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Dakar 2007: First stage-win for X-Raid BMW and Al Attiyah

The loop stage on the day’s menu, with the start and finish in Nema, was won by Helder Rodrigues, who had already triumphed in Portugal. It is the second consecutive victory for an amateur rider. At the top of the general rankings, Marc Coma continues to nurse his lead. In the car race, Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah, behind the wheel of a BMW X3, recorded the day’s best time and is trying to carve himself out a place on the podium, currently occupied by Peterhansel, Alphand and Schlesser. In a truck category still dominated by Hans Stacey, Arjan Brouwer was victorious.

Twenty-four hours after the victory of Latvian farmer Janis Vinters, another Elf Amateur trophy participant tasted glory on the fast Mauritanian tracks. With a ‘home’ victory already under his belt after the 2nd stage, Helder Rodrigues picked up his first African success on the Dakar. Having started in 9th position, the Portuguese rider took advantage of David Casteu’s presence, with whom he caught up before CP1, to focus on his riding. On a stage without genuine navigational difficulties, Rodrigues then left the Frenchman in his dust before overtaking three other bikers on the "inward" journey. The Yamaha rider offered Portugal a 4th success on this rally (after fellow rider Faria and Sousa in the car race), beating Marc Coma by 44’’ and Cyril Despres by 51’’. Rodrigues’s success also confirms the good health of the 450 cc, capable of outclassing the bigger 690 cc KTM bikes on this type of terrain. Along with Michel Marchini and Thierry Béthys, who he leads in the rankings for his category, three 450 cc bikes were present in the day’s top 10.

There were no changes in the general standings. Marc Coma, now without any team-mates following Sala’s crash during yesterday’s stage, is in control of the race and will be thankful that his KTM has again been spared from the gear-box problems encountered by his cohorts in the rankings. The Catalan added 7’’ to his lead over Despres, who is currently 54’43 behind the leader. In the battle for third place, David Casteu, 5th-placed today, slightly increased his lead over Blais and Ullevalseter.

After their late arrival on Monday evening with their hopes lost, Carlos Sainz and Giniel de Villiers hit the road toward Dakar again, frustrated by their mechanical problems yesterday and probably harbouring the sole ambition of picking up some new stage victories. However, after starting in around thirtieth place on narrow tracks, it was impossible to hope for any salvation today.

On the contrary, Nasser Al Attiyah, one of the beneficiaries of the VWs’ problems, saw this quick ringed stage as the opportunity to leave his mark on motor sport history - at least in Qatar. Probably upset by the time penalty of 42’ that he received the day before for speeding in Morocco, robbing him of third place on the provisional podium, Al Attiyah made the most of his rally driving experience to beat Hiroshi Masuoka by only 28’’. Whereas Guerlain Chicherit just fell short in Tan Tan, Nasser has scored the first triumph of the year for the X-Raid team. Currently the best placed of the Volkswagens, Mark Miller finished 3rd, 1’49 behind. Carlos Sainz, who is now trying to forget, finished in 5th position on this stage.

In the battle for overall victory, the Mitsubishis did not take the slightest risk. The leader, Stéphane Peterhansel still managed to gain an extra 2 minutes on team-mate Luc Alphand, spending most of the day behind him before overtaking the title-holder. Third after the time penalty incurred by Attiyah, Schlesser does not seem able to worry the Mitsubishi duo in normal circumstances and has a lead of a little less than 30’ over the BMW driver.

For the second day running, the very exclusive club of truck special stage winners on the Dakar welcomed a new member. After Van Ginkel yesterday, his countryman Arjan Brouwer triumphed at the end of the 366-km special. Brouwer, in a GINAF truck and 28th-placed in the 2005 edition on a bike, beat Brazilian André De Azevedo by 7’33 and Ilgizar Mardeev by 9’21. In the general rankings, Hans Stacey, seventh to finish today, seems content with controlling his main rivals and still boasts a lead of more than 3 hours over Mardeev.

2007/01/16 | 17:10 CET | Editor: MR/EP/ASO

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