MITSUBISHI'S ROMA SURVIVES MARATHON ATACAMA SPECIAL STAGE AND MAINTAINS FOURTH PLACE Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart's Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz Senra (both Spain) survived what should have been the longest and potentially most difficult...
MITSUBISHI'S ROMA SURVIVES MARATHON ATACAMA SPECIAL STAGE AND MAINTAINS FOURTH PLACE
Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart's Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz Senra (both Spain) survived what should have been the longest and potentially most difficult special stage of the entire 2009 Dakar Rally on Tuesday. They completed the 670km loop through the Atacama desert, that was shortened to 476km by event officials, in fifth place to maintain fourth in the overall classification.
The Mitsubishi mechanics left no stone unturned to find the fault that had caused Roma's overheating woes on the ninth stage and the ventilator fan was eventually repaired to rectify the problem.
Roma held a virtual sixth at the first passage control and a similar position through PCs three, four and five, before reaching the finish, adjacent to the bivouac, where hundreds of service teams, media and spectators were watching the action unfold at the end of the special from an elevated position on a giant dune.
Robbie Gordon (USA) set the second fastest time on the special to reduce Roma's hold on fourth position to 21m 25s, but Carlos Sainz (Spain) continued to head team mate Mark Miller (USA) by 27m 31s in the overall standings after setting the quickest time of the day.
The ASO permitted 312 teams to take part in today's loop stage, with 142 bikes and quads, 109 cars and 61 trucks given permission to restart. Low-lying cloud and a sea mist again forced the delay of the special stage, which had been reduced from 670km to 476km the previous evening, on the grounds that some of the terrain was not challenging and the ASO preferred teams to have more time to tackle the tricky dunes en route.
But the fog persisted, meaning that the safety helicopters could not take off, and ASO officials were forced to delay the start of the stage by 2h 40m.
Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the 10th leg of the 2009 Dakar Rally and marks the return to Argentina across the mighty Andes mountain range. Event organisers have warned that the emphasis will be on accurate navigation, as a 20km liaison takes teams into a 215km special stage, finishing just after the village of Carrera Pinto.
Service trucks and assistance vehicles will reach 4,250 metres above sea level, before crossing the border at around 4,160 metres and head on towards the following night halt at La Rioja.
Competitors, meanwhile, will experience a 445km liaison section to their overnight halt at the spa town of Fiambal?, which is the first and only Marathon-type stage on this year's Dakar. The sinuous passage will cross the Col San Francisco at an altitude of around 4,748 meters.
The liaison route climbs over winding tracks through the Claudio Gay mountain range and heads towards Hosteria Murray before reaching Las Grutas and descending through Cortaderos and Chaschuil to Fiambal?, which is in the Catamarca province and lies 1,520 metres above sea level.
WHAT THEY SAID...
Dominique Serieys, Team Director 'Nani' is driving very well and has made no mistakes. We had some troubles that have put him back, but we are getting more feedback about diesel technology every day. We are on a good pace now and will try and give him a better car each day. The target is still a podium. Robbie (Gordon) is still pushing and it is good for the rally that another private team is coming into the fight."
Joan 'Nani' Roma "I am happy to be here. If they make the original road book about 670km, you know it is going to be tough. The engine mapping could have been better in the power stakes, but we never stopped and we made the kilometers to reach the finish. I am not watching the leader board now. If we cannot take a podium, then fourth or fifth is the same to me. It is just a case of doing our jobs and keeping going over the last few days."
Lucas Cruz Senra "It was obviously a hard stage. There were a lot of areas of camel grass and that made it tough. We struggled a little. I stopped on one occasion to take some air out of the tires, because the sand is very soft. The road book was not so good today. One modification was totally opposite to the real direction we had to take and we lost one or two kilometers."
TONI VAN DEIJNE DELAYED ON COPIAPO LOOP STAGE
Toni van Deijne (Netherlands) was delayed on the shortened 10th loop stages through the Atacama desert around the Copiapo bivouac on Tuesday and was running in a virtual 19th position at PC4.
With the retirement of Orlando Terranova (Argentina), it was imperative that Van Deijne and co-driver Wouter Rosegaar (Netherlands) reached the end of the stage, as a place in the top 10 was still available.
Former Baja GB winner Miroslav Zapletal (Czech Republic) was running in 20th position at PC5 in his Mitsubishi Pajero, while Francisco Inocencio (Portugal) held 16th at PC4 and slipped to 21st at PC5, as he headed into the last dunes before the stage finish.
Mitsubishi Thailand-backed Mana Pornsiricherd (Thailand) and co-driver Thierry Lacambre (France) began the stage in 35th place and held 34th overall through the fourth PC, but were facing a battle against time to reach the bivouac before nightfall.
Christian Barbier (France) was classified 45th at PC4 in his Mitsubishi.
Adverse weather conditions and a poor forecast for Wednesday morning forced the cancellation of the 11th stage on Tuesday evening and teams will travel across the Andes mountains to Fiambala in convoy on a road liaison section.