The wind is continuously raging in the Mauritanian desert and the 7th stage of the Rally Dakar is still going on. Several motorcyclists, cars and trucks are still trying to reach yesterdays bivouac in Tichit. Therefore, A.S.O. has decided to cancel the 8th stage from Tichit to Tidjikja. Meanwhile the drivers out in the Mauritanian desert are supplied with food via helicopters. Most urgently they need gasoline. A.S.O. has made a crucial mistake during the preparation for this 660 km special. Claudia Patuzzi, manager of Team KTM Gauloises explains, “All of the drivers who reached the finish yesterday were almost out of gasoline and only barely made it. Supply of gasoline was a major problem. At CP [Check Point] 2 each of the competitors was given 20 liters only. A.S.O. had not warned about it at their briefing the day before yesterday. Keeping the advantages of a light bike in mind, at CP 1 our motorcyclists refueled just enough to make it to CP 2. Even cars and trucks ran into problems because of that. Many participants ran out of gas in the middle of the desert.”All of the KTM factory riders arrived at last night’s destination. At the bivouac in Tichit KTM had pitched up a huge, white Berber tent for the riders where they all spent the night. Nobody had to pitch up his own tent during the sandstorm. Both KTM service trucks, which take part in the race as well, made it safely to the bivouac. Their main function is to provide rapid assistance to the riders. The truck with Peter Reif, Gunther Pichlbauer and Stefan Huber came in 7th and the truck with the crew: Karl Sadlbauer, Franz Maier and Martin Mayer crossed the finish line 11th. A great success! In the overall both MAN trucks from KTM rank in 8th and 9th position.Early this afternoon Park Fermé [impound area] was opened up. The motorcyclists were allowed to repair their bikes. All mechanics are already in Tidjikja, therefore the teammates had to make repairs themselves. Both Fabrizio Meoni and Alfie Cox changed the air filter on their bikes. Fabrizio was not in such a good mood. “I suffered two low blows yesterday. First the officials cancelled the mass start and then I had to navigate myself to allow the others to follow my tracks. I rode very carefully to be easy on my equipment. This would allow me to attack the next day, but now they cancelled today’s stage!”Cyril Despres was indifferent about the decision. “It really does not make a difference if I race the 130 km or none at all. Nothing is going to be decided on 130 km anyways. Why should I get all upset about it, that’s racing! Safety is most important! Right now, no helicopter can start and no medical assistance can leave.”The American team seemed to be relieved. “Yesterday’s stage was extremely tough,” said Joe Barker, “That they canceled the second part of this strenuous stage is good for us. The chances that all three teammates will arrive in Dakar are rising.”Right now, the team managers and their motorcyclists work on a new tactic for the next stages. Jordi Arcarons from Team KTM Repsol-Red Bull explains, “Today we would have had a great chance to attack. Marc Coma’s time margin on Cyril Despres is not all that big. Now we need to rethink it.”Let’s just hope that it will be possible to race tomorrow’s stage from Tidjikja to Atar. 361 km are going to be judged. The special is extraordinarily fast. Only the end—the dunes of the Erg Chinguetti— demand special riding skills.At the moment the weather forecast looks bad. A sandstorm raves around Tidjikja which makes it impossible to land the airplanes of the assistance crews with the managers and journalists etc. They are going straight on to Atar. The motorcyclists however are riding the liaison to Tidjikja.
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