Dakar Rally : Leg 4 - Summary
Marc Coma struck a decisive blow in his quest for a new victory on the Dakar. All alone in leading position, the title-holder gobbled up the rally's first rows of dunes. After one hundred kilometres, he had already built up a lead of 5' on his
main rivals. He more than doubled this advantage at the first CP (after 230 km).
Once the ergs were out of the way, he crossed the finishing line with a lead of 12'16'' over Isidre Esteve. Coma also took command of the general motorbike rankings, 11'50'' ahead of Esteve. In comparison, at the same stage of the race and after a similar stage last year, Coma was being pursued by his former team- mate, but only boasted a lead of 4'51''.
Cyril Despres was perhaps banking on this second special stage, which he started in an advantageous 22nd position, to make up time on his main rival. However, like many of his fellow challengers for the podium, the winner in 2005 was on the wrong tracks at the beginning of the stage.
As a result, although the Frenchman finished 3rd, he took almost twenty minutes more than Coma to complete the special. The time he must now make up in the general rankings is reaching worrying proportions, almost three quarters of an hour behind a champion who is full of confidence and who no longer needs to take any risks. With Isidre at 11'50'' and Casteu at 24'20'', there may be a re- distribution of roles in the Gauloises team: who is whose support rider now ?
Having arrived in Lisbon with only a single victory in his team's roll of honour and missing some valuable sponsors, it was difficult to know what to expect from Jean-Louis Schlesser in the car rally. He gave an initial indication on the route to Ouarzazate.
The winner of the race in 1999 and 2000 started in 12th position, overtook eight vehicles and recorded the best time of the day, winning his 14th special stage in the process. ‘Schless' finished almost 8' ahead of Carlos Sainz's Volkswagen and 8'05 in front of Nani Roma's Mitsubishi.
Second until CP 2 (after 309 km), another multiple winner of the Dakar, Stephane Peterhansel suffered a severe blow fifty kilometres from the finish. The Frenchman burned out his clutch, and lost nearly 26' on the blue buggy at the finishing line.
In the general standings, Carlos Sainz defended a leading margin which remains fragile over his rivals, whether they drive for VW or Mitsubishi. The Spaniard boasts a lead of 1'55 over team-mate Giniel de Villiers, but the first five positions are all placed within less than 13'.