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Masuoka wins Nouakchott stage of Dakar Rally for Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

2004 Telefonica Dakar Rally
Leg 15: Tidjikja - Nouakchott (2 kms liaison, 579 kms special, 71 kms liaison)

Friday, January 16th, 2004

Weather conditions: hot and sunny (+26 to +32 C)

MITSUBISHI'S MASUOKA TAKES DAKAR
RALLY STAGE WIN INTO NOUAKCHOTT

Peterhansel heads towards Dakar with 55m 53s overall lead;
Masuoka in second position; German lady Mayer sixth into Nouakchott and fifth overall

NOUAKCHOTT (Mauritania): Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports (MMSP) team drivers Stephane Peterhansel and Hiroshi Masuoka took a major step towards a fourth successive Dakar triumph for the Japanese manufacturer by finishing second and first overall on the 579 kms special stage between Tidjikja and Nouakchott in Mauritania today (Friday).

Frenchman Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret head into the penultimate stage of the 17-day race on Saturday, 55m 53s ahead of Masuoka and his French co-driver Gilles Picard. The leading French duo are now 2h 55m 16s in front of third-placed Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser, the highest-placed non-Mitsubishi team.

At the wheel of their Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolutions, the pair led from the start of today's gruelling special stage across the western deserts of Mauritania, with stage winner Masuoka completing the competitive stage 9m 11s ahead of his team mate.

~Getting through today's stage without a major problem was the priority,~ said Peterhansel. ~But it was a good stage for us. It was long and there were some areas of camel grass, some tricky dunes and some fast sections, but we now have an even stronger position than this morning. Still, I will not even begin to think about the victory yet.~

Germany lady driver Andrea Mayer began the stage in fifth position overalll with co-driver Andreas Schulz in a Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero. She held eighth through the first passage control today and was classified fifth after PC3, although she was pipped into sixth place at the finish by Schlesser and retains fifth in the overall standings.

~I am delighted with the result from today,~ said MMSP's Team Director Dominique Serieys. ~But there are still two days to go and one difficult stage. For sure, we are in a good position, but there has been quite a bit of heavy rain in the last few days and the stage on Saturday could be difficult. Patrick Zaniroli has admitted that there is some tricky navigation, so we will have to wait and see.~

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the penultimate day of the Dakar Rally. A 60 kms liaison takes teams to the start of a 192 kms special stage south towards Saint Louis. A 396 kms liaison passes through Rosso and Saint Louis, en route to Dakar.

Positions in Nouakchott after leg 15 (16.45 hrs GMT):
1. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 50h 47m 49s
2. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 51h 43m 42s
3. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 53h 43m 05s
4. Luc Alphand (F)/Henri Magne (F) BMW X5 Raid 54h 52m 06s
5. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 56h 33m 30s

Positions on Tidjikja to Nouakchott stage (Leg 15): 16.45 hrs GMT
1. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 6h 52m 35s
2. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 7h 01m 46s
3. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Francois Jourdaan (ZA) 7h 10m 07s
4. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 7h 14m 29s
5. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 7h 25m 18s
6. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 7h 25m 52s

RALLIART TEAMS

NINTH-PLACED KOLBERG LOSES
TIME WITH CLUTCH PROBLEMS

Al-Attiyah up to 11th; Housieux stopped; China's Ding in 56th overall

Brazilian Klever Kolberg slipped from ninth to 10th place on the run into Tidjikja, as South Africa's Giniel de Villiers moved ahead of him the 14th stage of the 17-day race.

Kolberg and co-driver Roldan Lourival suffered clutch problems and were lucky not to lose further time, although they began today's section into Nouakchott a mere 48 seconds ahead of team mate Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and were running well down the field at the first passage control today.

~We had a problem with the clutch,~ said the Brazilian. ~Some sand must have found its way through a seal and caused the clutch to slip. I was forced to change gear without using the clutch. It cost me a lot of time.~

Qatar's Al-Attiyah hindered his chances of taking a top 10 finish by offering assistance to Belgian Gregoire de Mevius between the second and third passage controls on the stage into Tidjikja. De Mevius was stuck in soft sand and Al-Attiyah offered to tow him on to firmer ground.

But the Qatari still climbed to 11th overall above team mate Dominique Housieux in the overall standings. The Frenchman and co-driver Loic Fagot lost over 90 minutes in soft sand into Tidjikja and then stopped again on today's stage with transmission problems.

~I stopped to help the BMW,~ said Al-Attiyah. ~It was only a few minutes and you never know when you may need help yourself on these stages!~

Thailand's Siriwat Pornsawan and French co-driver Phillipe Bocande completed the Tidjikja stage nine minutes behind Kolberg and began this morning's section in 15th overall. Polish team mates Lukasz Komornicki and Rafal Marton finished the Tidjikja stage in 11th and started the section into Nouakchott today in 17th overall.

Team Mitsubishi Ralliart China's Luo Ding started the Tidjikja stage in 38th position and was classified 44th at the finish. He and French co-driver Serge Henninot lay 56th overall at the start of the last of the longer stages into Nouakchott this morning. ~I will not be too sad to see the back of the sand dunes,~ joked the Chinese driver. He was classified 21st overall through PC1 this afternoon.

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: 16/01/2004

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