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Dakar 2007: A game of trails at the 12th Dakar-Stage to Mali

After half-a-day’s rest and a no-timed route to Ayoun El Atrous, back to the reality of the race for the 140 bikers still in the race. This short special stage gave a few sudden developments as the best bikers themselves were taken aback by the navigation difficulty of the day. Looking for a way point on km 82 the leaders ahead of the race experienced a long period of being lost allowing their pursuers to catch up on them. The result is that on km 118, 11 bikers were driving together.

This is a good operation for Isidre Esteve who started 13th this morning and was already clocked with the best time at the only CP of the special stage. In the last curvy part of the Stage, the group of 11 got reduced to 5 people including the Spaniard and his teammates Despres and Casteu, the leader in the overall rankings Marc Coma and Janis Vinters. A group leading the race without Frans Verhoeven, victim of a bad fall and injured on both shoulders. Esteve kept his headstart until the finish and hence wins his second stage in this edition of the Dakar, his 8th victory in total on the Dakar. Arrived a few seconds after the first group, Paulo Goncalves gets second best time 3’03 behind the winner. The Portuguese on a Honda 450cc also achieved his best performance so far on the Dakar as did Polish biker Jacek Czachor, who ranks third of the stage. South-African privateer, Tom Classen, who’s a plumber by trade, surprised everyone by getting fourth best time of the day. Fabien Planet, winner of the endurance Dakar Challenge FFM, confirms his promising debut with a 5th place here in Kayes.

The overall rankings are only slightly evolving though. Despres catches a bit less than 2’ upon Coma, who still has more than 50’ headstart on the Frenchman. In his quest of the last and third place on the podium, David Casteu can catch his breath. The Frenchman, 5th of today’s stage, adds almost 6’ to his advantage over Chris Blais, who is now more than 30 minutes behind the pilot from KTM-Gauloises.

In the cars category, the leaders in the overall rankings have not been spared by getting lost but the subtleties of navigation were not overly important. After starting 5th of the special stage, Carlos Sainz gave a demonstration of talent passing a Stéphane Peterhansel undoubtedly concerned with protecting his Mitsubishi, before overtaking his teammate at Volkswagen Mark Miller. The Spaniar, whose only goal is now to win stages, gets his third victory this year in front of Carlos Sousa still on VW 3’53 behind.

Attention is now on the internal battle at Mitsu between Peterhansel and Alphand. The 12th stage was beneficial for the second one. The title holder, third today, gained back more than 3’ to his famous predecessor. Two ‘true’ stages from Dakar, Peter has a 6’29 lead which should not be reduced except in case of breakdown, mechanical problem or grave driving mistake. The struggle for third position – fascinating too - now allowed Nasser Al Attiyah to gain 5’ back on Jean-Louis Schlesser. Qatari is less than 25’ from target in the overall rankings but must watch out for Mark Miller, fifth less than 20’ behind him.

In the truck race, Hans Stacey does not only have a huge lead of almost 3 hours but also won his fifth special stage in the rally. Here is an additional proof that the Dutchman is really sailing through the Dakar in his MAN truck. On the way to Kayes, Stacey left his challenger of the day Tomas Tomecek 4’53 behind. Ranking third Wulfert Van Ginkel is 5’50 behind. In the overall rankings, Ilgizar Mardeev is 2h59 behind Stacey.

2007/01/19 | 14:22 CET | Editor: MR/EP/ASO

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