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Dakar 2009: Coma and Al Attiyah Winners of 3rd stage

As Marc Coma has now won his second stage on the 2009 edition of the Dakar and takes some serious lead in the overall rankings, Cyril Despres keeps sinking down the rankings after having had to fight tyre problems during the whole special stage of the day. In cars, Nasser Al Attiyah ends up with the best timing of the day and gets dangerously close to Carlos Sainz, still in the lead in the overall rankings.

Between Cyril Despres and Marc Coma, it often used to be "one day you win, one day I win". But the lion’s share achieved by the Spaniard on the third special stage today seems to be saying that there might not be a lot left for the other contenders. Despres might have learned patience and proven that enduro racing is not won on the first day, the consequences of his recurring tyre trouble are putting an increasing distance between him and even those positions in the rankings where he might benefit from a potential breakdown of his usual rival. After his trouble of the day, the title holder is timed 1h32’50" behind Coma, who is still the fastest on the trail and who has been spared by technical trouble.

The role of outsider in the race therefore comes on to David Frétigné, the "little-kid-who-decided-to-hit-on-the-biggest-fishes-in-the-pond". Behind the wheel of his Yamaha 450cc, Fretos still comes as a surprise, as an astonishment, making the best of the hard times of other contenders. Indeed, the 39’11" between him and Marc Coma makes it hard to even imagine he might come back in the race if nothing happens to Coma, but his aiming at the final podium is slowly starting to take shape. In order to keep his position in the Top 3, the names of his rivals are now getting clearer as the days go by and they are the likes of Frans Verhoeven, winner of yesterday’s stage, who finishes the provisional top trio and will be amongst those to watch out for. Another one to watch out for is Pal-Anders Ullevalseter, who got the second fastest time today ex-aequo with Viladoms, but still 17’49" behind Coma!

Tyre stories have also made the race in the lead of the car category as the fastest man of the day even had time for a small stop to repair a flat tyre before racing for his second special stage victory of the year. Nasser Al Attiyah, who promises every day to stay put and not push the accelerator too hard, launched a successful counterattack on 551km in the special stage. Starting 7th this morning, the Qatari passed his team mate Argentina’s Orlando Terranova, then Mark Miller, Poland’s Holowczyc and Luc Alphand, delayed by a fuel leakage issue.

In total, the winning BMW stole 35" to Carlos Sainz, who ends up with the 10th time. The Spaniard remains in the lead of the overall ranking 3’40" ahead of Al Attiyah and 5’45" ahead of De Villiers. Stéphane Peterhansel, the first Mitsubishi driver, follows the top trio by 8’47".

In the production category, the race between the Toyotas of Nicolas Gibon and Jun Mitsuhashi is taking shape. They respectively finished 31st and 32nd of today’s stage with only 7 seconds separating them after 550 km! In the overall standings, the Japanese driver has a 21-second lead over Gibon.

Vladimir Chagin also led a similar counterattack that brought him to winning his first special stage of the rally in the trucks category. Starting fourth this morning, the "Czar" passed by the trucks of Van Vliet, Kabirov, and Gerard De Rooy. The leader in the overall rankings, who is not yet directly threatened by Chagin, does feel the threat of the Kamaz trucks getting clearer and clearer as all three Russian trucks in the race are now in direct pursuit in the overall rankings of the race.

2009/01/05 | 23:28 CET | Editor: MR/HS/ASO

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