Friday, January 14, 2005

Dakar Rally

Dakar legend Ari Vatanen has extended his record of stage wins to 51 after setting the fastest time on Friday's 529km stage from Kayes to Tambacounda in Senegal. In the Moto category, Brazilian Jean De Azevedo (KTM) took his first stage win of this year's event as Cyril Despres consolidated his lead
It is apparent that the riders of this year's Dakar are now only thinking about making to the Rose Lake following the tragic deaths of Jose Manuel Perez and Fabrizio Meoni, who was buried yesterday in his home town of Castiglion Fiorentino.
No one would begrudge Cyril Despres the victory, putting the Gauloises KTM team the perfect remembrance to both Richard Sainct and Fabrizio Moeni, and it is for this reason that the factory KTM riders have visibly reduced their speed, allowing the likes of Brazilian Jean De Azevedo to take today's stage win.
De Azevedo flew through today's laterite stages, villages and water splashes in a time of 5h 10m 56s to beat Frenchman David Fretigne into second by just ten seconds. American Chris Blais was third, 23 seconds adrift, with Alfia Cox easing his way home in fourth, 34 seconds down on the winner.
Spain's Marc Coma was fifth fastest, 3 minutes 10 seconds adrift, with Esteve Pujol sixth and Cyril Despres consolidating his overall lead in seventh. The Frenchman now has a 12min 16sec lead over Coma going into the final two stages.
Finland's Ari Vatanen is halfway towards his goal of winning two stages on this year's Dakar after taking his first win on Friday's 529km stage from Kayes to Tambacounda in Senegal. The four-time winner is hoping to remain in sync with his years, and at 52-years old, the Nissan ace will be looking for another win on one of the two remaining stages.
Vatanen completed the last long stage of this year's Dakar in a time of 4h 50m 8s to beat former winner Bruno Saby (VW) into second by over nine minutes! Nissan team-mate Giniel De Villiers was third, 11min 45sec down on Vatanen, with Nani Roma celebrating his best performance so far in fourth.
Frenchman Thierry Magnaldi was fifth fastest in his Honda with Klever Kolberg (Mitsubishi) sixth, Luc Alphand seventh and Stephane Peterhansel seventh, proving that the two front runners are now under orders and cruising to the finish in Dakar.
"I am happy to be here," said Peterhansel. "We made the necessary precautions with the snorkel for the river crossings and controlled the stage today. The Nissans passed us and we drove slowly to the end of the stage."
Josep Maria Servia, who hit a tree on stage 12, decided to quit the rally after badly damaging his Schlesser-Ford buggy when he rolled it on Thursday. The pull-out was another blow for the team after boss Jean-Louis Schlesser also withdrew on Stage 7.
TOMORROW: Saturday's penultimate stage of the 2005 Dakar is the last chance for any of the chasing riders to make up any significant time in the overall standings. The 225km stage is littered with various dangers, ranging from tropical forests at the start to open savannah towards the end.


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