Mauritanian desert passes without problems for Peterhansel

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

2004 Telefonica Dakar Rally
Leg 14: Ayoun El Atrous - Tidjikja (0 kms liaison, 548 kms special, 4 kms liaison)

Thursday, January 15th, 2004

Weather conditions:
cool and very windy in Ayoun El Atrous (+14 to +19 C)
warm and sunny in Tidjikja - rain earlier - (+22 to +24 C)


Masuoka fifth fastest into Tidjikja;
German lady Mayer eighth today

TIDJIKJA (Mauritania): Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports (MMSP) team mates Stephane Peterhansel and Hiroshi Masuoka retained their first and second places in the overall standings of the Telefonica Dakar Rally after the 548 kms Marathon stage into Tidjikja today (Thursday).

Peterhansel held second position through PC2 today and maintained his pace to the finish to move within three days of recording his maiden Dakar triumph on four wheels. Partnered by Jean-Paul Cottret, the Frenchman takes a 1h 05m 04s advantage over team mate Hiroshi Masuoka into the last of the long desert sections to Nouakchott on Friday.

~The stage started very fast this morning, but we lost the correct track after 150 kms,~ said Peterhansel, who has a 2h 31m 44s lead over third-placed Jean-Louis Schlesser's Buggy. ~We drove with Hiroshi and (Gregoire) De Mevius for a time until we regained the track. It was a technical stage, with camel grass and some dunes.

~We had no problems, but I will not even think about the win until we see the Pink Lake in Dakar. I remember the pain I felt last year when I had the problem. There are three stages to go. On Saturday there are sections of chott and this could be very difficult.~

Masuoka and co-driver Gilles Picard were fifth through today's stage, despite a flat tyre just before the first passage control.

~I had my first flat tyre on the entire rally today,~ said Masuoka. ~It was a right front flat. We lost our way with Stephane, but then I drove steadily. Tomorrow is my last chance to pass him, but I know it is not possible. Even if I drove maximum it would be impossible to catch him, so I will be sensible.~

German lady support driver Andrea Mayer and co-driver Andreas Schulz were classified eighth through today's stage, but moved up to fifth place overall when Belgian Gregoire de Mevius hit mechanical problems. ~It was a good day for me with easy navigation and the stage was not difficult to drive,~ said Mayer.

~It was a long day again, but we had no major problems,~ said MMSP's Team Director Dominique Serieys. ~We will wait for the racing trucks and then check the cars this evening. Both Hiroshi and Stephane have a measure of the competition and drove slowly today. It may get slightly easier after tomorrow, but we will not even think about Sunday until we are in Dakar.~

The 548 kms section began adjacent to the Ayoun El Atrous bivouac and headed across the desert to a finish four kilometers from Tidjikja. Weather conditions deteriorated late on Wednesday in Ayoun El Atrous, as a sandstorm prevailed for much of the night. Rain greeted organisation staff and members of the media to the Tidjikja bivouac, but the inclement weather had cleared by mid-afternoon when the competitors arrived.

Tomorrow (Friday) is the last of the classic African desert stages before surviving teams head south towards the Senegalese border and on to Dakar. The day promises to be a sting in the tail: a mere two kilometers after the restart teams head into a 579 kms special, which features a vast 200 kms section of notorious camel grass. ~Camel grass can throw up all sorts of problems,~ said Peterhansel's co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret.

Before arriving in the Mauritania coastal town of Nouakchott ('Place of the Winds'), teams must also cross the Amoukrouz dune field and drive a 71 kms liaison to the bivouac.

Positions in Tidjikja after leg 14 (17.45 hrs GMT):
1. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 43h 46m 03s
2. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 44h 51m 07s
3. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 46h 17m 47s
4. Luc Alphand (F)/Henri Magne (F) BMW X5 Raid 47h 24m 32s
5. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 49h 07m 38s
Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 Raid NOT YET CLASSIFIED

Positions on Ayoun El Atrous to Tidjikja stage (Leg 14): 17.45 hrs GMT
1. Luc Alphand (F)/Henri Magne (F) BMW X5 Raid 6h 51m 07s
2. Colin McRae (GB)/Tina Thorner (S) Nissan Pick-Up 7h 05m 27s
3. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 7h 09m 37s
4. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 7h 11m 22s
5. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 7h 12m 12s
6. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 7h 14m 16s
8. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 7h 26m 48s



Kolberg attacks on Tidjikja stage; Ding determined to reach Dakar

Klever Kolberg began today's second Marathon stage in ninth place, a mere 26 seconds behind Thierry Magnaldi's Honda. The Brazilian vowed to attack. ~My plan was to push as hard as possible today without taking any risks,~ said Kolberg. ~I know that I have the pace to pass the Honda. Tidjikja is not my favourite place and I am glad that we are getting closer to Dakar. My best position in a car on this race is eighth two years ago and I would like to beat that if possible.~

Frenchman Dominique Housieux began the section 35 minutes behind his Mitsubishi Ralliart team mate in 10th position and was coming under pressure from South Africa's Giniel de Villiers. ~I am determined to keep my place in the top 10,~ said Housieux.

Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah still had one eye on a top 10 position, as he began the stage into Tidjikja this morning in 12th place, although the Qatari was rueing getting lost on two occasions on Wednesday. ~We lost our way a couple of times into Ayoun and had a low speed coming together with Klever, but nothing serious,~ said Nasser, a gold medalist in the skeet shooting discipline at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan

Thailand's Siriwat Pornsawan started today's section 2h 10m ahead of Polish team mate Lukasz Komornicki. Pornsawan's car was fitted with a new battery before today's stage and Komornicki's mechanics fitted a new differential to his Pajero/Montero in Ayoun El Atrous.

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart China's Luo Ding and French co-driver Serge Henninot achieved their best performance of the event so far into Ayoun in the sixth of the Mitsubishi Ralliart customer cars. They were 38th through the stage.

~Over a three-day period last week I slept for no more than about six hours,~ said Ding. ~I felt okay. I just knew that I had to keep going. I hate the dunes though. My car has a diesel engine and a long wheelbase and is better suited to the faster sections than the areas of soft sand. I feel quite fresh considering all we have done since the start. It was a bit frantic on the stage into Ayoun yesterday, but I passed several cars and was confident that I could push again on the Tidjikja stage today.

~I was so disappointed to retire from the race last year with an oil pump problem on the final Libyan stage. That made me more determined to do well this time. I have undergone instruction from Mitsubishi's test driver Jean-Pierre Fontenay and he told me many useful things and gave me a lot of advice before I left for this race. Now I have to put that into practice over the closing stages.~

~Today's Marathon stage was always going to be difficult,~ said Mitsubishi Ralliart customer team manager Jurgen Masal. ~Several of our cars lost their wing mirrors after minor collisions on Wednesday, but there was nothing too serious. Today was a Marathon stage, so they knew that they would need to be careful and not take risks, because there is no service assistance in Tidjikja.~


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: 15/01/2004

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