Masuoka quickest as Peterhansel leads into El Borma

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

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

Stage 3: Nekrif - El Borma (16 kms liaison, 326 kms stage, 15 kms liaison)

For immediate release
Thursday, April 8th, 2004

Weather conditions: hot, sunny and strong breeze, 25-27 C


* Masuoka back on track with fastest time into El Borma
* Spain's Monterde leads Ralliart customer teams on stage

EL BORMA (Tunisia): Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports team mates Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret continued to lead the 2004 Rally of Tunisia, as the competitors arrived at a remote bivouac near El Borma, two kilometers from the frontier with Algeria, today (Thursday).

The third of seven stages of this year's opening round of the FIA Cross Country Rallies World Cup was the first to cross traditional sand dunes and remote desert terrain, although it had been shortened by two kilometers the previous evening.

Frenchman Péterhansel began the section 34m 23s ahead of his nearest rival, Kenjiro Shinozuka, and ended the day 44m 40s ahead of the Japanese Nissan driver, after setting the second fastest time behind MMSP team mates Hiroshi Masuoka and Gilles Picard.

~It was a completely different kind of day today,~ said Péterhansel. ~The gravel tracks early on were very fast and quite slippery. It was not easy to control the car. Then we crossed a small dune, which I remembered was very soft and hard to pass two years ago. But there has been a lot of rain recently and the sand was compact. It was much easier today.

~Then I had one problem about 30 kms from the end of the stage. We didn't see a broken dune and there was a big jump off the crest. It was a heavy landing and quite a jolt on our bodies, but nothing serious.~

Japan's Masuoka ran two hours behind his team mate through Wednesday's stage and set the second fastest time, despite passing around 60 cars and bikes. But Masuoka started today's stage only two minutes behind his team mate's leading Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution and managed to set the day's fastest time - his first of the rally so far.

~It was dangerous on the loop stage on Wednesday, because we had to pass around 60 vehicles,~ said Masuoka. ~I can't remember if I have ever been so far down a starting list before. I had to go off the track many times to get around slower vehicles.

~Today was the start of my rally,~ he added jokingly. ~I had the fastest time. Gilles and I had the same scare as Stéphane on the big dune near the end. The track looked flat, but it was very deceptive. Some of the other dunes were tricky, but I wanted to stay behind to make sure that we could support him if he had problems. I will start first on the road through Friday's loop stage, but then I will wait for Stéphane after a few kilometers. This is a team rally for me now.~

~The area around El Borma has a formidable reputation,~ said MMSP's Team Director Dominique Serieys. ~I cannot remember when it wasn't windy here. It was a good day for us today, but you never know with this rallly and the dunes around El Borma can be treacherous. I will talk to the drivers this evening and plan a strategy. I would prefer it if Hiroshi pushed on the stage and opened the road for Stéphane. Then he would be the first driver to encounter any problems if they were to arise.~

Tomorrow (Friday) is arguably the most difficult leg of the entire event and offers a 287 kms loop stage around the bivouac. This section was badly affected by sand storms in 2002 and 2003 and consists entirely of sand trails and tricky dune crossings.

Overall positions after SS3 (unofficial at 14.00 hrs local time):
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 8h 33m 17s
2. Kenjiro Shinozuka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Nissan Pick-Up 9h 17m 57s
3. Stéphane Henrard (B)/Alain Low (B) Volkswagen Tarek 9h 31m 23s
4. Thierry Magnaldi (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Honda Buggy 9h 38m 44s
5. Khalifa Al-Motaiwi (UAE)/Pascal maimon (F) BMW X5 Rallye-Raid 9h 45m 43s
6. Georges Lansac (F)/ Jean-Robert Jacquemard (F) Pro Truck 10h 01m 04s

Positions on SS3: (unofficial at 14.00 hrs local time)
1. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 00m 59s
2. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 01m 43s
3. Kenjiro Shinozuka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Nissan Pick-Up 3h 12m 00s
4. Thierry Magnaldi (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Honda Buggy 3h 12m 52s
5. Stéphane Henrard (B)/Alain Low (B) Volkswagen Tarek 3h 18m 06s
6. Khalifa Al-Motaiwi (UAE)/Pascal maimon (F) BMW X5 Rallye-Raid 3h 19m 00s

Ralliart Teams

* Spain's Monterde leads Ralliart customer teams on stage

Spaniards Jose-Luis Monterde and Rafael Tornabell held 11th position at the start of this morning's stage and were the first of the four Ralliart teams to arrive at the El Borma bivouac. They jumped to eighth in the overall standings, when team mates Dominique Housieaux and Lukasz Komornicki were delayed near the finish. The Spaniards were seventh in today's stage.

~Not a bad day for us,~ said Monterde. ~But it was very hot inside the car. Every time we tried to push a little bit harder the engine temperature rose and we had to back off. Near the end there were a group of journalists standing on the right of the track and there was a path leading straight on. We opted to go straight on and had no problems to reach the end. For sure, there were problems in the dunes on the right side for other drivers.~

Poland's Lukasz Komornicki and Rafal Marton began the stage into El Borma in third position overall, but hit trouble over the latter sections and finished the stage in 25th position.

~We were running really well,~ said Komornicki. ~Then about 20 kms from the end of the stage the car stopped. We weren't sure if it was a fuel pump problem or whether we were out of fuel. It was frustrating and cost us our place in the top five.~

Frenchman Dominique Housieaux and Belgian co-driver Jean-Marie Lurquin slipped from third to sixth on the Nekrif loop stage and fell further down the leaderboard on the run into El Borma. They completed the selective in 26th place.

~Near PC1 we took the wrong track near a chain of sand dunes,~ said Housieaux. ~It took us 45 minutes to get back on the right side of the dunes and we went 30 kms out of our way. The dunes were enormous. What a morning.~

Tunisia's Abla Lassoued began the stage in 44th position and was lying 62nd overall through PC3, as we closed for press.


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Date issued: 08/04/2004

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