Today was Italian Giovanni Sala’s turn to be let off the leash by KTM and countryman Fabrizio Meoni, to win the stage and take a couple of minutes off Spaniard Jordi Arcarons, currently in second place. Meanwhile, the top three – Meoni, Arcarons and Oscar De Gavardo again shadowed each other to guard their positions.
The only excitement in the overall rankings came for Meoni, when he momentarily lost contact with his Spanish rival. Explained the Italian, “I got past Villar and couldn’t see Jordi. I went flat-out for about 10 kilometers (six miles) before I realized that he couldn’t be that far ahead. He said I went past him in a village, but I’m not so sure.”
Arcarons was quick to deny any skulduggery: “I just stopped at the exit of a village for a pee, and Fabrizio went past without seeing me – I think he’s just getting a bit nervous!”
Once again KTM’s team tactics also stopped BMW from taking the special, with Sala being entrusted today to beat BMW’s Cyril Depres into second place by over six minutes. Third was KTM-mounted Finn Kari Tiainen, with teammate John Deacon in fourth. American Jimmy Lewis was 11th on his factory BMW, and now sits in seventh overall , one spot ahead of countryman Johnny Campbell (16th today on his Honda).
At 498 miles, today’s was the longest stage in Africa, and the 229-mile, fast, rolling special test was completely new, passing around the south end of Baoule National Park.