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The last two legs, by Andre Dessoude
Dakar Rally : Team Dessoude - Leg 9
Yesterday, between Atar and Tichit, the day started badly for Team Dessoude. A few kilometers after leaving the bivouac, Christian Lavieille noticed that the engine of his Nissan Pickup was smoking.

The verdict w as clear : a broken
engine. Reluctantly, the T2 World Champion was forced to leave the rally. André Dessoude was very much affected by this retirement, due to mechanical failure :

« Yesterday, I learned of the retirement of Christian and François with a heavy heart. It is really a great disappointment as, even if Christian was well back in the overall classification, he could still have managed some fine stage results. The engine gave up on the liaison sect or, and, as soon as we get back, we will dismantle it in order to find out what happened. The two Proto vehicles both had problems, getting stuck n the sand and punctures. They have lost a lot of time and are now well back in the classification.

Yesterday evening, I was in Tichit at the finish point, and I noticed that the first cars home were all the ‘old hands', the most experienced competitors. They were able to avoid the hazards, and the best example of this in our team is Jean Pierre Strugo. Paul Belmondo went through everything under the sun on this leg between Atar and Tichit. He had a real nightmare : open front drive, water pump problem, punctures… everything that could happen, did. The girls arrived without any problems. They didn't get stuck in the sand, no punctures, and, as usual, they were smiling. However, on today's stage between Tichit and Nema, the situation was a bit different for them. Still out on the track, they are fighting with the Pathfinder's ignition sensor, and have a broken engine support. They are still going, but the challenge will be to get to Nema within the allotted time.

No matter what happens, Carole and Mélanie are open to all the advice that we can give them, and it is very agreeable to work in those conditions.
Paul Belmondo, slightly luckier than yesterday, managed to finish despite water leak problems. Jean Pierre Strugo, third, is still on track in T2, even if the gap between him and the tw o leaders has grown considerably. The two Proto cars had their fair share of problems yesterday as well. Yvan Muller and René Metge had a broken rear drive, while Miguel Barbosa suffered from a broken transmission. But both cars are still there this evening."

Christian Lavieille – Nissan Pickup 03
« This evening, I am very disappointed. First and foremost, I am disappointed for André Dessoude and all those partners who trusted me on this Dakar. I wanted to confirm my T2 title and everything I achieved during the 2006 season, but I will not reach the Rose Lake this year. The most frustrating thing is the way we retired, on the liaison, not even in the special stage. We made a fine start to the rally, but fate decided otherwise. François did a great job on this Dakar and I would like to thank him. At the moment, it is rather hard to take. »

Jean-Pierre Strugo – Nissan Pathfinder T2 (3ème)
« After Christian's retirement, I am the only car from Groupe Lagrange in the race, and I will fight hard to win the category. To sum up these two long days, I would just say, we spent 18 hours on the trails. It was not too difficult, but it was too long. We didn't have any mechanical problems, just two punctures yesterday. Of our four main rivals, two had problems (Paul Belmondo and Jean Jacques Ratet), but the two others went through well, and the leader, Ronan Chabot, has a lead of over 50 minutes. That's rather a lot… »

Paul Belmondo – Nissan Pathfinder T2
« Yesterday, we had all the problems you could have… Our power steering broke at the start. In the middle of the stage, going down a broken dune, the Pathfinder's nose planted itself in an enormous rock. Impossible to go forward or to go back… We had to wait for the T4 truck to get out, while we were just 500 metres from the end of the dune field. But it wasn't over yet ! We had a puncture, and the jack broke. With some DIY; we managed to change the wheel, but a bit further on, we had another puncture. We stopped someone to ask them to give us a hand. Trying to avoid a rider, we got beached again. A really chaotic day. Today, we had a broken water pump, and as the engine was overheating, we went along quite ‘calmly' … »

Yvan Muller – Proto Dessoude
«It was a very, very long day… We had quite a few problems, for a long time… We got stuck 100 metres from the end of the chain of dunes, and fought for ages to get out. Today was a long stage. I wanted to be patient as we started well back and I didn't want to get any punctures. I had planned to increase the pace gradually, but over the last 200 kilometres we could only manage an average speed of 60km/h as the rear drive was broken and we had a water leak. I still need practice in the dunes. But if you start a long way back, when you arrive at the dunes, it has all been ploughed up and things get complicated very quickly… »



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