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DAK Spaniard Joan Roma maintains fourth into Copiapo

31ST DAKAR RALLY (January 3rd-January 18th, 2009)

Leg 9: La Serena - Copiapó
Liaison, 88 km; special, 430 km; liaison, 19 km; total, 537 km.

Weather conditions: cool and cloudy in La Serena - 15 degrees Centigrade (am) and warm and sunny in Copiapó - 35 degrees Centigrade (pm)

For immediate release
Monday, January 12th, 2009

MITSUBISHI'S ROMA MAINTAINS STRANGLEHOLD
ON FOURTH OVERALL IN DAKAR RALLY

· Ninth Dakar special heads into the daunting Atacama desert

COPIAPÓ (Chile): Team Repsol Mitsubishi Ralliart's Joan 'Nani' Roma and Lucas Cruz Senra (both Spain) maintained their stranglehold on fourth overall in the 2009 Dakar Rally, after setting the seventh fastest time on the ninth special stage across the southern extremities of the Atacama desert in Chile on Monday.

Roma and Senra were the sixth quickest crew into the first PC at 131km, as the special stage from La Serena to Copiapó wound its way north through the first competitive kilometers of the Atacama desert, the highest and driest region in the world, surrounded to the west by the Pacific Ocean and to the east by the Andes mountains.

They dropped 17 minutes to overall stage leader Mark Miller (USA) at PC1 after early navigation problems, but maintained a top pace through the second, third and fourth passage controls. The Spaniards eventually reached the finish in seventh position after clawing a little time back through the middle reaches of the special, only to lose it again with an overheating problem in the dunes.

Overall leader Carlos Sainz (Spain) ultimately set the fastest time, after Miller was forced to stop and change a tire before the fifth passage control, and extended his lead in the general classification to 19m 52s.

Teams had left the bivouac in La Serena in cool, misty conditions - an effect caused by cold air from the ocean colliding with the warm air of the desert - and it caused some small logistical delays for the ASO.

The stage had been shortened by 19km in any case at the previous evening's drivers' briefing and the lost kilometers were added to the final liaison section to the bivouac, situated in a natural bowl in the Atacama desert, surrounded by sandy peaks and rolling dunes.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) service vehicles and event officials will remain at the Copiapó bivouac, while competitors tackle the longest stage of the entire event - a punishing 666km classic loop around the Atacama desert taking in a series of high dunes at altitude in extreme temperatures.

The stage will finish at the Copiapó bivouac and includes seven passage controls in a gruelling loop through the dunes and sand trails of the upper Atacama.

Overall positions on leg 9 (unofficial @ 15.55hrs):
1. Carlos Sainz (E)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Race Touareg (T1.2)  5h 56m 08s
2. Mark Miller (USA)/Ralph Pitchford (ZA) Volkswagen Race Touareg (T1.2) 5h 57m 55s
3. Robbie Gordon (USA)/Andy Grider (USA) Hummer (Open 1)               5h 58m 24s
4. Orlando Terranova (RA)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X3 CC (T1.2)              6h 06m 14s
5. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Dirk von Zitzevitz (D) Volkswagen Race Touareg (T1.2) 6h 08m 09s
6. Leonid Novitskiy (RUS)/Oleg Tyupenkin (RUS) BMW X3 CC (T1.2)  6h 12m 23s
7. Joan 'Nani' Roma (E)/Lucas Cruz Senra (E) Mitsubishi Racing Lancer (T1.2) 6h 20m 49s

Overall positions after leg 9:
1. Carlos Sainz (E)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Race Touareg (T1.2)            33h 26m 07s
2. Mark Miller (USA)/Ralph Pitchford (ZA) Volkswagen Race Touareg (T1.2)       33h 45m 59s
3. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Dirk von Zitzevitz (D) Volkswagen Race Touareg (T1.2)  33h 49m 05s
4. Joan 'Nani' Roma (E)/Lucas Cruz Senra (E) Mitsubishi Racing Lancer (T1.2)   34h 24m 19s
5. Robbie Gordon (USA)/Andy Grider (USA) Hummer (Open 1)             35h 00m 24s
6. Krzysztof Holowczyc (PL)/Jean-Marc Fortin (B) Nissan Navara (T1.2)           36h 50m 00s
7. Ivar Erik Tollefsen (N)/Quin Evans (GB) Nissan Navara (T1.2)            37h 21m 26s

What they said?

Dominique Serieys, team director
'Nani' and Lucas lost some time at the end and the beginning of the stage. They lost some time with a navigation problem near the start and had a little overheating problem after around 200km and, at the end, it was not easy to pass the dunes. We are learning all the time. Let's see what happens over the next two or three days to see if we are still in the fight and what happens."

Joan 'Nani' Roma
"It was not such a good day for us. At the beginning of the stage we made a navigation mistake. We were behind (Giniel) de Villiers in one wadi in the dust and we did not see a junction and went the wrong way. Then, at km 200, the engine temperature began to climb and we stopped too many times to try and make sure we reached the finish. Everybody will try and find the problem now. Tomorrow is another day and we will take each day as it comes."

Lucas Cruz Senra
"Giniel started very fast but, at km 45, we made a small error and missed one junction and took the wrong valley. We turned around and found our way again behind (Robbie) Gordon. He was doing 'the same job' and we stayed behind his dust trail. At the end of the dunes we had a problem with the temperature of the water and the oil, because the fan was not working enough. It was not possible to reduce the temperature and we stopped three times to try and bring the temperature down before we reached the finish."

Live footage of the 2009 Dakar Rally can be seen on Eurosport at the following times:

Eurosport
18.05 hrs GMT - 18.30 hrs GMT
22.00 hrs GMT - 22.45 hrs GMT

Ends

Please visit:
http://www.ralliart.co.jp/motorsports/e/09dakar/index.html

Date issued: 12/01/2009

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