The latest news from around the world courtesy of Press Snoop Lynne Huntting...

COLIN McRAE of Scotland made good use of the rally skills which brought him a World Rally Championship to win the second stage of the 27th Annual Paris to Dakar Rally in No.308 with co-driver TINA THORNER of Sweden in No.312 Nissan Pickup NO5.

This put him a second overall ahead of American Dakar Rookie, ROBBY GORDON/No.317 VW Touareg VW KTM, who won the first stage and was fifth Saturday.

McRae said "My personal aim was to reach Africa in the top three. I am not at all unhappy to have succeeded. Moreover, I really had fun today. It was very slippery, and very good to drive. A relatively short stage, but one I really enjoyed. Tomorrow will see our first African stage. The serious business will soon get underway..."

Nissan Team Manager, GILLES MARTINEAU, said "I am very happy with the whole team's performance. Colin set his third Dakar stage win (after claiming two in 2004) and took the lead as_well. It was exactly what he wanted to do before arriving in Morocco. This was the first win for the_Pickup N05. Hopefully the first of many..."

Gordon said "The track was great. We set the Race-Touareg up a little softer today and it handled perfectly. As first car on the stage we had a clear view and no traffic." Gordon turned thirty-six Saturday. Later, he joked "I won't have time for a party, but I did ask my team colleagues whether or not they could give me the second stage victory."

Between the first two stages, the factory Volkswagen teams spent New Year's Day doing a major service on their cars, after they traveled the 571.6 miles/920 km 'liaison sector' between Barcelona and Granada. Then the competitors all traveled on the five ferries, nicknamed "Rally Armada" scheduled by the ASO organizers, from Algeciras to Tangiers.

The landscape on the first African stage was difficult and the terrain was saturated with rain from the past weeks. Although the weather was sunny, there were puddles and a ford at the beginning of the timed section, and a large crowd of enthusiastic fans in Barcelona and then Grenada to watch the field take off for Africa.

There are currently 162 teams racing in the car category.

DAVID FRETIGNE/No.012 won the first and second stages in the motorcycle division, putting easily in top place for that category. Fretigne is the only non KTM rider in the top 20 positions. KTM was the marque of choice for all but 67 of the 229 motorcycles in the class. Motorcycles was the only division which had someone in the top ten points who wasn't also in the top ten for the Saturday stage.

HANS BEKX was the first out of the chute and won the Truck stage Saturday, with co-drivers WILLEMS and MAESSEN; and they lead the standings. There are 66 trucks in that class. The Saturday results and the current standings involve the same people, with some shuffling of order.

The first retirement of the Rally was FRANCISCO INOCENCIO of Portugal and co-driver JOAO LUZ/Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero, due to diesel pressure pump problems. They couldn't start the Barcelona stage on New Year's Eve, despite yeoman efforts by the Mitsubishi Ralliart mechanics.

Slowly I am learning first names of some of the American competitors. Two of them are with the Red Bull KTM motorcycle team - SCOTT HARDEN and KEVIN HEATH, who was one of the riders who turned a best time during the second stage. JOSEP MARIA SERVIA, who currently is eleventh overall in the car standings is the uncle of Champ Car driver, ORIOL SERVIA of Spain.

The 16-day rally covers 5,565 miles/8,956 km, of which 60 percent is timed, over a variety of terrain including sand dunes and rocky surfaces. The three factory works teams of Mitsubishi, Nissan and Volkswagen, as well as BMW which is not a factory team, have agreed to abide by a new tire rule mandating only one tire compound for the entire event, as a logistical and cost savings measure.

They are all running BFGoodrich Baja T/A Rock (dimension: 235/85R16), the same tyre which won last year's Dakar Rally. The teams will raise and lower the tyre pressure bar, depending on the terrain. BFG is going for its fourth straight Dakar victory.

This year another rule change concerns the long marathon stages and overnight stops. No longer will outside assistance be allowed during those stops. This means the teams will have to carry four tyres for the first day and four extras for the second part, as long as they haven't been used as spares the previous day.

The unofficial teams which run BFG can choose their tyre compound per stage depending on terrain.

Saturday's weather was sunny, bright and cold - 42F/6C to 46F/8C.

 

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