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Bad first day for Team Omega
Two crews out, one ongoing at the Dakar
The retirements of Michel Turon-Barrère – Jean-Marc Monbeig (Buggy SEAT) and of Jean-Marc Ayala – Joël Clevenot (Toyota HDJ 80) on the same opening stage yesterday sent a dark cloud over the heads of Team Omega personnel.

Both
crews lost their chances about eight kilometres from each other, but the Jean-Marc Despujols – Franck Pujouau duo remains in the race. Nonetheless, it was a bad Saturday for the team, one where a few people probably wished they had stayed in bed!

After covering 18 kilometres of the stage set between Buenos Aires and Santa Rosa de la Pampa, and understandably eager to take on the remainder of the 371km trek, Turon-Barrère suddenly saw white smoke appearing from his buggy. With the engine blown and an inescapable feeling of helplessness, the Dakar Rally ended there for Buggy No.364.

The engine will be throroughly inspected in order to determine the cause of the failure, as it gave no signs of trouble before blowing. For the time being it is a mystery since the engine had previously been through two events in similar temperatures without a hitch.

Then came the news that buggy No.471 had rolled hard several times. Ayala and Clévenot were unharmed, but their ride was in bad shape as it counted a pierced radiator and a smashed windshield among its damages.

After reaching the bivouac in 76th position, Despujols remains to carry the Team Omega effort in Argentina and Chile.

"I know what I have to do to save the team's honour," he declared.
"I drove hard without taking any risks, only one car passed me!"

There was however a worrisome moment for Despujols regarding an electrical wire, but co-driver Pujouau saved the day: "I used a small wooden twig; that allowed us to reach the bivouac."
Marie-France Estenave


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