Dakar: Team Repsol stage three report

VICTORY FOR REPSOL RIDER MARC COMA IN MOROCCO Jordi Viladoms is seventh fastest. In the car class, third and fourth fastest times for Peterhansel and Alphand. Power steering damage for Masuoka; two punctures for Roma who finished eighth. First...


Jordi Viladoms is seventh fastest. In the car class, third and fourth fastest times for Peterhansel and Alphand. Power steering damage for Masuoka; two punctures for Roma who finished eighth.

First victory for Marc Coma in this edition of the Dakar. In a dangerous and complicated stage, the Repsol rider has been able to set a fast but safe pace that has allowed him to clinch the victory. Thus Coma has moved up to the second position in the overall standings, 26 seconds behind the new leader, also KTM rider, Isidre Esteve.

Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart drivers Stéphane Peterhansel, Luc Alphand, Hiroshi Masuoka and Joan 'Nani' Roma completed the 252 km special between Nador and Er Rachidia in Morocco in third, fourth, seventh and eighth places on Monday. They will now start the fourth special stage of the 29th Dakar Rally on Tuesday morning with all four cars inside the top eight in the overall classification.

The Mitsubishi quartet had begun the first day of the race in Africa in fourth, fifth, eighth and 12th positions and now hold fourth, sixth, seventh and eighth overall, as they continue to apply the pressure on early rally leaders Carlos Sainz, Giniel de Villiers and Carlos Sousa from the rival Volkswagen team.

Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret were the fastest of the Mitsubishi crews on today's stage, the French pair pipping defending champions and team mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard by 24 seconds in bright, sunny conditions in North Africa. Alphand began the stage behind Spaniard Carlos Sainz and team mates Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz. Alphand lost a couple of minutes to his rivals before the first passage control, but maintained a measured pace over the closing kilometres to secure the fourth fastest time and move up four places in the overall standings.

Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka and French co-driver Pascal Maimon began brightly this morning and were running fastest on the road in the early kilometres, before slipping behind Sainz and De Villiers. They were the fastest of the Mitsubishi crews at the first passage control, 28 seconds ahead of Roma and Cruz, but eventually finished the special in seventh position after damaging the power-assisted steering while overtaking a motorcycle competitor in dusty conditions on a rock-lined track 90km from the stage finish.

Joan 'Nani' Roma and Mitsubishi team debutant Lucas Cruz were the second crew on the stage this morning in a fourth Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution, but a puncture cost them over six minutes and the crew slipped to seventh in the overall rankings after the passage control.

In the motorbike class, today's stage brought the first surprises. The hard conditions of the ground, with several hidden traps and a lot of sand and dust were the trend in this first day on African ground. Marc Coma, who started this morning from fifth position behind the Portuguese riders Rodrigues and Faria, his fellow countryman Esteve and Frenchman Casteu, was the winner of the stage. Coma set a comfortable pace from the start and overtook the preceding riders until catching-up with Esteve, who was leading the pack at a good pace. The Repsol rider decided then to follow Esteve and reach the finish of the special with him, thus clinching his first stage victory at the 2007 Dakar. Jordi Viladoms is recovering well after the strong blow suffered in his right leg two weeks before the start of the Dakar. He had to make a big physical effort today and his leg has responded well, although it is obviously bothering him a bit. Giovanni Sala did not have a good day today due to the lack of experience with his new bike and a setting of the front fork that did not make him feel very comfortable. Jordi Viladoms finished seventh and is no eighth in the overall standings, while team mate Giovanni Sala finished twenty-sixth and is twentieth overall. Marc Coma, after today's stage victory, has moved-up to second overall behind Esteve.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) marks the second special stage in Africa between Er Rachidia and the tourist town of Ouarzazate. A 96km liaison takes teams to the beginning of the gruelling 405km special -- the longest timed section in Morocco -- and a 178km liaison steers crews into the bivouac. The second Morocco stage features several sections used in the past by teams for testing, including sand dunes and numerous rutted and pot-holed roads. The stage starts near Erfoud -- the base for Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart during two test sessions in July and September last year -- and skirts Rissani, before heading south of Zagora to a finish near Foum-Zguid.

Marc Coma
"The stage has been a typical Moroccan stage, with a lot of stones and with a first part with difficult navigation, very technical. There were a lot of tracks and it wasn't easy to find the good one. It opened bit by bit and you were able to set a higher pace, although it became dangerous towards the end again, because the track was broken due to the rain. I've been catching people, first the two Portuguese riders, then Casteu and when I reached (Esteve), who was opening the track, the pace was enough. It's been a 250km special in Morocco and things are already happening. We're moving on day after day, and we obviously have our intentions, but we can be happy so far and we already have one stage victory."

Jordi Viladoms
"It's been a stage with a lot of road book work, with a lot of dangers, because the tracks are broken in Morocco and we've come across several junctions. Today you had to be very careful reading the road book to avoid making mistakes. I have tried to set a pace that would allow me to follow the indications correctly, but to do so I had to give up on speed, because it was important not to take too many risks. But the stage has gone well in general terms and the result is good. The leg is doing better all the time and now I'm lacking a bit of strength towards the end of the stage, but we're working on it with the physiotherapist and I'm feeling better every day."

Giovanni Sala
"I didn't manage to set a good race pace after the start of the special. Moreover, I've had some problems to adapt until the refuelling. But after filling the tank I set the front fork a bit harder and the new setting was a bit better so that allowed me to recover confidence in the bike and ride better. But that was already in the second half of the special and I lost quite a lot of time. I'm sorry for the team because I haven't been able to make it as good as I wanted, but I thought that it would be senseless to take any risks today, since it's the first day in Africa. So I hope to be able to rejoin the fight in the next days and be among the top riders."

Stéphane Peterhansel
"It was not easy at all. The stage was not so long, but very hard. There was a lot of dust. Maybe we passed more than 100 bikes and that means you need to take care. I took no risks. I prefer not to open the stage in the morning, so I have a good position now. We know the beginning of the stage well, but it will be a long day. Normally in Morocco the stages are around 300km, but this will be much longer."

Luc Alphand
"I started quite slowly, because I did not want to get a puncture. Over the first 25km there were some big rocks and maybe we drove a little too slowly. There was lots of dust and too many bikes to overtake. Afterwards we finished much better. There were a couple of tiny diversions on two parallel tracks, but nothing too serious."

Hiroshi Masuoka
"Ninety kilometres before the finish there were four bikes and one quad in a wadi, with a lot of dust. We touched a big stone and damaged the power steering. It was very difficult to finish the stage."

Nani Roma
"Not so good today. I had two punctures and a shock absorber problem. The jack was not working properly and we had to change the wheel manually. I expected to be around 15th at the end of the stage, so eighth was okay, because I lost my concentration a little after the punctures and the delays cost me six minutes. It was frustrating."

-credit: repsol

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