(Story by Scott Cox – Photos DPPI)

STAGE 12 – Bamako, Mali to Lab?Guinea
Total distance – 872km – 197 transfer – 368km special test – 307 liaison

Like the saying goes, ‘In order to finish first, one must first finish!’ and such is the strategy being played out in Africa by Red Bull KTM’s Chris Blais #9. Wise beyond his years, the easy going 25-year-old California desert racer is impressing rally veterans by continuing to outwit and outlast the best rally riders on earth. Call him ‘Mr. Consistency’

Since leaving Lisbon, Portugal on December 31st, Blais has survived an onslaught of extreme weather, brutal terrain, navigational and challenges
that the bulk of his rivals have succumbed to. Rally racing is not for the feint of heart and with his string of excellent daily finishes, including a 2nd in stage 8 and today’s stage 12 3rd place finish, Blais is paving the way for a brilliant arrival in Dakar on Saturday.

CHRIS BLAIS – 3rd today / 4th OA – ‘I rode at my pace, without taking risks. But I fell twice – that usually never happens to me. The first fall was a little one at very low speed and the second one I slipped on the side of the road, but without any serious consequences. I am now 4th overall.’

JOE BARKER, RED BULL KTM US DAKAR TEAM MANGER – ‘It is definitely another world, here in Guinea, a lot different from the earlier stages. We’re out of the dunes and its very green and lush here. Despite today’s very long stage, Chris continues to do an awesome job of staying focused and riding smart. He is really impressing people, in fact the entire team is doing a wonderful job. We finally have a light at the end of the tunnel. Just gotta keep going.’


American off-roader Jonah Street, aboard a privateer 525 KTM narrowly missed out on becoming a member of Blais’ Red Bull KTM US Dakar team.

JONAH STREET – 5th today / 20th OA
‘It’s another good day for me after yesterday’s good result. I really appreciate this kind of track, with dust and holes. But my bike can’t compare to the leaders’. When Coma overtook me, I couldn’t stay in touch. Tonight, I am in the Top 20. It’s great but is very far from my original goal. I thought I could be in the top 10, but I made big mistakes in Morocco, I missed some waypoints in Mauritania, but, above all I was really penalized by my lack of speed.’


Stage 12 of the Euromilhoes Dakar 2006 took the competitors from Mali and its capital Bamako to Guinea and the city of Lab?On the 369kms of timed special, Cyril Despres captured his fourth success so far, only gaining over a minute on Marc Coma.

After his upsets on Mauritanian soil suffering a severe crash on his way to Zouerat, Cyril Despres (KTM ? n?1) will certainly have the satisfaction not to have withdrawn from the rally. The courageous Frenchman clinched a fourth success on this 28th edition. On his way to a 14th stage win on a Dakar, Cyril Despres beat his main rival Marc Coma (KTM ? n?2) by only 1?45″. A tiny advantage for Despres considering his time deficit overall: now 32?39″.

But the day was very eventful when it came to the following positions of the leaderboard. Fourth before the start this morning, Pal Anders Ullevalseter (KTM ? n?5) struggled and crossed the finish line losing 1h25?. The Norwegian drops down to sixth spot of the race, over 3 hours adrift. It was also a bad day for Carlo De Gavardo (KTM ? n?4), suffering mechanical problems after crossing a river. Water in the engine of the Chilean?s KTM forced him to lose over 44min. De Gavardo keeps his fifth spot overall but sees Chris Blais pass him and move up to fourth position. The American who had claimed fourth place of yesterday?s special did even better today, finishing third, 2?29″ adrift. Blais, 25-years-of age looks to be headed to an excellent fourth spot in Dakar after capturing 9th spot last year for his first Dakar. He could even do better: he is indeed 21?35″ behind Giovanni Sala, third.


Rankings :
Special: 368 km

Stage Results:
1. Despres (Gauloises KTM)
2. Coma (Repsol KTM), + 01:45
3. Blais (Red Bull USA KTM), + 02:29
4. De Azevedo (KTM), + 03:01
5. Street (KTM), + 06:43
6. Rodrigues (YAMAHA), + 07:35
7. Viladoms (Repsol KTM), + 08:34
8. Goncalves (HONDA), + 11:51
9. Vinters (KTM), + 15:31
10. Fretigne (YAMAHA), +15:57
11. Duclos (KTM), + 22:27
12. Marchini (YAMAHA), + 22:47
13. AgraCarrera (YAMAHA), + 27:37
14. Verhoeven (YAMAHA), + 29:19
15. Gau (Gauloises KTM), + 30:40
16. Casteu (Gauloises KTM), + 31:31
17. Algay (YAMAHA), + 31:53
18. Czachor (KTM), + 32:52
19. Knuiman (YAMAHA), + 37:50
20. Rivera (HKTM), + 39:43
21. Sala (Repsol KTM), + 39:59
22. De Gavardo (Repsol KTM), + 44:48

Overall Results:
1. Coma (Repsol KTM), 47:01:21 h
2. Despres (Gauloises KTM), 47:34:00 h, + 32:39
3. Sala (Repsol KTM), 48:46:36 h, + 01:45:15 h
4. Blais (Red Bull USA KTM), 49:08:11 h, + 02:06:50h
5. De Gavardo (Repsol KTM), 49:28:16 h, + 02:26:55 h, Penalty: 01.00:00 h
6. Duclos (KTM), 50:59:56 h, + 03:58:35 h
7. De Azevedo (KTM), 51:08:21 h, + 04:07:00 h
8. Rodrigues (YAMAHA), 51:13:49 h, + 04:12:28 h
9. Casteu (Gauloises KTM), 52:31:27 h, + 05:30:06 h
10. Vinters (KTM), 53:32:45 h, 06:31:24 h
11. Gau (Gauloises KTM), 54:07:47 h, + 07:06:26 h
12. Viladoms (Repsol KTM), 54:19:07 h, + 07:17:46 h, Penalty: 40:00
13. Farres Guell (YAMAHA), 54:21:49 h, + 07:20:28 h, Penalty: 30:00
14. Knuiman (YAMAHA), 54:28:16 h, + 07:26:55 h
15. Czachor (YAMAHA), 54:38:18 h, +07:36:57 h
16. Algay (YAMAHA), 54:45:01 h, + 07:43:40 h
17. Fretigne (YAMAHA), 55:44:18 h, + 08:42:57 h
18. Marchini (YAMAHA), 56:12:45 h, + 09:11:24 h, Penalty: 01:00:00h
19. Street (KTM), 56:29:43 h, + 09:28:22 h
20. Stanovnik (KTM), 57:14:40 h, + 10:13:19 h, Penalty: 30:00


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