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Dakar 2007: Coma is holding course and so is Volkswagen

The second stage in Mauritania - reduced by one-third of its length due to bad weather conditions preventing helicopters from flying and providing for the safety of the track - gave a good overview of the challenges that await pilots in the next few days. In the bikes category, Cyril Despres kept up his efforts to regain ground over Marc Coma in the overall ranking: he did win the stage but still remains 45’ behind the leader in the overall ranking. In the car category, the overall ranking has a new leader but the Mitsubishi have not yet been able to benefit from the Mauritanian terrain to dethrone Volkswagen: Giniel De Villiers, the winner of today’s special stage, is in the lead on rest day. In the trucks category, the present leader in the overall ranking, Hans Stacey wins for the third time.

Marc Coma is rather unshakable. Since he’s been in the lead of the overall ranking, he has also been leading the race flanked or not by his rival and countryman Isidre Esteve. The race was supposed to get rough but the Spaniard did not change a thing in his strategy. Whilst the choppers, which are supposed to follow the race from the sky, had given up to the power of the sandstorm, Coma, helped by his fullback stature, again followed his road book without even a hint of a shiver. Despite a visibility close to zero, which pushed the organizers to set the finishing line about 100 kilometers earlier than what was initially planned, the race master managed to find the exact right way. As for Esteve, he remained in ambush.

Cyril Despres had promised to be daring and to attack. Starting in 12th position - after all yesterday’s mishaps had to be worth something - the Frenchman passed all those who had started before he did, with Ullevalster, Casteu and Sala in his wake and ended up getting the best timing of the day with 2 minutes less than the Norwegian. More importantly, this made him gain back 12 minutes on Coma. With the margin he has over his opponents, the title holder is not worried about the competition. Actually the main concern of the day comes from his own team hit by the loss of a precious teammate. Young Jordi Viladoms, who had won a special stage yesterday for the first time in his career in the Dakar, had to withdraw after a bad fall that left him with a broken arm. Nothing serious however, except for the moral of Catalonia.

Zouerat - Atar was supposed to be the very first duel between Volkswagen and Mitsubishi in the car category. The real life test of the German team, which had won the faster stages in the beginning of the rally. VW successfully passed its exam as Giniel de Villiers won a stage for the second time in this rally and for the sixth time since he started in the Dakar in 2003. The South African who had started in 3rd position, made the difference after CP1 (km 216) where he was marked 5th, more than 4' behind Peterhansel. De Villiers finally crossed the finish line with a 2’48 advance over the Frenchman, who had to stop three times. So De Villiers is now leader of the overall ranking with a few seconds headstart over Sainz, who got the third fastest time of the day.

After his trouble of yesterday, Hiroshi Masuoka passed more than 10 competitors to end 4th. In the BMW X-Raid team, after the big scare about the team of Chicherit-Baumel who had an accident yesterday and the endless mechanical problems of Jutta Kleinschmidt, Nasser Al Attiyah won 5th place just 10' shy from the winner. If the sand and dunes were not too painful for the race managers, Carlos Sousa lived a nightmare just 100km from finish. The Portuguese, third in the overall ranking this morning, lost more than an hour trying to get his Touareg out of the sand.

Freed two days ago from five-time winner of the Dakar Vladimir Chagin, Hans Stacey started stage 7 of the truck race without having to care about his dangerous countrymen Jan or Gerard de Rooy. The father having withdrawn yesterday and the son not starting this morning due to a piston malfunction, Stacey comfortably drove to victory for the 9th time in his career on the Dakar. The MAN driver is now ahead of Frenchman Philippe Jacquot, also on MAN, by almost 27’. In the overall ranking, Stacey now has 2h16’ headstart over the other favourite contestant from Kamaz, Ilgizar Mardeev.

2007/01/12 | 21:26 CET | Editor: MR/EP/ASO

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