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An almost perfect first day
Dakar Rally : Team Gauloises - Leg 1
Raphael Sperrer and Sylvain Poncet and a 14th place finish. Saturday, January 06, 2007- Raphael Sperrer finished the first stage of the first day of the 29th rally Dakar, the Dakar 2007 with a fantastic 14th place in the classification
just a few seconds behind superstar American racer Robby Gordon in a Hummer H3.

“It is an incredible result for the first day,” said Raphael. “I am realistic, I do not think that we could have been much higher in the classification today – I must say that the whole day went really well. I suppose I could even have gone a bit faster, but the stage was complicated and dangerous. We drove almost all the way through deep sand although we were still in Europe and not even in Africa. The track was really narrow and the roots and stems of trees were only millimetres from our tyres.

Because we were one of the last to start, there were lots of deep marks in the sand. Sometimes these holes were as deep as 60 or even 70cm. That is where driving a four-wheel drive has its advantages. But at the same time I had to pass so many other competitors. Possibly up to 20. At least the new warning system has helped allow safer passing of other competitors has proved efficient and we were not held back for too long.”

Sylvain Poncet the co-pilot couldn't believe his eyes when he saw where he and Raphael had finished. “From the start I could spot sitting next to Raphael that he belongs to the category of the very fast drivers,” said Sylvain. “Our strategy really paid off today thanks to his great driving. To start the rally as high as 14th for the second stage of the rally is just unbelievable! It's all going so quickly. We left Lisbon at 10.20am and conditions were foggy. After a while conditions improved and for my first experience with Raphael I found that you have to read the notes pretty quickly and hardly had time to take my eyes off the road book. Raphael drove really well and we are already communicating really clearly together. The one thing that's really impressed me is the number of people watching us – Raphael is more used to this from his past experience in the WRC. People are stood watching just inches from the road and you feel really scared for them in the cockpit at times.

We had a small scare when the car ran out of fuel 40km after the start of the special stage, some 20km away from our assistance. Fortunately it only cost us 10 minutes, on some other stages it could have been a lot worse.

Tomorrow we start at 9.30am and it will be another day at the wheel. Today we already overtook a lot of other competitors, but tomorrow we have to becareful not to make any mistake because of the big ravines. Fortunately the route is more clearly marked which will help. Arriving in Morocco thechallenge will get even tougher.”

There were no technical problems for the 6litre, V8 Buggy thanks to the great job done building it by Team SMG. It simply gives more power whenever required, as Raphael Sperrer explains: "It is simply easier to drive and to handle than last year's car. But I know one thing: it is very important to remain focused. Today was only a really short leg and just a taster of Africa and the difficulties that we will find there."

“I am pleased to be in the top 15 drivers. I dedicate this 14th place to Mrs Angelika Kresch at one of our sponsors, Remus company, who helped us so much since the start of my career. Today was her birthday and there is no better way to thank her for her continued support!”

     Inceput cu probleme!
     Volkswagen claims top five positions on first stage of Dakar 2007
     Snippets from Volkswagen bivouac
     Mitsubishi makes cautious start to defence Dakar Rally title
     Volkswagen fills top 5 positions on opening stage
     Faria and Sousa provisional winners of the first special section
     Start of the first special stage from Dakar 2007
     Jutta Kleinschmidt: I'm hoping to be on the podium
     Schlesser: ''Its bite has to be as bad as its bark''
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