Dakar : Leg One - 370 km
Eager to take off this 28th edition of the Euromilhoes Lisboa-Dakar 2006, title holder Cyril Despres managed the best time of the day's 83km special. The surprise however came from the excellent results of the Portuguese privateers with three bikers
in the top 10. In the car race, Carlos Sainz stormed to a first ever special success beating Portuguese hero Carlos Sousa.
The Portuguese fans had gathered in numbers around the starting podium close-by the Jeronimo Monastery, to cheer the first competitors taking off for stage 1 of the event. The first competitor to take off was quad rider Antonio Ventura (BOM – n°252), under the interested eyes of Portugal's president Jorge Sampaio.
But the real action took place, 186kms further south for the start of the timed special. Taking off last due to his number 1 bib, title holder Cyril Despres (KTM – n°1) managed the fastest time on the muddy tracks of the 83km special, in 58'10”. The Frenchman finished his effort with a big smile on the face capturing the first overall leading position of this Dakar.
Despres' main rival wasn't exactly the one that was expected. Indeed Portuguese privateer Ruben Faria (KTM – n°160) certainly managed the performance of his life. Taking off early, the KTM rider had the fastest time for almost all the morning until ‘Monsieur' Despres showed up. He eventually was beaten for only 4”. His compatriot Helder Rodrigues (KTM – n°55) saw his podium dream vanish when Marc Coma (KTM – n°2) the best rider of the KTM-Repsol team clocked the third best time, at 7”. Like Faria, Rodrigues took advantage of his knowledge of a familiar terrain to finish fourth.
In the leading ten positions were 3 French riders (Despres 1st, Frétigné 6th and Casteu 7th), 3 Portuguese (Faria 2nd, Rodrigues 4th and Goncalves 10th), 3 Spaniards (Coma 3rd, Esteve 5th and Pellicer 8th) and an Australian (Caldecott 9th). David Frétigné (YAM – n°12), who had clinched victory in the four European stages in the last two editions, indeed had to settle with 6th position on a special a lot longer than those of the past few years.
The slight disappointment came from Norway's Pal-Anders Ullevalseter (KTM – n°5) who captured 32nd place, 6'20 adrift, but the Norwegian will certainly be a lot more comfortable on African soil. The US bikers of the KTM-Red Bull team, Andy Grider (KTM – n°23) and Chris Blais (KTM – n°9) had to settle with 23rd and 31st positions, over 5' slower than the best time of the day.
Press Release Amaury Sport Organisation