Despite its short length of 177.9 miles, the Bakel-Tambacounda special stage of today's 18th day of the Paris-Dakar Rally was far from uneventful. While KTM's Fabrizio Meoni remains solidly on top with a 22-minute, four-second lead, Cyril Depres won his first-ever Dakar stage, bringing smiles back to the faces of the BMW personnel.
For the first time since Juan Roma went out of the race, BMW won a special test thanks to their "other" new recruit, Despres.
"Yesterday I was second and today I win my first special on only my second Dakar," Despres said. "Obviously, I am happy for myself but also for BMW. They have worked really hard throughout the race and the bike has continued to progress. It is a pleasure to be able to reward them for their efforts."
Not that Despres' victory made any impact on the overall ranking. Although the eternal game of motorcycle ping-pong between Meoni and Jordi Arcarons saw the Spaniard take over a minute off the Italian, Meoni still keeps the overall lead hovering just above the 22-minute mark. With just one 'real' special left however neither seem ready to relax - perhaps with good reason.
"Two kilometers from the end a big dog ran out in front of me," Meoni said. "If it hadn't changed direction at the last moment it would have had me off. It happened to me before on a Dakar just three days from the end and I finished in a helicopter."
Meanwhile, BMW's Jimmy Lewis ended today's stage 13th and is now seventh overall. Honda's Johnny Campbell was 16th in today's stage and lies eighth overall.