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Lisbon Dakar rally route analyzed (2)
By Nani Roma and Marc Coma
The Repsol riders comment stage by stage the entire rally route.
5 January. Stage 6: Tan Tan - Zouerat
Liaison: 336 kms - Special: 444 kms - Liaison: 12 kms
One of the peculiarities of this stage is that the liaison
to the start of the special, at the border between Morocco and Mauritania, will take place at night. The hours of rest stored will be fundamental to face the 444 kms special, where the first special will take them through a wide and fast track before taking on a much sandier stretch halfway through the special.

Nani Roma: "The funny thing is that the start of this special is right on the border between Morocco and Mauritania. The landscape and the terrain change completely. We will reach fast tracks leaving the stones behind, entering the sand. I don't know whether we'll find the first dunes, but in the end we'll have a fast track that will take us to Zouerat."

Marc Coma: "We enter Mauritania and that means leaving the stone tracks behind to enter the sand. The first liaison is the one we're going to make at night to get to the Mauritanian border, and the special is quite easy but fast. We'll find the first dune chains towards the end."

6 January. Stage 7: Zouerat - Atar
Liaison: 10 kms - Special: 499 kms - Liaison: 12 kms
The Dakar reaches is highest difficulty in these stages on Mauritanian ground. In addition to the difficulties as regards navigation off-track, there will be the difficulties of the track itself. Dunes, stony tracks and camel grass won't make it easy for participants.

Nani Roma: "From here on, the Dakar gets really serious. We'll have to face dunes from the start, then there will be a series of hard tracks with a lot of stones, and then we'll have to cross two complicated dune chains. I think that the hardest Dakar is going to be from here to the Kiffa-Bamako stage."

Marc Coma: "This is start of the complications on a technical level, because we'll find camel grass and dune crossings, added to the already complicated navigation."

7 January. Stage 8: Atar-Nouakchott
Liaison: 34 kms - Special: 508 kms - Liaison: 26 kms
The first section of this special is twisty, going through canyons and oueds, before crossing a series of massifs. After the zigzagging, an extremely fast track will take drivers and riders to the bivouac in Nouakchott, where they will have a well deserved rest.

Nani Roma: "We already know the start of this special. We will branch off to the north-northwest to continue west to Nouakchott. Together with the ninth, this is the hardest stage of the Dakar. It's not only long, but there are many dunes, sand and camel grass."

Marc Coma: "It's one of the most difficult stages of the rally, maybe the most complicated one. It's sandy ground, there are many dunes and camel grass and the sand is quite soft." You end up shattered."

8 January. Rest Day: Nouakchott
The eight stages raced so far will surely have made an important selection among participants, so reaching the rest day will be a great merit for many. The rest day in the Mauritanian capital will allow latecomers to recover distance and join the caravan and the most experienced to prepare for the hard stages ahead.

Nani Roma: "It's a classic. The hardest stages are before and after the rest day. Thus people have time to reach the bivouac and regroup, and to have a bit of rest in order to face the following stage that will make a large selection of participants."

Marc Coma: "Finally the rest day. The rally will have been very hard until then and there will surely be a large selection of participants."

9 January. Stage 9: Nouakchott - Kiffa
Liaison: 30 kms - Special: 599 kms - Liaison: 245 kms
It's the longest special of the rally, almost 600 kms, with long chains of dunes of more than 20 kms, both at the beginning and at the end of the special. Between two sandy tracks, participants will have some time to recover on a fast but rocky track.

Nani Roma: "A good blow after the rest. It's the hardest - and longest - special, with a lot of dunes, stones... but what makes it different to the rest is that we have to find and cross the Nega pass. This pass is first of all, difficult to find, even more considering this year's restrictions and second, difficult to cross. But for me, the more complicated the better."

Marc Coma: "This is the longest special of the rally and, together with stage 8, the most complicated of the whole race. On our way to Kiffa we will have to cross the Nega pass, which is very complicated, because we have to go down from the top of a hill and there is only one way to do it. It's a rather sandy stage."


10 January. Stage 10: Kiffa - Kayes
Liaison: 1 kms - Special: 283 kms - Liaison: 49 kms
Entering Mali means returning to vegetation and the appearance of the noble baobabs. The furrowed dirt tracks zigzag quickly through the savannah, but the first laterite sections and a little lack of attention may have fatal consequences. Despite the tricky chotts that line the course, it will be a day of transition before the great stages in Black Africa.

Nani Roma: "Almost 300 kms in line. In this case, the difficulty lies rather in navigation than on the ground. There are several different tracks and it's easy to get lost if you don't follow the road book correctly."

Marc Coma: "Although we are in Mali, we are still in the savannah area. It's a mainly sandy terrain, although vegetation begins to appear, getting more and more abundant. We'll also find the first laterite section, that red suspended dust that makes things so much more complicated for us."

11 January. Stage 11: Kayes-Bamako
Liaison: 50 kms - Special: 231 kms - Liaison: 424 kms
The layout of this classic special surrounds the wildlife reserve of Badinko and the biosphere reserve of the Baoulé loop. But the beautiful landscape cannot distract participants because they will need impeccable navigation along the narrow, hidden tracks that may take them to make fatal errors that sometimes force riders and drivers to go all the way back.

Nani Roma: "The stage will be very similar to the previous day. Will find laterite sections in the end (hard and with a lot of dust), adding difficulty. It will be complicated both as regards technique and navigation and we'll also have to be careful with the stones."

Marc Coma: "There will be more and more laterite and down going off-track sections. Navigation won't be that important here, although we'll have to be very careful because we'll be passing more inhabited areas. Traffic, animals, people, radars... we'll have to be watchful."


12 January. Stage 12: Bamako-Labe
Liaison: 197 kms - Special: 368 kms - Liaison: 307 kms
A total of 872 kms make this stage the longest of the rally and since it's a marathon stage, it will put riders, drivers and mechanics to the test while crossing Guinea. The layout of this first Guinean special will offer participants a large variety of terrains. Trial zones, laterite sections and fords will add difficulty to the already difficult increasing task of passing villages.

Nani Roma: "This stage is completely new. It's pure laterite and makes everything more dangerous, because there's suspended dust that affects visibility. In addition, there are narrow tracks, furrowed and with a lot of trees. Driving will be a challenge."

Marc Coma: "Another novelty of the rally is this visit to Guinea. It will be a much more enduro-like and technical stage. We'll surely find a large variety of terrains, vegetation, river crossings... It'll be fun."


13 January. Stage 13: Labe-Tambacounda
Liaison: 7 kms - Special: 348 kms - Liaison: 212 kms
A mountain experience where the rally is going to reach its highest spot, climbing almost to 1,000 m in some passes. Although in less amount, the suspended dust will keep on making things difficult to the caravan.

Nani Roma: "Laterite will continue making things more complicated. Dakar is already near, but we first have to manage these stages with complicated driving."

Marc Coma: "We have left laterite almost behind and now we enter the savannah. There are a lot of tracks and direction changes in the last section, so we'll have to be watchful with navigation in order to avoid mistakes. It's easy to get lost, because there are several villages and tracks in the Senegal area."

14 January. Stage 14: Tambacounda-Dakar
Liaison: 107 kms - Special: 254 kms - Liaison: 273 kms
Navigation will be the key factor of theses stages which are already so close to civilisation. Countless paths, tracks and changes in direction may lead more than one to a mistake, thus loosing the advantage gathered so close to the finish. The liaison to the arrival in Dakar will be a reward for the senses, passing through the beautiful and cheerful Senegalese villages.

Nani Roma: "It's the same special as always. We know it well, but you always have to be on the alert because it has several difficulties in navigation. There are a lot of sandy tracks where to get lost and it would be a disaster in this stage."

Marc Coma: "This is the last real stage of the rally. Since we enter much more inhabited areas, there are a lot of tracks. Navigation is fundamental. It's a very nice and amusing stage, but it's also complicated."

15 January. Stage 15: Dakar-Dakar
Liaison: 38 kms - Special: 31 kms - Liaison: 41 kms
For most of the riders and drivers who make it to Dakar, the simple view of Lake Rose is the reward for all the efforts and suffering. There's not much to be decided in this mythical stage that, year after year, has been the image and meeting point of the Dakar Rally.

Nani Roma: "Reaching Lake Rose has been the best feeling of my life. It's stage to enjoy. No matter what you've done, you're happy to be there. And if in addition, your team has taken the victory, imagine..."

Marc Coma: "It's a very short special to enjoy, after fifteen days of suffering."
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