Despres wins stage 13, Roma offers first victory to Mitsubishi
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By winning a fourth victory in Cordoba, France's Cyril Despres has secured his second place in the general ranking. In the car category, Nani Roma offered the first stage victory to the Mitsubishi team, winner of the last seven edition.
AFP - South Africa's Giniel De Villiers was tantalisingly within reach of the Dakar Rally title on Friday as Spanish driver Nani Roma claimed Mitsubishi's first stage win of the 2009 event.
De Villiers, in a Volkswagen, was eighth on the 13th and penultimate stage, and will take a 2min 20sec lead over teammate Mark Miller of the United States into Saturday's final stage which ends in Buenos Aires.
The South African, who inherited the lead when fellow Volkswagen driver Carlos Sainz toppled over into a ravine on Thursday, has a massive one hour 27min 13sec advantage over third placed American Robby Gordon in a Hummer.
Friday's stage was cut from a 545km special stage to a 220km run following heavy overnight rain which had left large parts of the track from La Rioja impassable.
The new course worked wonders for Roma who gave defending champions Mitsubishi their first stage win and helped ease the misery of seeing their top three drivers - Stephane Peterhansel, Hiroshi Masuoka and Luc Alphand, all former winners - pull out in the first week.
"Yesterday (Thursday) was a stage like there are many on rally-raids. You must always expect those kind of ups and downs on a race like the Dakar," said Roma. "Today, I drove well and the car responded well too."
Poland's Krzystof Holowczyc, in a Nissan, and French driver Guerlain Chicherit, in a BMW, took second and third places respectively on the day.
France's Cyril Despres, riding a KTM, won the motorcycle section of the stage.
Spain's Marc Coma was second, 1min 45sec behind Despres, and is virtually certain of victory on Saturday as he possesses a 1hr 28min 3sec lead over the Frenchman in the overall standings.
It will be Coma's second Dakar title after he won in 2006.
David Fretigne, on a Yamaha, was third on the stage, (2min 37sec behind), and is third overall at 1hr 34min 47sec off the pace.
"It was a pretty tough stage. There wasn't a lot of navigation, but a lot of riding," said Coma.
"Saturday will be a long stage. In the previous Dakars, we were used to a short final stage around Lac Rose (in Dakar). Here, we have 220km of special stage. That’s a lot and a lot can happen too."
Friday's shortened run was the sixth stage to be amended in the 2009 race which is making its debut in South America. The 11th stage on Wednesday was cancelled because of fears over the weather conditions.
The 30th Dakar Rally will finish on Saturday with a 227km special followed by 341km of liaison into Buenos Aires.
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