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Dakar 2007: Marc Coma and Giniel de Villiers - Clear skies ahead?

In this first stage after the rest day, Marc Coma keeps asserting himself as the leader in the race as the other bikers are being eliminated. The big looser of the day is Isidre Esteve who broke his gearbox just as Cyril Despres had done just before him. The first and closest follower of the title holder is now Despres 54’ behind. In cars, the domination of De Villiers, winner in Tichit, is getting clearer. The VW team is also undergoing its first major reversal of fortunes with the power steering problems of the Race Touareg of Carlos Sainz.

Marc Coma, omnipresent throughout the season and firmly tied to the first place in the overall rankings since the second day in Africa, took one more step on his quest for his second consecutive title in the Dakar. With two special stages won on Moroccan grounds, the Catalan not only sailed through today’s long special stage (589km), but he was also able to take stock of the fact that his main rival at rest day, Isidre Esteve, was now unable to be trouble for him. The leader of the KTM-Gauloises team had indeed the same problem as the one his teammate Cyril Despres had twice. The cursed gearbox of the Spaniard broke as he only had 330km to go. At CP3, Esteve was already 1h24’ behind.

With one contestant less, Coma was the 6th one to go this morning and gave a demonstration to catch up with Cyril Despres, who was the first one to start. Both last winners of the Dakar arrived together on the finishing line in Tichit with Coma improving its lead by 10’ over his new challenger. Ullevalseter finished 3rd at 24’, while David Casteu could only achieve 4th at 26’22’’. The leader in the race who now has a 54’58’’ lead, seems pretty untouchable but might have some concerns with a view to today’s events: the disease of all KTM 690 might very well hit his bike which is totally identical to the ones of Despres and Esteve. And to date, there is no vaccine known to the mechanics of the bivouac.

In the car category, at rest day, the gap between leader De Villiers and the 4th in the rankings, i.e. Alphand was just above the half-hour limit. This 8th stage slightly clarified the situation but some potential winners experienced serious difficulties. If the leader in the overall rankings led the race end to end, his teammate Carlos Sainz, apart from getting stuck in the sand several times, had his first mechanical problem of the Dakar. Penalized by a faulty power steering, the Spaniard lost 1h04 on today’s special stage. He is now 4th in the overall rankings behind Peter and Alphand. In terms of the final victory, VW might have lost one of its precious assets between Atar and Tichit.

De Villiers is the one getting the day’s rewards as he is increasing his lead over the best of the Mitsubishi, Stéphane Peterhansel, second in Tichit at 6’35. With this second stage victory this year, he pushed Peterhansel more than 30’ further in the overall rankings. A good point as well for Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah, who keeps rising in the rankings. 12th at the end of stage 6, the BMW pilot is now 5th thanks to his fourth place of the day, but also to the problems of Jean-Louis Schlesser and the recurring clutch trouble of the Mitsubishi of Hiroshi Masuoka.

2007/01/14 | 21:18 CET | Editor: MR/EP/ASO

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