The film of the stage Coma has the race under control, Roma saves Mitsu's honor On this penultimate special stage of the rally, Cyril Despres rode in the lead from start to finish and won his fifth stage on the rally, his 21st stage victory in...
The film of the stage
Coma has the race under control, Roma saves Mitsu's honor
On this penultimate special stage of the rally, Cyril Despres rode in the lead from start to finish and won his fifth stage on the rally, his 21st stage victory in his Dakar history. But the Frenchman only regained very little ground over Marc Coma who remains leader in the general standings with 1h28' of margin. In the car category Nani Roma finally gave a consolation price to Mitsubishi by getting the best clock of the day. Giniel De Villiers stays in the lead in the general stadings.
This morning at the start in La Rioja, there were still 447 km to cover on the last two days of the 2009 Dakar route. In the bike race, the gap between the first man in the general standings, Coma and his closest contender Despres was 1h29', or a little more than 13" to gain back per km for the Frenchman over the leader. Needless to say that this is almost mission impossible for the title holder who must have in mind the ordeal of this same adversary two years ago in the penultimate stage of the rally. The Catalan had hit a tree, losing therefore all chances of winning his second Dakar.
2007 seems so far away though and the Catalan did not panic today. After starting behind his main contender, Coma rode at his own pace, did not try to catch up on the first one to start. Just like yesterday, Cyril Despres gave a true demonstration of his riding skills. The KTM biker - alone in the lead - kept gaining ground on his rivals in the standings already relegated more than 1' behind him at CP1 (km 133). In the end, he wins his 5th stage of the rally and gets his 21st special stage victory in the Dakar with a 1'45" lead over Coma and a 2'47" lead over David Fretigne. In the general standings, the Spaniard keeps a 1h28" lead over Despres and a 1h34" lead over Fretigne. There are now only 227 km left to the finishing line.
There was certainly more to loose than to win in today's special stage for all three Race Touareg still in the race! This might be the one thing that led the Volkswagen drivers to choosing a full proof strategy. This is why after only 4km into the stage, Giniel De Villiers and Mark Miller stopped, let Robby Gordon pass and endorse the responsibility of opening the road and waited for their team-mate Dieter Depping. Once they were all together, the blue convoy starting driving again behind Gordon without even trying to chase him. No one knows if this tactic by VW changed of influenced Gordon's driving but the Hummer was forced to stop for about 20 minutes at km 30.
The events in the beginning of the stage ousted some drivers out of today's special stage to give way to those driver seeking revenge. First in line were two WRC specialists: Guerlain Chicherit and Krisztof Holowczyc who stood out with best intermediary clocks at km 64 and 133... then came Joan "Nani" Roma, much more on his terrain than yesterday, when he was at the bivouac with a dead engine in the middle of the night. After a night of repairs both for the car and its driver, Roma showed art and talent and surpassed the world champion of extreme ski and the Member of the European Parliament on WRC-type winding roads. At the end of the 220-km special stage, the last survivor of the Mistubishi armada brought his brand new Lancer to stage victory with a 7'18'' lead over Holowczyc, and a 7'27'' over Chicherit.
The fight for this stage victory between the rally virtuosos did not really affect the general standings but allowed the Japanese team to get to Buenos Aires with some solace: the Diesel Lancer put an end to three years without victory. Indeed, Luc Alphand was the last one to win a special stage for Mitsu on a Dakar, when he won in Tambacounda in 2006. This timid return to luck will not impress Giniel De Villiers, whose die seems to have now been cast: tomorrow he will start the last special stage with a 2'20'' lead over Mark Miller, and a 1h27' lead over Robby Gordon.
Nicolas Gibon, leader in the T2 race, seems to have liked the trails of the Cordoba province that allow for some fast steering. Arrived 27' after Roma on today's special stage, Gibon remains the first representative in the T2 category and comforts his lead in the T2 specific standings. Xavier Foj, his closest contender in Production, only lost 6' to Gibon but is now more than one hour behind him in the standings.
In the end, it is probably the truck category that keeps the biggest suspense upon arrival of the last special stage of the rally. The concerns - as small as they may be - that slowed Vladimir Chagin down on the way to Cordoba, allowed his team-mate and rival Firdaus Kabirov to win the special stage and get in the lead in the general standings. Just a stage away from Buenos Aires, it is now the lieutenant that dominates the Czar with a 3' lead.