for days like today. Without this technology you lose your chance of taking a possible victory."

Dominique Serieys (MMSP Sporting Director)
"We had some ups and downs today, but that is the nature of the Dakar. Stephane did a very good job to change the clutch so quickly. It was not so bad. We have three cars in close contention and we will continue the same way. This is a long race. When we reach Mauritania, we are not talking about losing five or 10 minutes, we are talking about losing many more minutes with problems. Then we will see what happens."

-credit: repsol

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Luc Alphand , Jean-Louis Schlesser , Hiroshi Masuoka , Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean-Paul Cottret , Gilles Picard , Giniel de Villiers , Pascal Maimon , Giovanni Sala , Nani Roma , Marc Coma , Jordi Viladoms , Lucas Cruz