MMSP extends lead to 34 minutes in Tunisia

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

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

Stage 2: Nekrif - Nekrif (17 kms liaison, 307 kms stage, 15 kms liaison)

For immediate release
Wednesday, April 7th, 2004

Weather conditions: warm and sunny, 22-24 C


* Masuoka continues after opening leg clutch problems
* Komornicki pulls ahead of Ralliart customer rivals

NEKRIF (Tunisia): Reigning Dakar Rally winner Stéphane Peterhansel and his French co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret extended their lead in the 2004 Rally of Tunisia to 34m 23s, by winning the second stage - a 307 kms loop around the Nekrif bivouac - today (Wednesday).

~In Tunisia it is a pleasure to drive on these stages,~ said Peterhansel. ~Today's stage was fast and flowing. There were no sections with big jumps or camel grass. It was really enjoyable. We had no problems, but there was some tricky navigation towards the end and several motorbikes lost their way.

~The stages on Thursday and Friday will be different. I enjoy driving in the dunes. I used to love the dunes on my motorcycle. I remember two years ago the section into El Borma was a very nice stage.~

Team mates Hiroshi Masuoka and Gilles Picard lost any chance of victory with clutch problems en route to Nekrif. The car was thoroughly checked over in the service area late on Tuesday night and the pair were permitted to restart this morning.

~About four kilometres before the third passage control on Tuesday, we noticed this noise and the clutch started slipping,~ added Masuoka. ~We got as far as the control checkpoint and stopped, but it was just impossible to pull away again afterwards. We had to wait for several hours until the clutch could be replaced and we were then able to drive to the bivouac.~

Masuoka's car was thoroughly checked well into the early hours of Wednesday morning by the MMSP mechanics in preparation for the second selective section. According to co-driver Picard: ~It was strange today (Wednesday) running so far behind the leaders. The plan was to set a fast time, but we knew we had to overtake many cars and bikes and had to be very careful each time.~

~I spoke to Sven Quandt (MMSP's Head of Motorsports) and we decided that Hiroshi would continue today and we would use the event as a valuable test and development session,~ said MMSP's Team Director Dominique Serieys. ~The next few days will be an invaluable opportunity for us to test brakes and tyres and give Hiroshi as much competitive time as possible.

~Both Stéphane and Hiroshi will test a new all-terrain BF Goodrich tyre compound,~ added Serieys. ~We will work on a strategy with both drivers in the coming days. This is also an opportunity for us to test out new floating Brembo discs - which we hope to use in the future. These assist brake cooling and we hope they improve braking efficiency. We will also look at other car improvements and revisions as well.~

Tomorrow (Thursday) the route heads from Nekrif to El Borma in the south and offers a 328 kms selective section. The competitive action begins with a winding track through several canyons before passing the Borj Jenein wadi. A run along the Libyan border point to the old oil station at Tiaret is the turning point west towards El Borma and a potentially treacherous pass through a range of dunes known as the 'El Borma Erg'.

Overall positions after SS2 (unofficial at 14.00 hrs local time):
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 5h 31m 34s
2. Kenjiro Shinozuka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Nissan Pick-Up 6h 05m 57s
3. Lukasz Komornicki (PL)/Rafal Marton (PL) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 6h 12m 51s
4. Stéphane Henrard (B)/Alain Low (B) Volkswagen Tarek 6h 13m 17s
5. Georges Lansac (F)/ Jean-Robert Jacquemard (F) Pro Truck 6h 16m 59s
6. Dominique Housieaux (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (B) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 6h 17m 30s

Positions on SS2: (unofficial at 14.00 hrs local time - excluding Hiroshi Masuoka)
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2h 53m 36s
2. Kenjiro Shinozuka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Nissan Pick-Up 3h 06m 19s
3. Thierry Magnaldi (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Honda Buggy 3h 07m 38s
4. Lukasz Komornicki (PL)/Rafal Marton (PL) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 3h 11m 41s
5. Stéphane Henrard (B)/Alain Low (B) Volkswagen Tarek 3h13m 12s

Ralliart Teams

Poland's Lukasz Komornicki and Rafal Marton held seventh at the start this morning and were delighted to reach the finish of the section in third position overall to lead the four Ralliart customer teams after two legs of the Rally of Tunisia.

~The navigation was really difficult,~ said co-driver Marton. ~It was supposed to be a stage with GPS, but there were only six GPS points in 300 kms and that made it very tricky. We only made one small navigational error, so I am happy.~

Dominique Housieaux and new Belgian co-driver Jean-Marie Lurquin continued to enjoy their new partnership in a Ralliart Pajero/Montero. They started today's section in third position, but the Frenchman slipped to sixth in the overall standings.

~It was a superb route today with many scenic places,~ said Housieaux. ~We started third on the road, but I do not have the power of the factory cars and was never able to close the gap on the leaders. The good side of this was the lack of dust. The navigation was tricky and my co-driver worked hard today.~

Spaniards Jose-Luis Monterde and Rafael Tornabell were classified ninth in the third Ralliart Pajero/Montero at the start of the stage. ~We finished the stage with the engine overheating a little,~ said Monterde. ~But that was a minor problem. We got lost less than 20 kms from the end of the stage. There was a track to the left and one straight ahead and we chose the wrong one to the left. It was very annoying.~ The Spaniards slipped to 11th position.

Tunisian lady driver Abla Lassoued began the second Nekrif loop section in 62nd place. ~It has been a fantastic experience for me so far,~ said the Tunisian. ~People have been so kind on the route and the local people have given me great support. My exploits have captured the interest of the locals here in Tunisia. I am determined to reach the finish alone.~

Overall positions after SS2:
3. Lukasz Komornicki (PL)/Rafal Marton (PL) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 6h 12m 51s
6. Dominique Housieaux (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (B) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 6h 17m 30s
11. Jose-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 6h 31m 55s
Abla Lassoued (TN)/ NO CO-DRIVER Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero


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Date issued: 07/04/2004

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