Dakar Rally : Team Dessoude - Leg 7
As the organisers of this 29th edition of the Dakar had announced, today's leg was particularly heavy. Over more than 400 kilometres (reduced from the 600 initially planned due to sand storms), the mix of tracks, off-track and dunes was
tough on everyone. This is where the less experienced competitors learned exactly what ‘crossing an erg' meant… It was also where the leaders managed to confirm their positions. After six days of racing, tomorrow's rest day will be both useful and necessary for everyone !
In the Dessoude clan, the performance of the day was undeniably set by Paul Belmondo, who set the best time in T2 and was 14th fastest in today's timed stage. Paul is back in the race in Production, where currently five drivers are separated by around 30 minutes, all of whom can hope for victory on January 21st in Dakar.
Unlike his team- mate, Jean- Pierre Strugo lost some time today. Trying to avoid a biker, the Pathfinder hit a rock . Unfortunately, the impact twisted the rim around the brake calliper, and it took nearly one hour and help from some Mauritanians to repair it. But in the Production classification, nothing is lost for this T2 expert.
As for the ‘girls', they had their fir s t major problems today, Dakar style… stuck in the dunes, the Team Dessoude T4 truck came to their rescue. If you want to learn, there is nothing like the real thing ! Among the T1 cars, Miguel Barbosa set the 23rd fastest time, while Yvan Muller, just like Carole Montillet and Mélanie Suchet, had a difficult day. René Metge and his driver made good use of their shov els and planks…
Christian Lavieille and François Borsotto once again used their mechanical knowledge, and repaired a broken transmission shaft. It was a great shame, as the nr 317 crew had looked like setting a good time.
Finally, yester day evening Madalena Antas retired fr om the event, further to a br oken engine between Tan Tan and Zouerat. Quite disappointed, the young Portuguese driver had to throw in the sponge.
Quotes from the drivers…
Paul Belmondo – Nissan Pathfinder T2:
« Some days you've got it, some days you don't. Today was a good day, and everything went perfectly.
The Pathfinder went like clockwork and we found the right pace, without pushing. We stopped to let the tyres down, and did the stage without thinking of the result. We just got beached once, which lost us around ten minutes. And the result was the 14 th fastest time. I am really happy, as this performance means we are back in contention for the T2 victory. The problems the others encountered today made up for all our problems a few days ago. The times are all very close, and that really increases motivation. Tomorrow's rest day is far from superfluous in order to face the rest of the event.»
Jean-Pierre Strugo - Nissan Pathfinder T2:
« Everything had been going well since the start of the rally, but today we had our first problem. In order to avoid a biker when overtaking him, we went off the route and hit a big rock. The impact bent the rim around the brake calliper and it was impossible to change the wheel. Then we saw some of the local inhabitants appear from no-where, who offered to help us. We struggled for at least an hour and finally we were able to get going again. As far as the classification is concerned, we haven't lost anything as there are five of us within a reasonable gap. The T2 race is getting quite spicy … »
Yvan Muller – Proto Dessoude:
« I fought all day to find the right pace. In the sand-storm, I preferred to lift off. In the dunes, over ten kilometers, we got stuck ten times… a good way to learn ! In the second part, zero mistakes. As René quite rightly says, in order to understand, you have to put yourself in the situation. I think I've really learned my lesson…»
Tomorrow will be a rest day for everyone, in Atar. A well- deserved rest considering how demanding these seven days have been for men and machine alike.