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Central Europe Rally Special-Newssection (1st round Dakar-Series 2008)

This is the single-news section of the special of the Central Europe Rally 2008, the first round of the new Dakar-Series. To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.

Central Europe Rally: Rally kicks off with a superb performance by Repsol.

On Sunday, the new Dakar series finally started. After the teams, drivers and riders yesterday completed their technical revisions and paperwork in Budapest city centre, today the Central European Rally kicked off with an initial 58 km link from the Hungarian capital to the town of Dabas, where the first special was disputed in a 63 km loop-style stage. Then the Cental European Rally traveled to neighboring Romania, where they will spend the night after completing a second 410 km link. In total, a 531 km start for the competitors, 63 of which were timed and 468 were links.

Despite the fact that mud and low temperatures were expected, the Central European Rally participants were surprised with the excellent weather conditions, with the high temperatures and the shining sun. The compact ground and the absence of mud made this first special the perfect setting for an enjoyable race, as the Repsol KTM Team riders pointed out. The uneven ground was harder on the car drivers, who were "trapped" in a short special, on very uneven ground, and where they were unable to get the most out of their cars. This benefitted the diesel-powered cars, as they have a higher torque and power at low revolutions, which helped with acceleration after braking hard.

The four Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart members completed this first special without incident. Stèphane Peterhansel ran the fourth fastest time in a short special where he was first to start, forced to open up the track without any references, which his rivals were quick to take advantage of. The special was won by Carlos Sainz, while Stèphane Peterhansel was fourth one minute and two seconds behind, Luc Alphand was seventh, 2 minutes 21 secs behind Sainz, and "Nani" Roma was eighth, running the same time as teammate Alphand. Hiroshi Masuoka, in his diesel-powered Mitsubishi Montero MPR14, was tenth on his debut, 2 minutes 55 secs behind Sainz. As Dominique Serieys commented at the end of this first special, "this was like starting all over again, after five months away. The first special bore some similarities with with a motocross competition. It wasn't easy for Stèphane Peterhansel, because he had to open up the track, making it easier for the rest of the cars. In this first special, the difference with the diesel-powered winning car was quite significant: a minute. We now enjoy a good position for tomorrow's start. The race has started and now it's our turn to react. Obviously, we didn't leave the victory to someone else on purpose; it was tough, because we found a lot of tricky winding places, with a lot of accelerating, which favoured the diesel-powered cars, and on very uneven ground. You have to be careful, because Volkswagen has already lost a car. So for the tme being our cars are still there, and our diesel engine is performing very well. We'll see what happens tomorrow."

Marc Coma, with number 2, was the winner of this special test in Hungary, in front of Despres and Repsol KTM Teamteammate Jordi Viladoms. Coma ran the fastest time with over a minute's advantage over Despres and Viladoms, these last riders separated by scarcely two seconds. Today's special, as Jordi Arcarons, Repsol KTM Team manager points out, "was a particularly fun timed stage, with terrain in optimum conditions to enjoy riding. The ground the riders were faced with was compact and slightly wet black soil, though there was no mud nor dust. The track was quite uneven, very similar to what you can find on a motocross track, but with the difference that there's a roadbook you have to follow in order to avoid mistakes that may prove very costly. The best thing to do is to follow the roadbook and keep up a fast though safe pace to avoid any possible mistakes. Today Marc ran a perfect special, with a good pace and speed, though following the roadbook down to the smallest detail. Avoiding mistakes is crucial in this rally, as is making the right decisions, because a mistake can mean losing precious minutes that you can't regain no matter how fast you ride."

Stéphane Peterhansel: "It was a very special stage. We had never seen this type of special in the races we've been in. It was always very sandy, though mainly there were many jumps folowed by uneven ground. It's not very intuitive, a track which constantly surprises you and where picking up a good pace is tough, because sometimes the potholes are small, while others are large, and that's quite dangerous. But it was well layed-out, no problems taking directions. There were bystanders everwhere and there was a good atmosphere. For now the results aren't extraordinary, though they aren't catastrophic either. We'll see. The car performed perfectly well, not a single problem. Tomorrow we'll try to build up a faster pace and will take some more risks."

Luc Alphand: "It wasn't a bad day. I think we ran this special correctly; the ground was in quite a bad state and was similar to a motocross track, with many potholes which prevented us from taking any risks during this first day. We kept up a good pace during sixty kilometres or so, but there are a few specialists who are up there ahead. Robby Gordon didn't surprise me, because his car is really made for this. Then there's Carlos Sainz, who is a specalist in rallies, and is therefore very fast. I ran the same time as "Nani", and among us, only Stèphane is holding out. Stèphane is running slightly faster than us. But it's only the first day. We're doing well for the time being. We are in a good position, slightly behind, but not doing too bad."

'Nani' Roma: "It wasn't an easy day; the special was nice but it was very uneven and that punished us a lot. The secret was to build up a good pace in order to improve. I possibly started off too defensively during the first stretch, but afterwards had better sensations, picked up my pace and everything went better. I'm happy, because I hadn't been in a race situation like this, driving this car, for many months, so adapting to Lucas -my co-pilot- again, and the notations, was quite easy. This has only just begun; tomorrow it's another stage and another country, so let's see what happens."

Hiroshi Masuoka: "This was the first cmpetition for the diesel-powered Mitsubishi Montero MPR14 and the truth is that it was a very positive experience. I had good sensations with the new car in spite of some minor problems, logical bearing in mind how new it is. But the future of this new car is promising and I thnk it will be very competitive when its moment arrives at the Dakar 2009. Now we have to do a good job developing it."

Marc Coma: "Today we were a bit in doubt as to what kind of ground to expect here. In the end it went fine, on a sandy and uneven track where I tried to run a good pace and complete the timed 63 km stage without making any mistakes. I'm satisfied with this first day; it's the first day of the competition and there is still much ahead, but for the time being things have gone perfectly. I was surprised by the amount of people who came out to watch, there was an incredible amount bystanders thoughout the whole stage; this obviously doesn't happen in Africa. We've used a special and different setup for the bike with respect to what we normally use for the Dakar; let's just say that it's halfway between an enduro and a rally bike. We've reduced the fuel tank capacity -here you need to travel lighter to complete the specials and the links- and we also looked for a bike that would be more agile and easier to handle, because here the bike doesn't reach the same speed as in Africa."

Jordi Viladoms: "As opposed to what we expected, a special full of mud, low temperatures, rain and tough conditions, we found ouselves in a very fun special, in perfect conditions. The sun shined throughout the day and the ground was in perfect conditions, and the grip was perfect. The truth is that we arrived here a bit worried about what we would find, but then it was a very fun first day, even if the special was quite short. I'm very satisfied with how this frst special went. We can't ask for more for now, we can only wait until tomorow to see what kind of special awaits us in Romania."

On Monday the Central European Rally will hold its second special on Romanian soil. The stage starts in Baia Mare, where the Dakar Series caravan will spend the night, and after a 40 km link, will complete the first round in a 76 km loop-style special. After, a second timed round in the afternoon, ending in a final 30 km link to Baia Mare, where they will spend the night again. In total, tomorrow Monday the drivers and riders will face a total of 292 km, of which 152 will be timed and 140 are links.

2008/04/21 | 10:21 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Repsol

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