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January 4, 2006

Stage 5 – Ouarzazate to Tan Tan
Total distance: 819 km
187 km transfer
350 km special test
282 liaison

A LONG HAUL FOR AMERICA’S TEAM
No results for the press, no information and no satellite communications. “This is Africa, this is the Dakar,” explained Etienne Lavigne, headmaster of the Dakar Rally.

red bull/ktm riders chris blais and andy grider review their notes for the next day America's Dakar Rally hopefuls, Chris Blais (#9) and Andy Grider (#23) continued to forge forward on today’s lengthy 500-mile plus stage across Southern Morocco’s Adraa Valley. With four days in and nearly one-third of the rally behind them, the Red Bull KTM riders have found their race pace.

Today’s 4 am start was anticipated with some remorse by riders and technicians alike. Not only would it deprive them of much needed sleep, it would open the door on a tough, two day marathon. Thursday’s stage 6 start from Tan Tan begins at the even more ungodly hour of 1 am. Service, if available at the end of the stage will be limited at best so preserving bodies and equipment are the order of the day.

Thick morning fog and overcast conditions made it impossible for support planes and helicopters to fly. Suffering also is the ability for teams and riders to communicate with the outside world and stateside followers (like me) who have enjoyed daily contact and updates since before the rally. (Apologies for a lack of rider quotes and anecdotes in this report.)

Support vehicles and team trucks are today sharing the same track as the competitors, no short cuts and no other way out. No team vehicles will be allowed to begin the journey before the last rider has taken the starter’s signal in Ouarzazate.

ONWARD
There is still a lot of distance to cover and a lot of race to be raced. As the mileage clicks by and the days blend one to the next, second year veteran Blais will have the chance to dig deep into his 2005 Dakar bag of tricks - when the going gets tough and when he recognizes an opportunity for attack. On the other hand, every new Dakar day and every new obstacle is a new learning experience for rally rookie, Grider. Already he’s suffered reality’s harsh reprimand but he remains unshaken in his resolve and commitment to excel. As he claimed prior to the start in Portugal, “I’ll ride my own race.” And every indication is that this continues to be Grider’s plan.

MEONI REMEMBERED (www.ktm.com)
One of the private riders is Italian Fabrizio Mugnaioli, a 44-year-old farmer from Tuscany. We met him near the airplane that transports the metal cases, one for each rider. There the competitors can store everything they want only limited by the volume of the boxes – normally, a sleeping bag and spare parts. Fabrizio is competing on an old 2001 KTM Rally Replica that the late Fabrizio Meoni gave to him. The motorcycle is conserved as the reminder of a friend and a Champion we will never forget.

Rankings: 5th stage

Special: 350 km
1. Despres (Gauloises KTM), 03:47:40h
2. Coma (Repsol KTM), + 03:41
3. Esteve Pujol (Gauloises KTM), + 05:18
4. Faria (KTM), + 08:14
5. De Gavardo (Repsol KTM), + 08:21
6. Caldecott (Repsol KTM), + 10:54
7. Casteu (Gauloises KTM) + 11:03
8. Ullevalseter (KTM), + 11:06
9. Sala (Repsol KTM), + 11:41
10. Fretigne (YAMAHA), + 13:01
11. Katrinak (KTM), + 16:20
12. Blais (Red Bull USAKTM), + 24:17
13. De Azevedo (KTM), + 25:14
14. Gau (Gauloises KTM), + 30:07
15. Farres Geull (YAMAHA), + 31:38
16. Grider (Red Bull USAKTM), + 31:57
17. AgraCarrera (YAMAHA), + 35:52
18. Street (KTM), + 36:41
19. Czachor (YAMAHA), + 39:16
20. Marchini (KTM), + 44:40
22. Viladoms (Repsol KTM), + 47:17

Overall Results:
1. Coma (Repsol KTM), 14:09:18h
2. Despres (Gauloises KTM), 14:10:43h, + 01:25
3. Esteve Pujol (Gauloises KTM), 14:15:46h, + 06:28
4. De Gavardo (Repsol KTM), 14:21:10h, + 11:52
5. Caldecott (Repsol KTM), 14:36:12h, + 26:54, Penalty: 02:00
6. Casteu (Gauloises KTM), 14:36:15h, + 26:57
7. Fretigne (YAMAHA), 14:41:22h, + 32:04
8. Sala (Repsol KTM), 14:49:40h, + 40:22
9. Ullevalseter (KTM), 14:51:50 h, + 42:32
10. Katrinak (KTM), 14:59:49 h, + 50:31
11. Blais (Red Bull USAKTM), 15:04:53h, + 55:35
12. Faria (KTM), 15:08:24h, +59:06, Penalty: 12:00
13. De Azevedo (KTM), 15:09:45h, + 01:00:27
14. Agra Carrera (YAMAHA), 15:15:04 h, + 01:05:46
15. Gau (Gauloises KTM), 15:15:51 h, + 01:06:33
16. Farres Guell (YAMAHA), 15:17:45 h, + 01:08:27
17. Street (KTM), 15:32:03 h, + 01:22:45
18. Amaral (KTM), 15:32:21h, + 01:23:03
19. Duclos (KTM), 15:32:35h, + 01:23:17
20. Rivera (KRM), 15:44:47h, +01:35:29
22. Grider (Red Bull USAKTM), 15:53:59h, + 01:44:41
27. Viladoms (Repsol KTM), 16:49:14h, + 02:39:56

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