The Dakar in mourning
For the second consecutive year, the Dakar caravan was stricken on the route towards Kiffa. Australian rider Andy Caldecott, victim of a massive accident, was killed instantly at km 250 of the stage. Today also saw the retirement of Isidre Esteve, who was taken to hospital in Nouakchott following an accident. Cyril Despres posted his third stage win. On four-wheels Stéphane Peterhansel won his 51st Dakar stage, including all divisions : an all-time record. Another victory for Vladimir Chagin in the truck division.
The stage following the rest day spent in Nouakchott was to be the turning point of the 2006 Dakar. The sporting spectacle promised to the competitors was overshadowed by the tragedy that unfolded at km 250, where Andy Caldecott succumbed after an accident aboard his KTM. Alerted at 11h31, the organisation dispatched a medical helicopter to the scene of the incident. Arriving at 11h55, the doctors confirmed at 11h57 the passing of Caldecott, according to the doctors he was killed instantly.
The Australian rider, who was participating in his third Dakar, retired in 2004 after completing the Atar stage with a broken ankle. The following year, he finished sixth in the final standings, with two stage wins at Smara and Kayes. Jordi Arcarons took notice of this performance and offered Caldecott a spot in the KTM-Repsol team to stand in for the injured Jordi Duran. Caldecott, a last minute entry for the rally, posted the best time on the Er Rachidia stage, and occupied 10th place in the standings.
Cyril Despres didn’t have the time to enjoy his third stage win on the 2006 Dakar. Under other circumstances, this performance could have held a legitimate satisfaction for the defending champion, because before the start he wasn’t sure of his capability to deal with the pain from tendonitis in his right wrist. But despite his third success, the atmosphere in the bivouac is not of celebration, especially for the KTM-Gauloises team, which also saw one of its own have a serious accident. Isidre Esteve Pujol, who crashed twice, was taken by helicopter to hospital in Tidjikja He was looked after by rally doctors, he will be immediately transferred by airplane to hospital in Nouakchott for a medical scan.
In the car division, today’s stage should have also created euphoria under normal conditions. Stéphane Peterhansel set the all-time record for Dakar stage wins, in taking his 51st scratch time. Co-holder of the record with Ari Vatanen since his victory at Atar, the Frenchman, who also stretched out his lead in the overall standings, stamped a little bit more of authority on the history of the rally.
In the truck division, defending Dakar winner, Firdaus Kabirov was blocked for a very long period of time, much like the double stage winner Hans Stacey. Thus it was logical that Vladimir Chagin won today’s stage, his seventh of the rally.
A KTM is a motorcycle for those not in the know.