Cox and Schroder catapult up the order - 2010 Dakar
Very difficult terrain in soft river beds and dunes with very little indication of tracks in some places marked the first real desert conditions, that immediately left a trail of devistation at the base of the Andes
Mountains and the Atacama desert during today's relatively short 182km special stage. Alfie Cox and Jurgen Schroder suffered a puncture 50km from the finish, and their Navaras fuel pump was not working properly, but they had an absolutely flying pace and finished 7th on the stage, whilst leeping into 7th place overall amongst the cars.
"Jurgen called an excellent race today; although we are amateurs, he was an absolute professional navigator! In fact, I kept arguing with him because there were so few tracks ahead of us! We did not realise that we were making up so many places. We are thankful and very happy that things have gone this well so far. We worried that we would run out of fuel towards the end, but fortunately we made it," commented Alfie Cox at the stage finish this afternoon.
"I am a little concerned about the high altitude tomorrow, last year I felt nauseous when we crossed the Andes at 1500m above sea-level, hopefully it will not be that bad this year. Word is out that VW has oxygen for their teams to eliminate the effect of the high altitude. We can only build on the base we have established and I look forward to the race in Chile," mentioned Cox at the bivouac tonight.
In the bike category mechanical problems were at the order of the day with defending champion Marc Coma (Spain) losing a lot of time after his KTM grinded to a halt. KTM water carrier, Jordi Viladoms (Spain), crashed heavily and was immediately transported to the medical centre in Fiambala, but he was fortunately not seriously injured. David Fretigne (France) also suffered mechanical problems and he lost a lot of time when his Yamaha was stubborn to take off. Cyril Despres (France) grabbed the opportunity and immediately snatched the stage and the overall lead from the 450cc machines, with the Sherco of David Casteau (France) now in 2nd place ahead of the Yamaha of Helder Rodrigues (Portugal) in 3rd.
Nani Roma again lost a lot of time today when he rolled the BMW X3 a second time, whilst South Africa's defending champion, Giniel de Villiers suffered serious misfortune when his five-Cylinder diesel powered Touareg developed engine problems. He was forced to stop and wait for the support truck for assistance. He is now in 23rd place overall, 3-hours behind the overall leader, Stephane Peterhansel (France) in his BMW X3 who won his 52nd Dakar stage. VW is currently 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respectively with Carlos Saintz (Spain), Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) and Mark Miller (USA). The top Navara of Kryzysztof Holowczyc (Poland) is in 5th place overall.
In the truck race, Vladimir "The Tsar" Chagin (Russia) won his third consecutive stage with the KAMAZ, picking up the 50th triumph of his career, ahead of his team-mate and defending champion Firdaus Kabirov (Russia).