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Peterhansel takes early lead in Rally of Tunisia

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

2004 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup
Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia, round 1

Stage 1: El Kantara - Nekrif (281 kms stage, 7 kms liaison)

For immediate release
Tuesday, April 6th, 2004

Weather conditions: warm and sunny - 19-20C


PETERHANSEL TAKES EARLY LEAD FOR MITSUBISHI MOTORS
MOTOR SPORTS TEAM IN RALLY OF TUNISIA

* Mechanical delays for team mate Masuoka
* Housieaux leads Ralliart teams in third place

NEKRIF (Tunisia): Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports driver Stéphane Peterhansel and French co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret held the outright lead after the opening 281 kms special stage of the 2004 Rally of Tunisia, between El Kantara and Nekrif, on Tuesday.

Frenchman Péterhansel - who won the Rally of Tunisia for Mitsubishi in 2002 and in 1990 and 1994 on a Yamaha motorcycle - had been beaten through the Prologue stage by Hungarian driver Sandor Kis, who was running at the back of the field in his Nissan Navara.

Péterhansel's Japanese team mate Hiroshi Masuoka and French co-driver Gilles Picard are also bidding to give Mitsubishi a sixth outright win on this now traditional opening round of the FIA Cross Country Rallies World Cup. They were running strongly behind their team mates until the third passage control when they suffered mechanical problems and were forced to stop and make emergency repairs.

~I like this kind of stage,~ said Peterhansel. ~It was very technical and not a typical African stage. It was more like a WRC stage. I had a good feeling with the suspension over the jumps, I made no mistakes and there were no problems with the car once we started. But I always stayed on the track. We ran without GPS and there was quite a lot of work for Jean-Paul today. I was allowed to move ahead of the Hungarian for safety reasons this morning, so I was first on the road all day.~

~I remember passing though this stage when it was run in reverse a few years ago and the navigation was very difficult,~ added Masuoka's co-driver Picard at the start this morning. ~At the start there were many places where you could make a mistake and lose a lot of time.~

~It was a good day for Stéphane,~ said MMSP's Team Director Dominique Serieys. ~He drove very well and took no risks on his way to the outright lead. Looking ahead, it looks likely that tyre deflation systems will be outlawed next season and I have asked our drivers only to use the system as a back-up in case of emergencies later this week. This is a good way of getting them used to the regulations which may come in to force next year.~

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the second competitive section on this year's event and features a 307 kms loop stage around the Nekrif bivouac. The use of GPS will be permitted. The stage is scheduled to cross a small mountain before PC1 and then passes the old Ksar Jedid. Patches of camel grass will be prevalent as the route heads towards the M'Ched Salah fort, several Libyan border posts and a return to the bivouac.

Overall positions after SS1: (Top 6 - unofficial at 14.00 hrs local time)
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2h 37m 58s
2. Phillipe Gache (F)/ Bruno Cattarelli (F) Buggy SMG-OR 01 2h 53m 48s
3. Dominique Housieaux (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (B) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 2h 58m 37s
4. Khalifa Al-Motaiwi (UAE)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 Rallye-Raid 2h 59m 36s
5. Kenjiro Shinozuka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Nissan Pick-Up 2h 59m 38s
6. Stéphane Henrard (B)/Alain Low (B) Volkswagen Tarek 3h 00m 05s

Ralliart Teams

Frenchman Dominique Housieaux and new Belgian co-driver Jean-Marie Lurquin led the way into the opening selective section for the Ralliart teams, after their fifth place through Sunday's Prologue stage in France. They completed today's section in third position.

~It was a really good day for me with my new hard-working Belgian co-driver,~ said Housieaux. ~I started fifth on the road this morning. It is our first time together, but everything is going well. The navigation was very difficult. It was a super stage, but I took no risks and it was personally satisfying for me to be beating Kenjiro Shinozuka.~

Poland's Lukasz Komornicki and Rafal Marton hold seventh position in their Pajero/Montero. ~No mechanical problems with the car,~ said Lukasz. ~But there is some slight damage to the front spoiler. I braked very hard and there was a large hole which was not marked in the road book.~

Spaniards Jose-Luis Monterde and Rafael Tornabell hold ninth overall in the third Ralliart Pajero/Montero, despite complaining of a down-on-power engine over the latter sections. ~We will look at the engine this evening,~ said Tornabell.

Tunisian lady driver Abla Lassoued has joined the Mitsubishi Ralliart team for the first time and decided to tackle the Rally of Tunisia without a co-driver. She began the opening desert stage in 52nd position.

Overall positions after SS1: (unofficial at 14.00 hrs local time)
3. Dominique Housieaux (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (B) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 2h 58m 37s
7. Lukasz Komornicki (PL)/Rafal Marton (PL) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 3h 01m 10s
9. Jose-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 3h 08m 07s
Awaited: Abla Lassoued (TN) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero TBA

Ends

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Date issued: 06/04/2004

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