Cox and Schroder catapult up the order
Excellent, is the best way to describe the 2010 Argentina Chile Dakar for South Africa's Dakar legend Alfie Cox and his German co-driver Jurgen Schroder, with their PS Laser Racing Navara, lying fifth overall in the car category.
Cox celebrating his 47th birthday tomorrow, gave himself an early birthday present with today's magnificent performance.
At the end of three special stages, after the first day in the dunes, the organizers were forced to make changes to today's special stage of 203km on route to Copiapo in Chile. Numerous competitors were still out in the dunes at nightfall last night (Monday) which lead to the cancellation of the last 40km. The stage ended at checkpoint 3 with a distance of 163km.
In addition the start was delayed by 90 minutes giving those who arrived late at the bivouac an opportunity to join the starting line-up. Competitors drove 394km to the start of the special stage, crossing the border into Chile in the process.
The first 37km of the special stage was rocky, rough mountain terrain, crossing the highest point in the day's stage over the Andes, starting at 2300m above sea-level, climbing steep to over 3000m before dropping right down to 1600m. The next 53km was fast dirt tracks with hanging dust, affecting visibility. Then the gradual drop through the dunes to 300m above sea-level started. In some places the talcum powder like fine sand or 'fesh- fesh' as it is called in Africa sucked in vehicles and made the going very strenuous. Many vehicles had to be towed out, the South Americans call it
Alfie Cox was concerned about the altitude last night, but the concern fortunately proved to be unnecessary, and everything went well. "I am so excited about the Navara, one can see this car is built for the sand and the desert of the Dakar race. To be in the top-five overall is fantastic. We had a great day," said Alfie Cox at the end of the special stage.
Cox says the car is running perfectly after they had fuel pump problems yesterday; "The crew replaced it last night and it worked well today." In the motorcycle category Marc Coma (Spain) fought back in all earnest, winning the stage ahead Daivid Casteau (France) on his brand new Dakar manufacturer, Sherco and fellow Frenchman Cyril Despres. Coma and Despres both race the KTM 690cc with air-intake restrictors. Overall Despres leads Casteau with Yamaha's Helder Rodrigues (Potugal) in third place. After Coma's nightmare start to the event, the defending champion is currently in sixth place, 38 minutes behind Despres.
Stephane Peterhansel (France) used the opportunity today to extend his lead with the BMW X3 in the car category, and although the stage win went to Robby Gordon's (USA) Hummer, beating the Frenchman by 1 second, it had no impact as Gordon is currently in 8th place overall. Carlos Saintz (Spain), Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) and Mark Miller racing VW Touaregs are 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respectively, all within 12 minutes of each other and inside 20 minutes of Peterhansel.
Cox leads the next group of competitors in fifth place ahead of his Nissan compatriot Krysztof Holowczyc (Poland), Carlos Sousa (Portugal) in the top Mitsubishi, and Robby Gordon, with only 5 minutes separating them. This is definitely going to result in two races developing, BMW and Volkswagen chasing each other in the front and Nissan, Hummer and Mitsubishi in the second group; it is going to be exciting to watch. Anyone who tries to cross the gap will have to perform exceptional.
With the all Russian KAMAZ affair in the lead of the Truck category, Vladimir Chagin currently leads Firdaus Kabirov by more than 26 minutes, with Marcel Van Vliet (Netherlands) in the GINAF currently in 3rd place overall.
Tomorrow Alfie Cox celebrates his birthday during the longest stage to date, and the second longest special stage of this year's event.
The rally travels north and crosses the daunting Atacama Desert, passing numerous gold and copper mining projects, en route to the booming coastal city of Antofagasta. The stage will definitely be very demanding, both physically and mentally.
"I am not too worried about the sand tomorrow, the car performs beautifully in the dunes, and Jurgen does very well with the navigation, so I look forward to the stage. We are very confident," remarked Alfie Cox at the bivouac tonight.
it is indeed here that the competitors will have to battle it out in the fesh-fesh, known on this continent as 'guadal'. At the end of this stage where many changes in pace will occur, the notion of endurance will start to have its real significance. Competitors who are not cautious will make many mistakes tomorrow.