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Fighting towards the front in Production
Dakar : Team Dessoude - Leg 6
The day after the retirement of Christian Lavieille, Jean-Paul Forthomme and their Proto 05 in dramatic conditions, Team Dessoude is trying to heal its wounds. It still has two vehicles in the race, both in the Production category, including
the Nissan Pathfinder of Jean-Pierre Strugo which is currently lying in 4th position.

The « rookies » Frédéric Chavigny and Stéphane Singery continue to make good progress, getting through the many obstacles on their path day after day.

Between San Rafael and Mendoza, the wine-making capital of Argentina, the sixth stage was due to be neutralised at the second checkpoint in order to allow as many people as possible to take the start, many competitors having spent most of the night in the dunes. The previous leg, between Neuquen and San Rafael, proved to be extremely difficult, with many cars getting stuck in dunes which proved to be very different from those encountered in Africa, being strewn with particularly dense vegetation. Eventually the times were stopped at the first checkpoint, at 19 :00…

For Jean-Pierre Strugo and Yves Ferri, yesterday was no mere formality but a real marathon which lasted over 11 hours… making them the last vehicle to arrive ‘on time'. All the others received a standard penalty which will further increase the gaps

Jean-Pierre looked back over the previous day's misadventures : « The day was, quite frankly, long and tough. We had a puncture, and then twice had a tyre come off the rim. Just before the dunes, we had a transmission failure.
Initially we decided to go into the dunes like that, but we rapidly changed our minds when we saw the terrain… We were stopped quite close to Jun Mitsuhashi who had the same problem, except that we had the spare part in the car (which Yves replaced) while he was forced to wait for the T4 truck. Very happy to finish the stage, we reached the bivouac at the end of the evening…”

Today's stage, initially reduced to a 178 km timed stage (instead of 395), was later neutralised at 19 :00 at the CP1. More sand dunes and fast sections, taking the competitors to the foothills of the Andes. Once more, it was hardly a Sunday drive for Jean-Pierre and Yves : «It was a fine stage, with about 50 km of dunes, which were difficult but interesting. That was followed by about 100 km of pure driving pleasure. Unfortunately our stage was spoiled by the sort of mistake only a beginner should have made. We got stuck on the crest of a dune while trying to avoid a biker, and we had a few problems with our air bottle to re-inflate our tyres. In total, we lost around thirty minutes. I think it's a shame that when we took the start this morning we did not use the previous day's classification. It makes it rather difficult to manage your race. I am worried that it will be the same tomorrow due to another neutralisation at CP1… In the overall classification, we are ahead of our plans for the mid-race point. In T2, we are slightly below our prognostics. But the race is far from being over. »
Frédéric Chavigny and Stéphane Singery have passed CP1 and are heading for the bivouac.

Finally, there is some trouble at the front of the race, where Nasser el Attiah has just been excluded for missing nine waypoints ( in the regulations, the competitor has to be excluded after missing four successive waypoints), leaving the way free for the Volkswagen cars. There is a lot of ‘confusion' concerning the overall classification.

Tomorrow the rally heads for Valparaiso in Chile, with the first high-altitude sections and, the day after tomorrow, a well-earned rest day…

     Mitsubishi's challenge down to two Racing Lancers
     Cyril Despres takes first stage victory in Dakar 2009
     Volkswagen awarded an unusual sausage licence
     Volkswagen rank second, third and fourth
     Dakar organisers exclude Al Attiyah
     Al Attiyah strikes again
     Després finally gets his stage win
     Alphand retires from Dakar Rally
     Spectators everywhere
     Despres has not lost hope

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