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MMSP consolidates overall lead in Tunisia

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

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

Leg 4: El Borma - El Borma (36 kms liaison, 270 kms stage, 36.3 kms liaison)

For immediate release
Friday, April 9th, 2004

Weather conditions: very hot, sunny and slight breeze, 29-34 C

PETERHANSEL AND COTTRET CONSOLIDATE OVERALL ADVANTAGE FOR MITSUBISHI MOTORS MOTOR SPORTS TEAM IN RALLY OF TUNISIA

* Japan's Masuoka sixth fastest on El Borma loop stage
* MMSP team mates stop to assist injured KTM rider

EL BORMA (Tunisia): Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret consolidated the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports team's overall advantage in the Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia after setting the fifth fastest time through the tricky and shortened 270 kms El Borma loop stage, today (Friday).

On arguably the most difficult section of the seven-day opening round of the FIA Cross-Country Rallies World Cup, Peterhansel set off into the stage two minutes behind MMSP team mates Hiroshi Masuoka and Gilles Picard in the second Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution. But the Dakar Rally winner stopped for around four minutes to assist a distressed motorcyclist, duly lost some time and now leads second-placed Kenjiro Shinozuka by 43m 06s.

~It was purely a sand stage today and we decided to take no risks, especially after the big jump off the dune on Thursday,~ said Peterhansel. ~We lost around four minutes near the end when we stopped to assist a KTM rider who had crashed. We let off his Balaise distress beacon and then drove slowly over the last section. Khalifa (Al-Motaiwi) passed me and we followed him to the finish. He is a very capable driver with a good technique in the dunes and he set a good pace to the end of the stage.~

Masuoka had been classified last in the overall standings after clutch problems on the Nekrif loop stage, but climbed to 83rd position on Thursday evening after setting the fastest time into El Borma. Despite a crippling six-hour penalty, the Japanese driver was climbing back through the field of 91 cars, who started Friday's stage in the giant dune complexes around El Borma and the Algerian frontier.

~We waited for Stéphane after 10 kilometers and followed him all through the stage,~ said Masuoka. ~We also stopped to help the motorcycle rider. The stage was 95% sandy and there were some very big dunes. Tomorrow I will start sixth on the road, behind Stéphane, and will hopefully shadow him to the finish of the stage again.~

~Everything has gone according to plan today,~ said MMSP's Team Director Dominique Serieys. ~We will continue to test new brakes and BF Goodrich tires over the final stages and we even plan to make use of the afternoons after the stages to carry out some more tire testing with BF Goodrich technicians.~

Last year, the Italian duo of Miki Biasion and Tiziano Siviero won the El Borma loop stage in an official factory Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero. This year victory on the El Borma loop went to the UAE's Khalifa Al-Mutaiwi and his French co-driver Alain Guehennec in a BMW X5 Rallye-Raid. Al-Mutaiwi took part in the event two years ago in an SBM-run Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero and finished second overall behind Peterhansel.

Tomorrow (Saturday) offers a 274 kms competitive section from El Borma to Ras El Oued. The use of a GPS is not permitted. After following a pipeline track, the route heads past the active Larich borehole and on to the old fort of Garet Saber.

The track then turns north towards the Jnein fort and on to Borj Bourguiba - named after the Tunisian President who was born in this area. Several rutted sections of terrain towards the end of the leg have been badly affected by heavy rains during the recent winter months.

Overall positions after El Borma-El Borma stage: (unofficial 14.20 hrs local time)
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 11h 28m 02s
2. Kenjiro Shinozuka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Nissan Pick-Up 12h 11m 08s
3. Stéphane Henrard (B)/Alain Low (B) Volkswagen Tarek 12h 24m 02s
4. Thierry Magnaldi (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Honda Buggy 12h 29m 14s
5. Khalifa Al-Mutaiwi (UAE)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 Rallye-Raid 12h 32m 46s
6. Jose-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 13h 13m 40s

Positions on El Borma-El Borma stage: (unofficial 14.20 hrs local time)
1. Khalifa Al-Mutaiwi (UAE)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 Rallye-Raid 2h 47m 03s
2. Thierry Magnaldi (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Honda Buggy 2h 50m 30s
3. Stéphane Henrard (B)/Alain Low (B) Volkswagen Tarek 2h 52m 39s
4. Kenjiro Shinozuka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Nissan Pick-Up 2h 53m 11s
5. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2h 54m 45s
6. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2h 56m 57s

Ralliart Teams

* Spaniard Monterde heads Ralliart team mates
* Tunisian lady driver Lassoued retires after roll in dunes

Spaniards Jose-Luis Monterde and Rafael Tornabell eventually began the shortened El Borma loop stage in eighth place, 14m 08s ahead of Polish Ralliart team mates Lukasz Komornicki and Rafal Marton.

~There were a lot of dunes,~ said sixth-placed Monterde. ~But the stage was not as hard as I expected it would be. I have a diesel engine and, at times, I know I could have gone quicker with a bit more power.~

Komornicki started this morning in 10th position, but was delayed between the first and second passage controls. ~We lost our way this morning,~ groaned Komornicki, who now lies 12th.

Frenchman Dominique Housieaux and Belgian co-driver Jean-Marie Lurquin had slipped from sixth to 13th position after their navigational problems on the run into El Borma. They began the El Borma loop 6m 18s behind their Polish team mates and made good progress on today's stage, despite the intense heat. They now lie in 10th position.

~About 100 kms from the finish I heard this noise from the transmission when I was braking,~ said Housieaux. ~It was not a major problem, but I slowed down a little. I also burned my right foot in the floor well. It is very close to the engine and the heat was incredible inside the car.~

Tunisia's Abla Lassoued was lying 62nd overall through PC3 yesterday, but she rolled her Pajero/Montero 50 kms from the stage finish on the crest of a sand dune and the car landed upside down. The roll cage was damaged and Ralliart management had no alternative but to withdraw the car from the event.

~Abla wanted to continue,~ said Ralliart spokesman Brice Fabry. ~But there was some damage to the roll cage and it is not permitted to continue under FIA regulations. We discussed this with Abla. We were not prepared to let her start the El Borma loop stage on safety grounds.~

Overall positions after El Borma-El Borma stage: (unofficial at 14.15 hrs local time)
6. Jose-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 13h 13m 40s
10. Dominique Housieaux (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (B) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 13h 37m 33s
12. Lukasz Komornicki (PL)/Rafal Marton (PL) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 13h 42m 30s

Ends

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Date issued: 09/04/2004

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