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Dakar 2009: Verhoeven opportunistic whilst Sainz takes control

On a stage that was mostly quick, which suited Marc Coma in theory, the leader of the general standings in the bike race lost part of his lead, slowed down by a mechanical problem. Frans Verhoeven won his first ever special stage on the Dakar. In the car category, Carlos Sainz carried off a twofold triumph, by winning the stage and also taking the lead in the general standings.

What is true one day is not always thus the day after. The same could be said for Marc Coma, whose display between Santa Rosa and Puerto Madryn could give hope to the other leading bikers in the rally. Having set off first, with the responsibility of leading the way, the Spaniard continued in much the same vein to start with as his brilliant showing yesterday, landing the best time at CP2, 2.20 ahead of Jonah Street. But he was only half way there! The situation took a turn for the worse on one of the quick sections of which he is so fond, when he was slowed down by a radiator problem. Frans Verhoven, renowned for his consistency, took advantage of this mishap to grab his first ever special stage victory on the Dakar, after having been water carrier for Cyril Despres in 2007. Indeed, his former team leader took second place on the day’s stage, 30 seconds behind and as a result climbs up to 12th place in the general standings.

Many riders would still like to be in Marc Coma’s shoes however, since he has a lead of 13.47 over his new pursuer, Frans Verhoven. Provisional third place on the podium went to Jonah Street, who was 5th to cross the finishing line today. This 2nd stage also gave David Fretigné the opportunity to climb up to 4th position in the general standings. Only 24 seconds behind Cyril Despres on today’s special stage, the Yamaha rider confirmed that his 450cc has nothing to envy against the KTMs.

In the car category, the first stage showed that the Volkswagen Race Touaregs would not be waiting in ambush for long, and today Carlos Sainz was the most capable at combining speed and wisdom. For Nasser Al Attiyah and Tina Thorner, yesterday’s winners, the task was proving that their talents as navigators were equal to their pure driving skills. At this level, small mistakes can change everything. Indeed, after a navigational error, when the crew had to execute a quick about-turn to avoid missing a WPM (way point marker, which drivers must pass through), the Qatari ended up behind Sainz and especially in a cloud of dust. Blinded by the Argentine version of fesh-fesh, Al Attiyah sensibly preferred to avoid potentially dangerous attacks. In these conditions, Carlos Sainz completed a faultless display, right up to the finishing line, with the day’s best time. As regards the Mitsubishis, Stéphane Peterhansel was not scared by the dust and his audacity paid off: he scored the second best time of the day, 1.14 behind Sainz.

The first surprises occurred in the T2 category, in which Miki Biasion, former WRC world champion, lost his place as leader. The day’s winner in the category, Michel De Nora, at the wheel of a Toyota Land Cruiser, only managed to rack up a lead of 1.30 over Jérôme Hardy, in a Mitsubishi Pajero. However, for the moment, Mr. Consistency is Jun Mitsuhashi, a former winner of the “Production” category, who is showing great resistance. He is currently in 36th position in the provisional general standings.

In the truck category, the turn that events are taking is starting to become a worry for title holder Hans Stacey, who, after only two special stages, is already 1:12.00 behind the race leader: Gerard De Rooy. The GINAF driver, who yesterday saw a stage victory slip through his grasp by just two seconds, was untroubled by the day’s route. He triumphed with a lead of 3.58 over Firdaus Kabirov and has taken the lead in the truck general standings.

2009/01/04 | 18:43 CET | Editor: MR/HS/ASO

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