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A learning day for Yvan Muller
Dakar Rally : Team Dessoude - Leg 5
At the end of the fifth leg, between Ouarzazate and Tan Tan, the 29th edition of the Dakar has completed the first third of the race distance. Tomorrow,the rally will enter the Sahara desert, after crossing the Mauritanian border. The
second part of the race will then get under way and, if this edition follows the usual pattern, this coming section of the rally, in the heart of Mauritania, will be decisive for the results of the 2007 edition.

But before all that, a look back over today's stage… This leg, the last to take place fully in Morocco, used a brand -new route. Quite mountainous, today's special st age took place in the Atlas Mountains. Over the first few kilometers, the navigators had a superb view down over a ravine. Quite rough, this stage was tough on men and machine alike.

After yesterday's misadventure, Christian Lavieille, who arrived at the Ouarzazate bivouac very late, put in a cautious drive today and set the 21st fastest time. It was definitely a learning day for Yvan Muller who, after three punctures, is beginning to understand the particular nature of the Dakar. After a storming start, Miguel Barbosa had to lift off, driving with a broken front right transmission.

In the Production category,Jean- Pierre Strugo maintained his second position, with the top three being extremely close together. Today, despite the dust and plenty of overtaking, Paul Belmondo kept up a good pace. Carole Montillet and Mélanie Suchet, rat her tired, put in a good perfor mance, placing their Nissan Pathfinder in 89th position. This evening, lying 72nd overall,the ‘skiers' are on the right path. Finally, Madalena Antas can breathe again. Setting a ver y nice time today, the young Portuguese driver is gaining confidence. Portuguese driver is gaining confidence.

What the drivers said…

Christian Lavieille - Nissan Pick-Up 03 :
« Yesterday was the day of all the problems… We were driving well, clean and neat. But after CP1, a sand bank must have stopped us, and the result was broken rear drive crossbars. And without rear drive, it was impossible to drive the front.
Between 11:30 and 17:00 we waited for our T4 assistance truck. In the meantime, we used the time to help Paul Belmondo, who landed a few metres from us, with a broken joint. Also, while waiting for the assistance, François and I dismantled the broken parts so that it could be fixed as soon as possible. And actually the repair only took 15 minutes. We got going again, and after just two kilometres in the camel grass, a joint gave way… »

« Changing a universal joint in the camel grass is no picnic. We lost a lot of time, and had to face the dunes after dark. There, everything went well, and I had a really good feeling with the car. Crossing the finish line, we noticed that we had only just escaped the fixed penalty for the maximum time over the stage. The maximum time allowed was 12 hours, and we took 11 hours and 57 minutes !!! Today, we didn't go as fast, but we took fewer risks due to the dust. The ground was very rough, with little visibility. To finish the day, 30 km from the finish, a bike threw up an enormous stone onto the windscreen – not on purpose… We are taking care of the car, as our objective is still Dakar ! »

Yvan Muller - Proto Dessoude :
« Today was very enriching and full of problems… I learned a lot of things in just a few hours. The Dakar is a real school of patience. You have to be extremely humble, or even more, all the time. I'm beginning to understand ! I keep on telling myself that the good days are on their way. We had three punctures today. The first, just five kilometers into the stage, happened in the dust, which meant I didn't see the trap. We got going again, without pushing too hard. Then at the 100 km point, we had another puncture, this time the front left, from going over the rocks which marked the edge of the track. At that point, with 200 km to go, we knew we wouldn't get to the end at this puncture rate. So we calmed down, and at the end of the special stage, we noticed we had a slow puncture at the right rear. It was awful to drive at such a slow pace, but at least we're here ! »

Tomorrow,the competitors will head south for Mauritania. The desert lies ahead, and the difficulties too… It will be the longest stage of the rally. By the end of the day, the odometers will have clocked up nearly one thousand kilometers ! To start the long preliminary liaison sector which will take them to the Maurit anian border, the start will be extremely early. Afterwards, navigation will be vitally important, with off-road sections, and plenty of work for drivers and co-drivers alike. At this stage of the rally, the orders of the day will be ‘economy'.



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