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Biasion loses his way as Peterhansel takes fourth stage win

OPTIC 2000 RALLY OF TUNISIA

For immediate release
Friday, April 11th, 2003

LEG 5: EL BORMA - NEKRIF
Transfer 13 kms, Special 331 kms, Liaison 12 kms

PETERHANSEL CRUISES FURTHER
AHEAD IN RALLY OF TUNISIA

Biasion punctures and loses his way; Misslin fourth

NEKRIF (Tunisia): Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel extended the Mitsubishi Motors team's advantage in the Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia by setting the fastest time on the 331 kms special stage from El Borma to Nekrif today (Friday).

Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret started the stage behind Italian team mates Miki Biasion and Tiziano Siviero, but passed the Italians when Biasion's Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution collected a flat tyre. Peterhansel duly cruised to his fourth stage win out of five and extended his overall advantage to 55m 29s, despite damaging the front bumper of his Mitsubishi on a small dune.

~This morning I started very fast to try and pass Miki,~ said Peterhansel. ~After about 70 kms we were behind him, but after the dunes Miki took a fast track and it was impossible to see a way past in his dust, so I dropped behind again and followed him. After 120 kms there was a nice pass across a short dune, but it was tricky. This would not have been easy for some of the drivers further down the field today.~

~Miki had started first on the road and he stopped to change a flat tyre. Normally he would only lose around four minutes. But at the end of the stage we waited and Jean-Louis Schlesser arrived after me. We didn't see Miki at all. I knew something else was wrong because we were there about 10 minutes.~

Biasion began the day over 31 minutes ahead of the defending World Champion Jean-Louis Schlesser, who began the stage in third position overall. Schlesser was second today, but Biasion had lost his way in a vast canyon and dropped crucial time and a place in the overall rankings.

~It was unbelievable,~ said Biasion. ~We got a puncture, a stupid puncture, just after the service point and then we got lost in a canyon. We tried to find our way back and got stuck in a ditch and had to dig ourselves out. In this heat we worked so hard. It was very tough.~

Ralliart France customers started the stage in fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh places in the overall standings and remained in similar positions after today's section.

~The navigation was quite tricky today,~ said fourth-placed Misslin's co-driver Jean-Michel Polato, who arrived at the bivouac from a different direction along with sixth-placed Spaniard Jose-Luis Monterde.

~At the 282 kms point in the road book the instruction was not accurate,~ said Monterde's co-driver Rafael Tornabell. ~It was confusing and we took a different track. We also had to change a flat tyre with a broken jack and this took eight and a half minutes, four longer than normal. That was 10 minutes wasted today.~

Poland's fifth-placed Lukasz Komornicki was happy to have stayed with Monterde on the stage. ~After we passed the dunes we stopped for about 10 minutes and then we had a flat tyre. Then we stopped for two minutes at the assistance point to take on a spare wheel,~ said the Pole. Germany's Andrea Mayer maintained her seventh position in the overall standings, despite losing some time with a navigational error.

Today's stage followed the early tracks of yesterday's route, before tricky navigation and the use of a GPS system were critical to reach the finish at Fort Jnaien.

Tomorrow (Saturday) is the penultimate stage of the Rally of Tunisia and features a 315 kms loop around the Nekrif bivouac. The organisers have promised varied terrain, close to the border with the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahirya and on to Fort Mched Salah. The tracks become narrower and rocky in the direction of an old fort at Ksar Jedid, before the return to Nekrif.

Ends

Positions and times on today's stage (top 3 only):
1. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 2h 56m 17s
2. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marc Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 3h 00m 49s
3. Nicolas Misslin (F)/Jean-Michel Polato (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* 3h 16m 05s

Positions after leg 5 (unofficial):
1. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 14h 12m 46s
2. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marc Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 15h 08m 15s
3. Miki Biasion (I)/Tiziano Siviero (I) Mitsubishi Pajero* Evolution 15h 59m 23s
4. Nicolas Misslin (F)/Jean-Michel Polato (F) Mitsubishi Pajero* 16h 22m 51s
5. Lukasz Komornicki (PL)/Rafal Marton (PL) Mitsubishi Pajero* 17h 09m 47s
6. Jose-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero* 17h 17m 36s
7. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero* 18h 20m 10s



Date issued: 11/04/2003

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