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Peterhansel leads in Morocco after opening stage

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

2004 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup
Orpi Rally of Morocco, round 3

Leg 1: Agadir – Assa (27 kms liaison - 248 kms special – 95 kms liaison)

For immediate release
Wednesday, June 2nd, 2004

Weather conditions: hot and sunny – 19-29 C

PETERHANSEL AND COTTRET TAKE EARLY LEAD FOR MITSUBISHI MOTORS MOTOR SPORTS TEAM IN MOROCCO

- Sousa holds fourth in second Evolution; Germany’s Mayer 19th
- Housieaux leads Ralliart teams in eighth position

ASSA (Morocco): Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret headed the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports Team challenge through the opening competitive section of the Orpi Rally of Morocco between Agadir and Assa, today (Wednesday).

The defending Dakar champion set the overall fastest time in his Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution through the 248 kms special and heads into Thursday’s second stage with an 8m 14s advantage over second-placed Japanese driver Kenjiro Shinozuka in a Nissan Pick-Up.

~I made a big decision to stop at the assistance point and change the two rear tires, which were already down to the canvas,~ said Peterhansel. ~It was not an easy stage. At the start I thought we only had a few kilometers in the mountains, but we stayed there all through the stage. After about 50 kms I saw Jean-Louis (Schlesser) and then we passed him after about 100 kms.

~Jean-Louis passed me again. Then he stopped and I finished the stage very slowly. There was a big wadi with massive rocks and it would have been foolish to push too hard. It was a completely new stage. Many of the cars will have major tire problems today. We only lost the road once for about two minutes about 10 kms from the end.~

The Portuguese defending FIA World Cup champion Carlos Sousa and his Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne lost time through the opening stage with tire wear problems in the second Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution

~It was a typical Moroccan stage today,~ said Sousa. ~It was very rough, but not as fast as usual. We could not push, because our rear tires were worn down. We were able to change them at the stage finish, but I am happy with fourth position. There is a long way to go.~

German lady Andrea Mayer and her experienced German co-driver Andreas Schulz are making their second competitive appearance of the season and their first in the Mitsubishi L200 Pick-Up. They lost over 40 minutes replacing a damaged rear suspension mounting bracket.

~I was fortunate to have a test in the L200 last week,~ said Mayer. ~It handles more like a conventional rally car than the Pajero and is more agile in tight corners and in the technical sections. The team have basically moved the car’s specification from a Baja-type machine to a car which is competitive in cross-country events. We have the 4.0-liter engine and there have been numerous other smaller revisions.

~Today I was enjoying myself, then we had two rear flat tires and the car was swinging around at the back. We were forced to stop near the first passage control to repair the rear suspension. After that I decided to take it easy and reach the finish.~

Today’s 248 kms selective section began near Agadir and headed towards a finish in Foum El Hassan. The track skirted the Anti-Atlas mountain range, passed through several remote villages, the Assif N’Mouguene canyon and to the finish via a large wadi.

Tomorrow (Thursday) the route heads south-west from Assa to the second overnight halt at Smara, deep in the Moroccan Sahara. A regular stop-off point for competitors in the Dakar Rally en route to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, the Smara bivouac follows a 420 kms competitive section, which is the longest special ever organised by the Neveu-Pelletier Organisation (NPO).

There will be no assistance points and the selective will be tackled without GPS waypoints. After a fast opening section, the tracks give way to rocky terrain around the Dra wadi and the village of M’Sied. Faster passages and small chotts will bring the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports Team to the bivouac at Sidi Hamed Laroussi.

Positions after leg 1 (unofficial at 13.30 hrs):
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 24m 28s
2. Kenjiro Shinozuka (J)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (B) Nissan Pick-Up 3h 32m 42s
3. Josep-Maria Servia (E)/Arnaud Debron (F) Schlesser-Ford Raid 3h 33m 40s
4. Carlos Sousa (P)/Henri Magne (AND) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 34m 09s
5. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Schlesser-Ford DSC12 3h 37m 53s
19. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi L200 Pick-Up 4h 07m 56s


Ralliart Teams

- Housieaux leads Ralliart teams in eighth position

Dominique Housieaux and his 2004 Dakar co-driver Loic Fagot completed the opening stage of the Orpi Rally of Morocco in eighth position, a mere 1m 06s behind the seventh-placed Belgian Volkswagen driver Stéphane Henrard.

Frenchman Housieaux drives a 3.5-litre, V6 petrol-engined Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero, prepared by Ralliart in Trebur-Astheim, near Frankfurt.

Their Spanish team mates José-Luis Monterde and Rafael Tornabell finished the opening section in 20th position in a diesel-engined Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero after brake caliper damage in the stage.

Positions after leg 1 (unofficial at 13.30 hrs):
8. Dominique Housieaux (F)/Loic Fagot F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 3h 42m 37s
20. José-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 4h 14m 44s

Ends

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Date issued: 02/06/2004

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