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Dakar 2009: Despres with Stage-win, Al Attiyah on stand by

On a shortened 6th stage, Cyril Despres grabbed his first special stage victory on the Dakar in 2009. For once free of tire trouble, the Frenchman beat off his rival Marc Coma. The Spanish rider increased his advantage in the general standings and now boasts a lead of 40 minutes over Jonah Street, his nearest rival. Al Attiyah was again out at the front of the field in the car race, but may have only scored a Pyrrhic victory.

Due to the difficult nature of the previous day’s stage and a flooded river ford, the bikers set off this morning from San Rafael on a shortened special stage, which finished after 178 km, in the pretty village of La Junta at the foot of the Andes.

After his success yesterday, American Jonah Street kicked off proceedings before being caught up by a pack of bikers hungry for victory. Having started in eighth place, Cyril Despres proved to be the quickest on the section of dunes at the start of the day. The Frenchman posted the best time at CP1 (after 86 km) then headed for the finish alongside Street and Lopez until the finishing line, where he picked up his first special stage victory on this 31st edition of the race, and his 17th on the Dakar.

Still as imperial as ever, general standings leader Marc Coma finished 2nd today, only giving up 2.09 to Despres, considered as his main rival at the start of the rally in Buenos Aires. The KTM-Repsol team this evening boasts two representatives in the first three places, with Jordi Viladoms third-placed finish, 5.15 behind the day’s winner.

In the general standings, Coma increased his lead. The Catalan is now 40.29 ahead of Jonah Street, who lost more than a quarter of an hour today. David Frétigné is still third, 47 minutes behind. Cyril Despres climbed to 7th position, but is still more than an hour and a half behind Coma.

The sixth stage was conducted at neck-breaking speed by the car drivers. Qatari Nasser Al Attiyah was first to CP 1. He seemed to be flying through the race and crushing all opposition with a lead of more than twenty minutes over all his rivals. However, due to an overheating engine, the BMW X-Raid team driver admitted to having missed a way point after 38 km, and therefore the chain of dunes at the beginning of the special stage, to avoid significant mechanical problems. His first place for today’s stage and in the general standings now hangs on the race stewards’ decision.

Behind him, there is an almighty struggle, conducted at the same crazy pace, with Giniel de Villiers at his best, day after day proving himself to be a credible leader for the Volkswagen team. The South African finished 5.07 behind Al Attiyah, the unofficial winner, whilst Mark Miller was only 5.27 behind. Completing the pursuing pack on the tail of the Qatari, Carlos Sainz took 4th place on this special, 8.37 behind. As a result, the three VW are lying in wait in the general standings in which De Villiers is second 7.31 behind, Sainz 3rd 15.16 behind and Miller 4th 25.22 behind. The second batch of pursuers has been cut down to two following the withdrawal of Luc Alphand, after his co-pilot Gilles Picard encountered health problems after the 12-km mark, and was evacuated to Mendoza. However, fortunately the doctors reported nothing serious. The Mitsubishis of Roma and Peterhansel are respectively 5th and 6th, 38.44 and 41.58 behind the leader in the general standings.

In the T2 category, the battle also raged for this short but demanding stage. The first four vehicles in the Production standings were separated by 7 minutes. In the end, it was Jun Mitsuhashi for Toyota who best represented the category. In the general standings, Frenchman Nicolas Gibon leads the way with a lead of more than half an hour over Spaniard Xavier Foj.

2009/01/08 | 19:24 CET | Editor: MR/HS/ASO

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