Dakar Rally : Leg 5 - Summary
Before arriving in Mauritania, the Dakar's competitors had to get Morocco out of the way today, on winding and fast tracks. Isidre Esteve, in second place behind Coma in the general rankings, picked up his first victory of the year between Ouarzazate
and Tan Tan, enabling him to make up some time on the rally leader. In the car category, Carlos Sainz confirmed his good position in a manner which suits him, with a 6th stage victory on the Dakar.
Victorious in the first two African specials, Marc Coma set his course for the Atlantic coast in conditions that any challenger for final victory would envy. With a lead of more than twelve minutes over Esteve, the title-holder did not deem it necessary to leave his countryman in his wake.
After around one hundred kilometres of racing, the two leaders of the pack, the only riders not to make mistakes since the start in Lisbon, together followed the road-book to the end of the stage. On the finishing line Esteve, who started out second this morning, was logically the quickest, scoring his seventh victory on the Dakar and first of the year with a lead of 1'54'' over Coma. Cyril Despres, triumphant in this same stage during last year's edition, had to settle for third place. Unable to catch up with the Spanish pair, the Frenchman again lost time on his rivals: 5'02 on Esteve and 3'57 on Coma.
In the KTM-Gauloises team, whilst it was a fine day for Spaniard Esteve, it was no way near as good for David Casteu, another potential final victor. The Frenchman crossed the finishing line more than a quarter of an hour behind. Esteve is increasingly confirming his status as team leader for the ‘blues'. In the general rankings, the first two are separated by only 10', whilst Casteu and Despres are respectively 37' and 47' behind leader Coma.
In the car category, Carlos Sainz, who yesterday admitted that he was still learning, picked up a 6th special stage victory and his 3rd on African soil. Having set off in third position this morning, the Spanish driver took advantage of the fast winding tracks which most probably suited him better than the forthcoming Mauritanian dunes.
Once he had overtaken Jean-Louis Schlesser and Carlos Sousa on the way to CP2 (after 163 km), the former world rally champion withstood the attacks of his rivals to cross the finishing line with a small thirty second lead over Stephane Peterhansel. Giniel De Villiers, in third place with his Race Touareg, finished 1'41 behind his team-mate.
However, the situation had been looking good for Guerlain Chicherit midway through the stage. But the best of the BMW X-Raid team members lost his advantage on the last part of the stage, finishing the special with the 5th best time, 5' behind the winner. Sainz, who now has a lead of 3'36'' over De Villiers and 11'17'' over Sousa in the general rankings, must now deliver the guarantees of a successful career change in the dunes as from tomorrow to maintain his lead.
Nani Roma, in fourth place 16'16'' behind, is the best placed Mitsubishi driver to challenge the faultless performance of the Volkswagens, but Peterhansel, Alphand and Masuoka, although 25' behind, have enough experience on the rally to hope for a comeback on the sand.