Peterhansel extends lead in Rally of Tunisia


For immediate release
Tuesday, April 8th, 2003

Transfer 6kms, Special 291 kms, Liaison 3 kms


Biasion overcomes pain barrier to maintain second place

KSAR GHILANE (Tunisia): Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel extended Mitsubishi Motors' outright advantage in the Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia, when he won the 291 kms special stage from Sabria to Ksar Ghilane in southern Tunisia today (Tuesday) by 9m 24s.

Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret pushed hard from the start this morning and at the end of the leg adjacent to the pictureseque Ksar Ghilane oasis, they had built up an 11m 08s lead over second-placed Italian team mates Miki Biasion and Tiziano Siviero in another Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution.

~It was not an easy stage at all today,~ said Peterhansel. ~In fact it was quite difficult. At the beginning there were a lot of jumps in the small dunes. If you wanted to go fast you had to jump every time. After that we found a fast track for about 20 kms and then we came upon dune after dune again for quite a while. It is not easy to keep a rhythm on tracks like this, but we did well and managed to take a lot of time off the others in this part of the stage.

~The last section after the assistance point was much faster, but we won the stage in the most difficult dunes when I decided to push hard.~

At Ksar Ghilane a visibly shattered Biasion had maintained his second position in the overall standings, but the twice former World Rally Champion was battling on through the pain barrier. ~I feel exhausted. I have had a few problems with my shoulder and when I started to feel pain from my right arm, I decided that it was more sensible to slow down and take less risks.

Behind the leading Mitsubishis, South African Giniel de Villiers and Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser took third and fifth places to consolidate their positions in the overall top five.

Ralliart France customers had mixed fortunes over today's stage. Frenchman Nicolas Misslin began the stage in fifth place overall and maintained his position in the ex-Fontenay Pajero*, setting the fourth quickest time today.

Spain's Jose-Luis Monterde lost 20 minutes in two separate incidents. ~We got stuck in some soft sand for 10 minutes and had to dig ourselves out. Then we took a big excursion on the wrong track. That was another 10 minutes wasted.~ Germany's Andrea Mayer was plagued by brake problems.

Today's section offered the first dune crossings at El Faouar and then a pipeline trail to the Fort of Bir Soltane. The route then headed west across several wadis, including the renowned Ben Kachab, and undulating terrain to the finish at the Ksar Ghilane oasis. Competitors were then able to benefit from a few hours' spare time in the natural hot springs at the desert oasis.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) the route heads south towards El Borma - the overnight halt also used on this year's Dakar Rally. For 80 kms the track heads along the Eastern Erg and crosses numerous wadis, including El Mahabes and Sih. Tongues of soft sand and tricky parallel tracks
will lead the Mitsubishi Motors team to Fort Borj Bourguiba and on through a dune complex to El Borma.


Positions and times on today's stage (top 4 only):
1. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 3h 15m 28s
2. Miki Biasion (I)/Tiziano Siviero (I) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 3h 24m 52s
3. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Tina Thorner (S) Nissan Pick-Up 3h 40m 45s
4. Nicolas Misslin (F)/Jean-Michel Polato (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* 3h 44m 17s

Positions after leg 2 (unofficial):
1. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 5h 40m 38s
2. Miki Biasion (I)/Tiziano Siviero (I) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 5h 51m 46s
3. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Tina Thorner (S) Nissan Pick-Up 6h 10m 03s
4. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marc Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 6h 26m 08s
5. Nicolas Misslin (F)/Jean-Michel Polato (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* 6h 26m 17s
6. Lukasz Komornicki (PL)/Rafal Marton (PL) Mitsubishi Pajero* 7h 07m 57s
7. Jose-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero* 7h 24m 00s
8. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero* 7h 42m 51s

For full results classification: www.npo.fr

Date issued: 08/04/2003

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