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Jean-Louis Schlesser wins the stage
Dakar : Team Gauloises Racing - Leg 3
Victory in the bike class went to Andy Caldecott ahead of new boy Andy Grider, with Cyril Despres (Gauloises KTM) third. The Australian's exploit however was largely overshadowed by the polemic over the new 150 kph speed limit. Overall
Despres takes the lead 1'16 in front of Coma with Pellicer third. David Casteu (Gauloises KTM) is 6th (at 5'38) with Esteve Pujol 9th (at 6'35) and Michel Gau moving up to 15th (at 12'01).
Cyril Despres (KTM) 1st overall
“I have the impression I spent the whole day making sure I didn't go over the speed limit, rather than concentrating on the race. Twice I hit stones while my nose buried in my instruments and each time I nearly came off. Over the 10,000 km of last year's Dakar I never had such close shaves as I did today. If we had been riding twisty tracks up in the mountains it wouldn't have been a problem, but here we were on fast pistes across flat plateaux. You couldn't find your rythme and in my opinion what is supposed to be a safety measure is extremely dangerous. Alongside that, the fact that I am first overall or that there was more navigation seem like minor details.”

Michel Gau (KTM) 15th overall
“I continued my strategy of taking it easy and not sticking my neck out - I just concentrated on the navigation and riding my own race. The speed limit however complicated matters and you had to pay attention to it all the time…”

David Casteu (KTM) 6th overall
“I was caught by Coma and then together we came up on Isidre who I stayed with for the rest of the day. The increased element of navigation they have introduced this year is a good thing, as are the speed limits through the villages. I am 100% in favour of both these two things. But the 150 kph speed limit is really dangerous and should be lifted before somebody hurts themselves. The accidents we had in the past were never at such high speeds, but around the 80/90 kph mark. But now whenever we get into fast going, that before never caused us a problem, we are completely distracted.”

Isidre Esteve Pujol (KTM)
“A very nice stage - I didn't make one navigation mistake. I found myself in the lead after just 2 kms when Furia took the wrong track at the first intersection. I opened the piste for the whole day and had the impression of doing everybody else's job for them. Without the GPS you have to slow down at each note just to check you are on the right track, and that is a good thing, but it would be nice to have a note quickly after a change of direction, just to confirm you have gone the right way.”


In cars victory on the first African special of the 2006 Dakar went to Jean Louis Schlesser (Gauloises Schlesser Ford) ahead of Masuoka and Peterhansel. Jean Louis' team mate Thierry Magnaldi might well have put in a similar performance if it hadn't been for two punctures. In the end the team's new recruit finished 13th (at 8'57) with Jose Maria Servia 16th (at 11'07). Overall Roma takes the lead with Masuoka second (at 0'06) and Saby third (at 0'54). Schlesser moves up to 10th place (at 4'26) with Magnaldi 14th (at 12'20) and Servia 16th (at 19'43). In the production class victory went to Simon Jean Joseph (Gauloises Mercedes) ahead of Rousselot with Ratet third.

Jean-Louis Schlesser (Schlesser Ford) - 10th overall
“When you win a stage it is because you have had a trouble-free run so sadly I don't have much to tell you. Obviously though I am delighted to have the honour of winning the first African special and also delighted to prove that our car is competitive against the big factory teams. I have always thought so – if I didn't I wouldn't be here. If you asked me which is the most satisfying, winning the stage as a driver or as a constructor I would have to say as a constructor. I have been driving a long time, but as a constructor there is always something to learn.”

Thierry Magnaldi (Schlesser Ford) - 14th overall
“We got blocked by a couple of cars early on and I was forced to overtake Gordon in the dust. Unfortunately I touched a stone and punctured, which cost me 5 minutes. Then I got another puncture later on which saw us lose a further 5 minutes. Without that we would have finished quite a way higher up the leader board. It is frustrating, but at least we showed we have the rythme to be up there with the front runners.”

Jose Maria Servia (Schlesser Ford) -16th overall
“Everything went fine. There was a lot of dust and we got stuck behind Henrard until the finish line. You had to be very careful overtaking the bikes.”

Simon Jean Joseph (Mercedes) - 33rd overall - 1st T2
“We had more problems with the electronic gearbox management and spent a lot of time in other people's dust, but in spite of that the end result was pretty good. What worries us is that if this problem with the box continues when we get into the sand dunes we are going to be in big trouble. We are trying to stay positive and concentrate on our objectives but to be honest I am a little worried about what the future might hold.”
Press Release Gauloises Racing

     A good warm-up for the still-serene Marc Blazquez
     Three questions to Paco Crous
     Three Volkswagen Race Touareg 2 prototypes in leading quintet
     Raphael Sperrer back in the pace
     Then Africa... And The Double Andys' Day
     Set-up day for Carlos Sousa
     Roma and Masuoka hold first and second places
     Masuoka in front of Sainz
     Benoit Rousselot sets the best time in the T2 category
     An excellent warm up

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