Disaster strikes on Cox's birthday
South Africa's Alfie Cox and German co-driver and Team owner of the PS Laser Racing Nissan Navara, Jurgen Schroder, was forced to retire from the 2010 Argentina Chile Dakar with a damaged engine. After moving up to fifth place overall
in yesterday's stage, they are absolutely devestated on Cox's birthday. "One day things work so well and the next it goes wrong so badly," said a devastated Cox on his 47th birthday.
"We were really doing well, the car was great and we were in a good rhythm, coming down the hill this ravine looked pretty easily accessible. The car landed nose first and that pushed the oil-cooler into the engine and damaged the sump. Our T4 support truck blew a turbo yesterday, so we have no back-up with spare parts. We have warned and seen how sc ores of cars almost made the same mistake, unfortunately we were not so lucky.." said a distraught Cox.
He continued: "Tonight we will sleep out here, our team knows where we are, and the will fetch us tomorrow. Fortunately we were not injured. We have enough water and emergency supplies, so now it is just one long wait."
The incident occurred about 144km into this year's second longest special stage of 483km.
Racing on the foothills of the Atacama with three serious climbs to altitudes of 3000m above sea-level the often rocky terrain was extremely testing. The first fine powder sand of the Atacama in Chile was also on the menu of this very long day that saw many competitors suffer mechanical problems, tyre problems, and quite a number of minor accidents.
Marc Coma came out with a fierce attack in the motorcycle category this morning to try and eliminate lost time and make up the 22 minute penalty he received in special stage 2 for speeding in villages. The defending champion and KTM factory rider stopped 376km into the special stage where he waited for a wheel from his water-carrier.
Sherco suffered a terrible blow when David Casteau went flying over the handlebars 395km into the stage, in his maiden race for the new manufacturer in the Dakar. The bike be haved extremely well so far and Casteau was very competitive. He suffered leg injuries and was immediately airlifted by the medical team.
Stage 5 belongs to Chilean motorcyclist, Francisco Lopez Contardo, racing the Italian Aprilla in its maiden Dakar race. "Chaleco" as he is called, beat Cyril Despres (France) on an air restricted KTM and Yamaha's David Fretigne (France).
In the overall standings Despres has a comfortable lead over "Chaleko" and Yamaha rider, Helder Rodrigues (Portugal).
Also in the car category this stage will be remembered as one with lots of drama. Stephane Peterhansel (France) saw his chances of winning a Dakar for the 10th time fly out the door when the BMW X3 grounded to a halt with a broken rear drive shaft. The shaft was removed and continued with front- wheel drive only, loosing .
Mark Miller (USA) and his South African co-driver, Ralph Pitchford took their first stage win ahead of their team-mates, Carlos Sainz (Spain) and Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar), all driving VW Touaregs. Overall Carlos Sainz leads Nasser Al-Attiyah and mark Miller. Stephane Peterhansel is in 10th place, with South Africa's Giniel de Villiers in 18th place.
Russian drivers, KAMAZ trucks and two former winners are fighting it out for the lead. Firdaus Kabirov won the stage ahead of Vladimir Chagin. Chagin currently leads overall in the truck category, 27-minutes ahead of Kabirov.
Dunes, like those raced in Mauritania will greet competitors as the caravan moves north in Chile. Off track racing and massive dunes are expected during tomorrow's stage. The day starts with a 180km liason from Antofagasta, via La Chimba Nattaional Reserve to the stage start near Coya, and to the west of Calama.