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Masuoka wins Atar stage in Mauritania and extends Dakar lead

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

2004 Telefonica Dakar Rally
Leg 7: Tan Tan - Atar (345 kms liaison, 701 kms special, 9 kms liaison)

Wednesday, January 7th, 2004

Weather conditions: warm, dry and humid (18-25C)

MITSUBISHI'S MASUOKA AND PETERHANSEL
EXTEND THEIR LEAD IN 2004 DAKAR RALLY

Peterhansel loses his way and potential stage win; Masuoka fastest again
German lady Mayer sixth into Atar; Biasion forced to withdraw

ATAR (Mauritania): Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports (MMSP) drivers Hiroshi Masuoka and Stephane Peterhansel emerged unscathed from the longest day in this year's Telefonica Dakar Rally - the 1055 kms section between Tan-Tan in Morocco and Atar in Mauritania - today (Wednesday).

The pair completed the 701 kms competitive section in first and second places and retain similar positions in the overall standings.

Masuoka led his team mate through the first passage control, but Peterhansel had taken the lead by the 450 kms point. The Frenchman then lost his way for over nine minutes after 470 kms and slipped into the clutches of South Africa's Giniel de Villiers entering the closing stages. Masuoka finished the section 5m 02 ahead of Peterhansel, who regained his second position. The Japanese is 41m 29s ahead of his nearest non-Mitsubishi rival, third-placed Colin McRae.

~Yesterday we had a slow puncture,~ said Peterhansel. ~It was annoying, because I cannot remember hitting anything. Normally it takes Jean-Paul (Cottret) and I about four minutes to change the wheel, but we had a problem with the jack and we lost about seven minutes altogether. But I am not too unhappy. We had no other problems and a clean run through the rest of the stage.~

Masuoka was content with his performance into Atar. ~I did not intend to push over the last two days, because over the rocky stages it is too easy to collect a puncture,~ said Masuoka. ~I had no problem with starting first on the road into Mauritania today. I like Mauritania very much. The car is working perfectly at the moment.~

German lady driver Andrea Mayer and co-driver Andreas Schulz began the day in 10th position and were settling well into their support role. They were classified eighth through the first passage control and went on to finish the stage in an excellent sixth place - their best performance so far this year.

There was disappointment for Italian Miki Biasion on the eve of his 46th birthday today (Wednesday). The former World Rally Champion arrived into the bivouac in Tan-Tan late on Tuesday evening, but was not able to start today's special stage into Atar following his sixth stage accident.

~I am very disappointed,~ said Miki. ~It was a freak accident. The car dug into a hole, flipped up on to its nose and we went into a series of rolls. It was too badly damaged to repair in time to start this morning. I must think about my team mates and make sure that they have the best support available at all times.~

~It was unfortunate that we lost Miki yesterday,~ said MMSP Team Director Dominique Serieys. ~But it was another successful day for Hiroshi and Stephane. They have extended their advantage for Mitsubishi on what was a very difficult stage.~

Today's 1055 kms route was the longest in this year's 17-day event and was made that much tougher by the arduous timetable imposed on the teams. Cars left the windswept bivouac in Tan-Tan at 03.00 hrs on Wednesday morning to begin the 345 kms drive across the Moroccan border and into Mauritania, the route skirting the 'wall' between Morocco, the disputed Western Saharan territories and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.

Rugged terrain in the Atlas mountain range had already given way to desolate desert scenery when teams took a few hours rest at Smara. On Wednesday morning and into the late afternoon the Mitsubishi Motors Team tackled the tortuous 701 kms special stage across the Western extremities of the Sahara Desert - the world's remotest and most unforgiving region.

Tomorrow (Thursday) offers a short, but potentially treacherous, special stage between Atar and Tidjikja in the Mauritanian wastelands. The special begins on the bed of Wadi Toungad, but the organisers have warned that the 355 kms section into the Tidjikja bivouac features unavoidable ergs, tricky passes and deceptive navigation. ~This could turn out to be one of the hardest stages of the entire race,~ admitted Masuoka's co-driver Gilles Picard.

Overall positions after Leg 7 (provisional - 16.35 hrs):
1. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 13h 40m 58s
2. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 13h 52m 40s
3. Colin McRae (GB)/Tina Thorner (S) Nissan Pick-Up 14h 22m 27s
4. Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 Raid 14h 24m 57s
5. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 14h 29m 02s
6. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 15h 01m 52s

Positions on Tan-Tan to Atar stage (provisional - 16.35 hrs):
1. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 5h 58m 35s
2. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 6h
03m 37s
3. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 6h 19m 33s
4. Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 Raid 6h 20m 01s
5. Colin McRae (GB)/Tina Thorner (S) Nissan Pick-Up 6h 24m 23s
6. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 6h 31m 27s


RALLIART TEAMS

AL-ATTIYAH HITS TROUBLE IN LONGEST
STAGE OF HIS RALLY CAREER

Komornicki back on track; Monterde badly delayed

Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah began the longest stage of his rally career in ninth position. The 33-year-old reigning Asian Games skeet shooting gold medallist is tackling his first Dakar Rally. He lay eighth at the first passage control before slipping back to 13th at PC2. He was badly delayed soon afterwards.

~I have been so impressed by this rally,~ said the Qatari enthusiastically. ~The scale of the organisation, the logistics, it is so impressive.~

Dominique Housieux began the Atar stage in 15th place. ~For me this is where the real meat of this year's Dakar Rally begins,~ said Housieux. The Frenchman held 12th place at PC2 today.

Spaniard Jose-Luis Monterde began the stage in 17th with a new gearbox fitted to his Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero. ~We had a small oil leak on the stage into Tan-Tan and decided to change the gearbox as a precaution. This was going to be a very long stage and we could leave nothing to chance.~ Monterde lost two hours today before the second passage control and was forced to wait for his assistance truck.

Mitsubishi Ralliart mechanics changed the battery on Brazilian team mate Klever Kolberg's Pajero/Montero prior to the stage start and Poland's Lukasz Komornicki began the section in a positive frame of mind after losing over 25 minutes into Tan-Tan. Kolberg was classified 18th through PC2 today. Komornicki was running as high as 14th overalll at PC2.

~I was running well into Tan-Tan and then we lost the rear left-hand wheel,~ said the Pole. ~The wheel studs had completely sheared off. We had to drill out the old nuts and fit a new wheel. It was so frustrating and I dropped two places as a result.~

Thailand's Siriwat Pornsawan was enjoying his climb up the leaderboard to 26th position at the start of the Atar stage. ~The car is running fine,~ said the Thai. ~I must admit that I prefer the rocky stages to racing in the sand. But this is the Dakar and there is a lot of sand!~

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart China's Luo Ding started this morning's stage from the rear of the field, after arriving late into Tan-Tan. He and French co-driver Serge Henninot had little opportunity for sleep before embarking upon the 1055 kms section to Atar.

Mitsubishi Ralliart customer teams - Positions after leg 7 (provisional 16.40 hrs):
NOT YET CLASSIFIED

Ends

For further information, please contact:
Mitsubishi Motor Sports, MMSP, E-mail: info@mitsubishi-motor-sports.com
.
Copyright free photographs can be downloaded from:-
www.mitsubishi-motors.com or www.mmsp-media.com



Date issued: 07/01/2004

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