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Peterhansel pulls away in Tunisia

OPTIC 2000 RALLY OF TUNISIA

For immediate release
Wednesday, April 9th, 2003

LEG 3: KSAR GHILANE - EL BORMA
Special 300 kms - Liaison 47 kms

PETERHANSEL EXTENDS MITSUBISHI'S
LEAD IN RALLY OF TUNISIA

Flat tyres for second-placed Biaison

EL BORMA (Tunisia): Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel extended Mitsubishi Motors' lead in the Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia, after he and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret took their third successive stage win in the first of two Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolutions. The pair finished the 300 kms section from Ksar Ghilane to El Borma, 3m 03s ahead of second-placed Jean-Louis Schlesser.

~At the start the stage was very fast and easier than yesterday,~ said Peterhansel. ~It was not too bad to pass the bikes, because the track was quite wide and there was a slight wind to take the dust away from the route. I pushed at the start, but then there was a section with some small stones. Dominique (Serieys) signalled me from the assistance point and indicated the time difference between myself and my nearest rival. So I slowed down a little. The last 20 kms were tricky, because we were driving into the midday sun and it was difficult to see the track through the screen.~

Peterhansel's car has been free of any problems throughout the three sections of the rally thus far, although visiting Mitsubishi team engineer Bernard Lindaeur spotted low oil pressure in the gearbox at Sabria and the transmission was replaced before Tuesday's section. ~Stephane wouldn't have gone much further without the transmission change,~ said the Frenchman, who carries out routine checks in the bivouac each evening using the latest Motec computer data-logging technology.

Biasion and co-driver Tiziano Siviero maintained second overall in this second round of the 2003 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, despite finishing today's stage in fourth position after collecting two flat tyres.

~I had two flat tyres today,~ said Biasion. ~I carry three spares in the car, but we had to stop and change both tyres. I probably lost about 10 minutes. The first was between the first and second passage controls and the second was about one kilometre before the assistance point. Today's stage was much easier physically than yesterday and I had no major problem with my shoulder.~

Twenty-year-old Nicolas Misslin is entered in a Ralliart France-run classic Pajero and now holds fourth place in the overall standings. He was third fastest through today's punishing section south in searing heat to El Borma and moved into fourth when South African Giniel de Villiers (Nissan) sustained engine problems for the second successive day.

~Today was a good stage for us,~: admitted Misslin's co-driver Jean-Michel Polato. ~We had a good run and stayed close to Jean-Louis (Schlesser) all the time. The only problem was a flying rock kicked up from a motorbike and this cracked the windscreen on my side.~

Defending World Champion Jean-Louis Schlesser now holds third in the overall standings, ahead of Misslin. Poland's Lukasz Komonicki began the day in sixth place overall in a Ralliart Mitsubishi Pajero and moved up to fifth place.

Spaniard Jose-Luis Monterde started today in seventh position in a third customer Pajero and enjoyed a troublefree run up into sixth place. ~No problems. It was a good day,~ said the Spaniard.

Andrea Mayer was plagued by brake problems on the run into Ksar Ghilane on Tuesday and suffered a loose turbo pipe today. ~I am looking forward to a stage which is completely clear of any problem,~ said Mayer. ~We stopped and Andreas checked the turbo pipe and then we were driving along and we heard a loud bang. Fortunately it was nothing serious. It was hot inside the car today. Much hotter than Dakar, but maybe not as bad as Dubai or Egypt,~ added the seventh-placed German.

Today's route ran south towards El Borma. For 80 kms the track headed along the Eastern Erg and crossed numerous wadis, including El Mahabes and Sih. Tongues of soft sand and tricky parallel tracks led teams to Fort Borj Bourguiba and on through a final dune complex to El Borma.

Tomorrow's (Thursday) 276 kms special features a testing pair of loops in and out of the El Borma bivouac. Both include tricky dune crossings and could make this the most difficult section of the entire rally.

Ends

Positions and times on today's stage (top 4 only):
1. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 2h 41m 38s
2. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marc Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 2h 44m 41s
3. Nicolas Misslin (F)/Jean-Michel Polato (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* 2h 54m 16s
4. Miki Biasion (I)/Tiziano Siviero (I) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 2h 55m 53s

Positions after leg 3 (unofficial):
1. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 8h 22m 16s
2. Miki Biasion (I)/Tiziano Siviero (I) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 8h 47m 39s
3. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marc Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 9h 10m 49s
4. Nicolas Misslin (F)/Jean-Michel Polato (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* 9h 20m 43s
5. Lukasz Komornicki (PL)/Rafal Marton (PL) Mitsubishi Pajero* 10h 18m 54s
6. Jose-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero* 10h 28m 19s
7. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero* 11h 02m 17s

Today's television broadcast times:
Eurosport: 22.30 (CET) - 12 minutes

Date issued: 09/04/2003

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