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Biasion fastest on El Borma loop stage

OPTIC 2000 RALLY OF TUNISIA

For immediate release
Thursday, April 10th, 2003

LEG 4: EL BORMA - EL BORMA
Transfer 12 kms, Special 276 kms, Liaison 3 kms

PETERHANSEL MAINTAINS OUTRIGHT LEAD IN TUNISIA

First stage win for team mate Biasion

EL BORMA (Tunisia): The Mitsubishi Motors team continued to hold the top two places in the Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia, when Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret followed stage winners Miki Biasion and Tiziano Siviero to the finish of the 276 kms loop around El Borma today (Thursday).

Mitsubishis now fill seven of the top eight places in the overall classification, with the defending World Champion Jean-Louis Schlesser the only non-Mitsubishi inside the top eight.

~No problem for me today,~ said the overall leader Peterhansel. ~I started slower. When you change your driving rhythm it is not easy to know how much time you can lose. I thought to myself that I would wait for Jean-Louis and then stay with him. But I didn't see him. Then I saw Miki. We knew we had lost six minutes because Miki started fourth on the road. That was not a big problem and we stayed with him. It was a tactical decision. To start second is a good position for me. Now I need to follow Miki tomorrow.

~I couldn't take a risk today. Sometimes there are some broken dunes and this can be dangerous. I don't know if the tyre decision was an advantage for Miki. But he was testing a new tyre, which was only used before by Carlos Sousa on one stage on the Dakar. I prefer not to use a new tyre in a race until I have actually tested it beforehand.~

Italian team mates Miki Biasion and Tiziano Siviero had slipped further behind Peterhansel after sustaining two flat tyres on the run into El Borma, but they reduced the French pairing's lead to 19m 11s today. Defending World Champion Jean-Louis Schlesser is now over 50 minutes behind Peterhansel in third place.

~When I started I pushed a little because I was testing the new G3 sand tyre,~ said Biasion. ~I realised immediately that the tyres were fast in a straight line. I passed Nicolas (Misslin) and then Jean-Louis.

~I caught Stephane after the third passage control. I slowed down and we drove together for a few kilometres before he let me pass. Then he stayed behind me. Finally I win a stage. I am happy for the team and for Tiziano.~

Siviero was also delighted with his first stage win in Tunisia. ~It wasn't too complicated today,~ said the Italian. ~The choice was always go over the dune or go around it. It was the first time that we have not seen the dust of other cars. I know that Stephane did not attack today, but the tyres were a good choice and I am pleased with our result.~

Ralliart France customers filled fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh places in the overall standings. Poland's Lukasz Komornicki led the way today in his Pajero, followed by Spaniard Jose-Luis Monterde and Germany's Andrea Mayer. Frenchman Nicolas Misslin lost time after rolling his ex-Fontenay car on a dune.

~I did not push today,~ said Monterde. ~The temperature gauge began to climb and I eased off near the end.~

Mayer, meanwhile, was making in-roads into Monterde's advantage before stopping to assist Misslin's bid to put his Pajero back on its wheels. The team support role cost Andrea around four minutes.

Today featured a testing pair of loops in and out of the El Borma bivouac. Both offered tricky dune crossings. Last year a violent sandstorm stranded many competitors in the dunes throughout the night. On this occasion the area was bathed in warm, sunny conditions, although the wind gathered strength substantially in the afternoon.

Tomorrow (Friday) the route heads out of El Borma towards Nekrif and a 331 kms stage. The first tracks will follow the path of today's route, before tricky navigation and the use of a GPS system are critical to reach the finish at Fort Jnaien.

Ends

Positions and times on today's stage (top 3 only):
1. Miki Biasion (I)/Tiziano Siviero (I) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 2h 48m 01s
2. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 2h 54m 13s
3. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marc Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 2h 56m 37s

Positions after leg 4 (unofficial):
1. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 11h 16m 29s
2. Miki Biasion (I)/Tiziano Siviero (I) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 11h 35m 40s
3. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marc Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 12h 07m 26s
4. Nicolas Misslin (F)/Jean-Michel Polato (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* 13h 05m 03s
5. Lukasz Komornicki (PL)/Rafal Marton (PL) Mitsubishi Pajero* 13h 34m 57s
6. Jose-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero* 13h 45m 16s
7. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero* 14h 27m 34s



Date issued: 10/04/2003

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