11 abril 2007

Schlesser and Coma vencem Optic 2000 Tunisia Rally

With the sand swirling in all directions, one could have thought that the competitors were in the middle of a scene from Star Wars and not just in the middle of the scenery left behind, after the making of the fourth episode of the saga by George Lucas. Jean-Louis Schlesser (Buggy Schlesser) and Marc Coma (KTM Repsol) presented themselves a remake of the film’s race. Unequalled since their arrival here in Tunisia, the Spanish biker and the charging blue buggy sealed their win on this final special here at Tozeur.

For Marc Coma the taste of victory is even sweeter, being his first win of the Optic 2000 Tunisia Rally of his career. Third on Saturday was David Casteu (France, KTM Gauloises) in front of Janis Vinters (Latvia, KTM). The World Champion has reaffirmed his position and level, since his fall in the Dakar. Behind him, David Casteu was able to judge the work that he still had to do, especially off-road navigation, before toppling Coma for the top position.

It was an emotional moment for Marc Coma and David Casteu at the finish line. When the two official KTM riders held up a KTM flag with the words "Animos Isidre", in tribute to their friend and colleague Isidre Esteve, who was badly injured a week before the rally. "I thought about him nearly every day, but i didn’t want to discuss it much" said Casteu before breaking down in tears.

Another giant of this rally is Michel Marchini (France, Yamaha 450) who confirms his growing experience along with his seventh place Dakar. Winning the 450cc catagory here on the Optic 2000 Tunisia Rally, it is his first podium here on African soil.

A big surprise is also the Austrian KTM-driver Michael Angerer, who started the first time in the Optic Tunisia Rally and the first time in a FIM Marathonrally Race ever - the Rookie reached the 5th position overall. With a burst water pipe, an angry Michael Angerer (KTM 660) crossed the last finish-line and thought that his Tunisian rally was finished now - but for an intervention by David Casteu he managed to reach the "Park Fermé".

On four wheels, Jean-Louis Schlesser fixed his fifth Tunisian win, just behind the record of Pierre Lartigue with six wins. Since his arrival in Tunisia on Monday, the blue Schlesser Ford Buggy have won six out of six specials, leaving no room for the Nissan Navara that Christian Lavieille revealed here. Third, the ex-rally driver Pascal Thomasse (Buggy Nissan) gave us a real spectacle in his battle with the SMG Buggy of Isabelle Patissier. After this Optic 2000 Tunisian Rally we can’t not notice the rising power of the Buggies in this event, with six in the top ten.

Under pressure for the last few days by team-mate Jean-Pierre Strugo (France), Laurent Rosso (Dubai, Nissan Pathfinder) managed to pull an ace card. Whilst the red and yellow Nissan was going all out, the Frenchman from Dubai just controlled his pace and his stress to keep sufficiently ahead to win the T2.

Third in the last special, behind Schlesser and Komornicki (SMG Buggy): Eric Vigouroux (Chevrolet Trophy Truck) proved once again the solidity of his impressive machine. "We hit an big rock with such force, that i was sure the tyre would blow. But no, at the finish the tyre just showed a blister where it had hit."

Winner of the Truck catagory along with Jacky Leichleiter and Claude Pardigon (GINAF) is the French Jean François Padovani. He savoured this last win so much, that, in galantry, he let the Portuguese Elisabete Jacinto (MAN) pass to win this final special, in front of Michel Salvatore (Mercedes Unimog).

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