Dakar, Stage 5 of 14 …
Patrick Trahan of Montreal is still on his feet — or his wheels — after the fifth stage of the 2010 Dakar Rally, the last Canadian in the rally hanging in at 77th out of 88 to complete Stage 5. This was a long, brutal, fast run, mostly on nasty back roads but much of it also in broken, rocky, empty terrain. A 483 km special section coupled with 90 km+ connector links at both ends meant a long, long day.
Local hero Chilean rider Francisco Lopez Contardo on an Aprilia took the day’s honours ahead of Frenchman Cyril Despres (rally leader) and his countryman David Frétigné (Yamaha). That moves Lopez Contardo into second overall, but he’s still well behind the time that Despres has set so far.
Rally favourite Marc Coma (KTM) had another disastrous day, suffering a flat tire, while David Casteu, second in the rankings after the fourth stage, was injured in a crash and helicoptered out for medical treatment for an injured leg. Coma said, "I cannot explain what is happening to me: one day it’s a penalty, the other it’s the engine and then the rear tire issue today. What can I do?"
Frétigné, who found Casteu after his crash and waited for the ‘copter evac, said, "You can’t go back on the track with the exact same state of mind because when you see that a rider like him can make a small mistake it is a reality check. So you try to focus on the track and on navigation. Four hundred eighty kilometres is really long. It is very hard to have the exact same focus all along. It only takes two tiny seconds of lack of attention at a bad time and you can hit a rock, dip into a ravine and fall. You have to be careful."
Even though they’re still short of half-way, Despres is looking good for this year’s victory with a 37-minute lead over Lopez Contardo.
Thursday’s stage is even longer, 598 km in total, although more of it is transit time. The special stage is still 418 km, however, with a huge part of that travelling through sand dunes rivalling those found in the Sahara.