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Peterhansel gives MMSP massive lead in Tunisia

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

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

Stage 7: Ras El Oued - Ras El Oued (3 kms liaison, 294 kms stage, 21 km liaison)

For immediate release
Sunday, April 11th, 2004

Weather conditions: warm, sunny and strong breeze, 22-25 C

PETERHANSEL AND COTTRET GIVE MITSUBISHI MOTORS MOTOR SPORTS TEAM
A 69-MINUTE ADVANTAGE HEADING INTO FINAL STAGE OF RALLY OF TUNISIA

* Masuoka and Peterhansel third and fourth fastest on Ras El Oued loop stage

RAS EL OUED (Tunisia): Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports team mates Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret will start the final leg of the 2004 Rally of Tunisia with a 69m 13s advantage over their nearest rivals, after setting the fourth fastest time through the shortened 294 kms Ras El Oued loop stage, today (Sunday).

~Only one stage to go now, but this was the hardest stage so far,~ said Peterhansel. ~It was not very fast, but very technical. In the middle there were many small dunes for about 60 kms and we were jumping every 10 meters. It was hard on the car and the body. We decided to slow down and be careful.

~Then, just before PC3, we lost the road. It is never easy without GPS. I think we lost about 10 minutes. The last section was very fast and there were some big holes in the track. It was dangerous. I remember the last time I was here we had a huge moment over a jump and I decided to be cautious this time and take no risks.~

Peterhansel opened the stage for the remaining cars this morning and was followed into the off-road section by MMSP team mates Hiroshi Masuoka and Gilles Picard in the second Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution. They were classified 50th overall after the Ras El Oued stage, following clutch problems earlier this week. Masuoka - the winner of both the 2002 and 2003 Dakar rallies - was third quickest today.

~We stayed behind Stéphane again today,~ said Masuoka. ~This was the most difficult stage of the rally. For 50 kms there were many sand spits and a sandstorm made it difficult to see the track clearly with confidence. But it was a good test for us and I was second quickest.~

Nissan's Kenjiro Shinozuka and Pascal Maimon lost second position when their Nissan developed mechanical problems. The fastest time on today's selective section was taken by the UAE's Khalifa Al-Motaiwi and French co-driver Alain Guehennec in a BMW X5. He moved up to second position in the overall standings. Of the 108 cars which started out from Nice last Sunday, only 66 cars began the stage this morning.

Tomorrow (Monday) is the final stage of this year's event, although a 183 kms liaison section from Ras El Oued takes teams to the start of the competitive action at Matmata La Nouvelle. The early kilometers will be technical and sandy to the village of El Hamma, but the NPO insist that the stage is one of the most difficult.

Teams will traverse the El Fejaj chott and along a railway path to the military post at Bir Oum Ali. A final pass across the vast El Garasa chott takes the survivors to the finish at a location used during the filming of the 'Star Wars' blockbuster movie.

Overall positions after Ras El Oued-Ras El Oued stage: (unofficial 13.50 hrs local time)
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 18h 13m 47s
2. Khalifa Al-Mutaiwi (UAE)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 Rallye-Raid 19h 23m 00s
3. Stéphane Henrard (B)/Alain Low (B) Volkswagen Tarek 19h 24m 50s
4. Jose-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 20h 31m 11s
5. Georges Lansac (F)/ Jean-Robert Jacquemard (F) Pro Truck 20h 46m 11s
6. Dominique Housieaux (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (B) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 20h 56m 59s

Positions on Ras El Oued-Ras El Oued stage: (unofficial 13.50 hrs local time)
1. Khalifa Al-Mutaiwi (UAE)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 Rallye-Raid 3h 40m 23s
2. Stéphane Henrard (B)/Alain Low (B) Volkswagen Tarek 3h 44m 24s
3. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 47m 48s
4. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 49m 39s
5. Jose-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 3h 56m 31s

Ralliart Teams

* Ralliart customers in 4th, 6th and 7th places

Spaniards Jose-Luis Monterde and Rafael Tornabell began the Ras El Oued loop stage in seventh position in their Pajero/Montero and set the fifth fastest time to move up to a similar place in the overall standings.

~It was a difficult stage for navigation,~ said Monterde. ~Now we must be patient and not get carried away on the final day. The plan is to stay ahead of the Pro Truck.~

Frenchman Dominique Housieaux and Belgian co-driver Jean-Marie Lurquin held ninth position at the start of this morning's loop stage around Ras El Oued and moved up to sixth in the bivouac.

~We made a good stage,~ said Housieaux's co-driver Jean-Marie Lurquin. ~But in a small dune we got stuck for 20 minutes in the sand near PC3.~

Poles Lukasz Komornicki and Rafal Marton moved up to eighth position after the stage from El Borma to Ras El Oued and are now classified seventh.

~We had a good pace,~ said Komornicki. ~But we went left at PC2 instead of straight on and arrived at some dunes. When we turned we got stuck in the soft sand and lost about 30 minutes. I am sure that we could have set the fastest time today.~

Overall positions after Ras El Oued-Ras El Oued stage: (unofficial 14.30 hrs local time)
4. Jose-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 20h 31m 11s
6. Dominique Housieaux (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (B) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 20h 56m 59s
7. Lukasz Komornicki (PL)/Rafal Marton (PL) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 20h 58m 58s

Ends

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Date issued: 11/04/2004

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