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Dakar 2009: Coma nice and easy, Sainz on time.

Over the 380 kilometers of the day’s special stage, Marc Coma boasted the best time and continues to increase his lead at the top of the general standings. In the car race, the struggle continues between Sainz and Al Attiyah, with a slight advantage for the Spaniard.

What more would Marc Coma need to feel good? He had a relaxed start to the day, with the prospect of a long journey through Patagonia as the pathfinder. Since there were few navigational constraints, there was no worry about getting lost and losing time, especially since his nearest pursuer in the general standings, David Frétigné, was 39 minutes behind him. All the conditions were combined for the Catalan to continue widening the gap, riding at a pace that others would consider supersonic, but which he considers to be gentle. That said, on a bike, everything is relative…

On the finishing line, in spite of a few cattle gets that he was careful to open on the way, Coma grabbed the day’s best time. He won his 7th stage victory on the Dakar with a lead of 1.17 over Cyril Despres and 1.21 over Jonah Street. With this display, the American rider pushed David Frétigné back into 3rd position, but with only 45 seconds between the two, the battle for second place is far from over.

Spain continued its distinguished display in the car category, with a new victory for Carlos Sainz. Arriving in Neuquen with 6 seconds less on the clock than Nasser Al Attiyah, the VW driver brings his total of triumphs on the Dakar to 11. After four days of racing, it would appear that the duel which has the spectators holding their breath is the one being fought out between Sainz and Al Attiyah, who have shared the stage wins this year so far and are only separated in the general standings by 3.49. However, will their vehicles continue to be reliable? After all there are still more than 6,000 kilometers of the race to go.

The expected rivalry with Mitsubishi could occur, as often is the case, later on in the race. In any case, it was not during this fourth stage that “Peter” and his team-mates were able to charge back up the standings. Far behind the leading Hispano-Qatari duo, Nani Roma was the best representative of the Japanese constructor, driving his Lancer to a 5th placed finish on the stage, 6.54 behind the day’s winner. In the general standings, after Masuoka’s withdrawal and the misfortunes of Alphand during yesterday’s stage, only Peterhansel and Roma are in a position to ambush the leaders, less than 20 minutes behind, in 4th and 5th place respectively.

Close pursuit is also a method used in the T2 category. Today, Jun Mitsuhashi was again the quickest in the category, with the 28th best time of the day, followed this time by Ronan Chabot, also a former winner in the Production category. Having arrived in Neuquen 2.26 behind his Japanese team-mate, Chabot is also well placed in terms of the final podium, because Nicolas Gibon, who lost almost 30 minutes during the special, only hung onto his third place by three minutes.

With his third stage victory in the truck category this year, Gerard De Rooy has strengthened his status as a legitimate pretender to the title. However, his rivals behind him are starting to apply pressure, meaning there is no room for error. The Russian fleet of Kamaz trucks lies in wait, with three drivers pursuing De Rooy. Indeed, Chagain is only 10.14 behind in the general standings

2009/01/08 | 01:15 CET | Editor: MR/HS/ASO

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