David Casteu survived the confusing network of trails and villages and remains solidly in third place. He'll be trying to ward off the Red Bull KTM of Chris Blais in the final two days.
Repsol KTM's Marc Coma finished 16th today in the windy, 257 km course that put even the best navigators to the test. Though it seems that his result would have dealt a serious blow to the Spaniard's overall lead, in reality he only lost 1'55 to Cyril Despres who finished 13th. Isidre Esteve Pujol picked up his second stage win of the rally and a host of lesser-known riders took advantage of the confusion to log excellent results.
Portuguese rider Paulo Goncalves made his first appearance in the top-10 and did it in a big way by landing in second on his CRF450X. Jacek Czachor scored a podium for his country of Poland on a KTM 660. Behind him was South African Tom Classen on a similar machine and Fabien Planet finished a minute later with his 525 EXC. Pujol led the class with a time of 3:34'46 and Planet closed out the top-5 at 3:42'48.
As many as 11 riders were bunched together in a pack as the leaders struggled to regain their orientation early on.
Stage 12 wasn't kind to Chris Blais as he finished way back in 19th. Fortunately, he was able to retain his position in fourth but the Red Bull KTM rider lost additional time on David Casteu, the man he is chasing for third.
Much like Jonah Street did last year, Casey McCoy is tagging along behind the leaders as the second-ranked American. He ended Day 12 with a 34, 33 OA tally.
Isidre Esteve (Gauloises KTM) - Winner, 6th OA
Navigation was the most important part of the stage. Then there was a lot of dust which made riding hard. I could reconnect with the bikers in the lead at the refueling point and we drove together from there on. Sometimes I was leading, sometimes it was Marc (Coma). This stage victory is important for me because I came to the Dakar to win. And when you loose two hours, you also loose your illusions and it's hard to get back in the race. That's why I'm happy about today's stage. I will keep going like this and have fun up to Dakar.
Paulo Goncalves (Hon) - 2nd, 28th OA
This second place is important for me. It's my best ranking in a Dakar stage and in Africa. It's a reward because everything was going wrong since the beginning. I had the flu at the departure in Lisbon, then I broke the chain in the marathon stage in Morocco. It was hard to do something next. But now with this result I am going to start in the right group tomorrow morning. It will help me be in the race for the ranking of tomorrow's stage.
Fabien Planet (KTM) - 5th, 14th OA
Today my colleagues from KTM had told me I had to be extremely careful with the indications in the road book. So it's what I did and everything went well. In the beginning, I made a few mistakes but I realized quite quickly I had not lost any time. At one point, I was close to reaching the head of the race when they got a bit lost but when they were back on the right track, they were just going too fast for me so I did not follow them. Actually it looked a lot like endurance and I like that. On some sections, I was not really at ease because I am not used to high speeds. On long straight stretches, I was scared.
Tom Classen (KTM) - 4th, 21st OA
It's great to be 4th. This kind of terrain looks pretty much like the one I drive on in South-Africa. After two days trying to understand how the GPS works, I think I did a good job today. Obviously it helps to start in 62nd position, but you still have to focus on the road book and not just follow other people's tracks. Being 4th is still a surprise to me. Of course, it's great for the sponsors. I don't know if one day, I'll be able to win a special stage, but if I do, I'll dedicate it to Elmer Symons. We miss him dearly!
David Casteu (Gauloises KTM) - 8th, 3rd OA
I have thorns all over my body because we hit many trees but I'm ok. I drove well today. There was a lot of navigation by heading; it was hard. Actually, at one point, I caught up with Cyril with the others who had just made a mistake and had had to loop around a bit. Then I opened the way for a while but a bit later I made a mistake myself and they caught up with me. Anyway, there are ways of handling such stages and loosing time can happen really quickly. As far as I'm concerned, I had to keep an eye on Blais, but I realized at the end of the stage that he had had trouble with a front brake. It's a rather good thing for me as I am now in a more comfortable 3rd place in the overall rankings.
Stage 12 Results:
The hardest part about Stage 12 wasn't the terrain, but finding the correct way through it.
1. Esteve Pujol, KTM
2. Goncalves, Hon
3. Czachor, KTM
4. Classen, KTM
5. Planet, KTM
6. Ullevalseter, KTM
7. De Azevedo, KTM
8. Casteu, KTM
9. Vinters, KTM
10. Marchini, Yam
19. Blais, KTM
For more information and live tracking, visit www.dakar.com
Share your thoughts on the 2007 Dakar in the MotoUSA Forum