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Masuoka takes outright lead for MMSP in UAE Desert Challenge

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

2004 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup
UAE Desert Challenge, round 6

For immediate release
Wednesday, October 13th, 2004

Weather conditions: very hot and sunny - 35-38 C

MASUOKA STORMS INTO OUTRIGHT LEAD FOR MITSUBISHI MOTORS MOTOR SPORTS IN UAE DESERT CHALLENGE

Peterhansel takes maiden fastest stage time for new MPR11
Mayer suffers engine problems
Frenchman Housieaux moves up to seventh position
Organisers cancel Friday's stage because of Ramadan

MUREEB (UAE) - Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka and German co-driver Andreas Schulz finished second overall through the penultimate stage of the UAE Desert Challenge on Wednesday and have taken the outright lead of the event in their Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports Pajero/Montero Evolution.

The pair began the day's 308 kms competitive section in fourth place, 13m 26s behind the leader Gregoire de Mevius. They arrived at the stage finish in the Mureeb bivouac, well ahead of their nearest rivals after a stunning stage, where they were beaten only by team mates Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret.

Masuoka beat De Mevius by 24m 10s, after the Belgian overnight leader suffered overheating problems and then lost time in soft sand. The Mitsubishi driver will take a commanding 10m 44s lead into the final stage on Thursday.

~It was a fast stage for me, although some places were very soft,~ said Masuoka. ~There were some tricky dunes and I got stuck on two occasions for a short time, but I was able to push hard at the end. Now we have one day to go. I will take a look at the situation this evening in the bivouac and plan my strategy for the final day. I am sure that I can win this race for the first time now.~

Peterhansel and Cottret started the stage third on the road, but were quickly into a stage-winning pace in the new MPR11 version of the Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution.

~It was a nice stage with a lot of big dunes,~ said Peterhansel. ~They were not easy to cross, but we did not get stuck. After a few kilometers Hiroshi lost the right track and we waited for them. The new engine feels much better in the dunes with the increased torque. The suspension is not so important in the dunes and we are getting use to driving without a tire deflation system. This is what we must do for Dakar, so we must get used to it.~

~I am very pleased with the day's result,~ said MMSP's Team Director Dominique Serieys. ~We have been working to bring the cars to this level and our stage times today have proven that the hard work is beginning to show rewards. Tomorrow is another day, but it has been a good day for the team.~

German driver Andrea Mayer and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne leapt to fifth overall on Tuesday, but they suffered engine problems 36 kms into the morning's stage and lost their place inside the top five with the Ralliart customer development Pajero/Montero.

Today's stage began on a gatch road at Al-Ghiathi, 84.40 kms from the Mureeb Hill bivouac and included five passage control points in a route of 308.30 kms. It consisted of many fast open desert sections. ridges and crests on the track between Arada and Shah, which the organisers admitted had rarely been used by bedouin in recent months. Small dune complexes followed as the route continued past the Shah Oilfield Golf Club and several sections of sabkha en route to the finish in the bivouac.

Tomorrow (Thursday) will mark the final day of the event, as the organisers made the decision to run Friday's final section as a road liaison back to Dubai, because of the start of the Ramadan Holy Month on Friday. The 255 kms selective loops in and out of the bivouac.

The podium will take place as planned at the Dubai International Marine Club, near Dubai, on Friday afternoon.

UAE Desert Challenge - positions on SS3 (unofficial @ 14.45 hrs):

1. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 4h 03m 21s
2. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 4h 05m 12s
3. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 4h 22m 07s
4. Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Jacky Dubois (F) Nissan Pick-Up 4h 29m 22s
5. Juha Kankkunen (FIN)/Juha Repo (FIN) Volkswagen Touareg 4h 38m 37s
6. Khalifa Al-Mutawei (UAE)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 4h 43m 26s

UAE Desert Challenge - positions after SS3 (unofficial @ 14.45 hrs):

1. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 11h 08m 01s
2. Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Jacky Dubois (F) Nissan Pick-Up 11h 18m 45s
3. Juha Kankkunen (FIN)/Juha Repo (FIN) Volkswagen Touareg 11h 31m 10s
4. Khalifa Al-Mutawei (UAE)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 11h 40m 46s
5. Ahmad Bin Soughat (UAE)/Jassim Ben Ghurab (UAE) Chevrolet Pick-Up 13h 09m 07s
6. Mark Powell (UAE)/Tim Ansell (UAE) Land Rover 13h 22m 01s
7. Dominique Housieaux (F)/Loic Fagot (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 13h 39m 32s
8. Matthias Kahle (D)/Thomas Schuenemann (D) Buggy 13h 50m 32s

Ralliart Teams

Frenchman Housieaux moves up to seventh place for Ralliart

Frenchman Dominique Housieaux and co-driver Loic Fagot set out into today's stage in ninth position in the Ralliart customer Pajero/Monteros and finished the section in seventh place overall.

~It was so annoying to have the engine problems and the misfire for the first two days,~ said Housieaux. ~~It is still not running perfectly, but I had a good run through the dunes and should not be too unhappy to move up on the leaderboard.~

Spaniard José-Luis Monterde and co-driver Rafael Tornabell moved back up the leaderboard on Tuesday, after collecting 8m 30s road penalties for their opening day engine problems. But the Castellon driver became stuck in soft sand near the third passage control and lost a lot of time with a broken front differential.

Chinese newcomer Guan Yuang Men, partnered by French co-driver Serge Henninot, began Wednesday's stage with a total time of 24h 00m 00s, after amassing massive time penalties on both days one and two of the UAE Desert Challenge.

~It has been a steep learning curve for me in the dunes,~ said Men. ~This is my first desert rally and I was surprised how difficult it could be to drive in very soft sand, especially when the temperature is so high. The sand is like powder. It sucks you in. We have spent a lot of time digging. It is all good experience for me, as I prepare for the Dakar Rally.~

On today's stage, Men soon found himself stuck in a sand dune again before the first passage control and was running well behind the rest of the field.

Positions on SS3 - Ralliart teams (unofficial @ 15.00)
Dominique Housieaux (F)/Loic Fagot (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 4h 52m 09s

Positions after SS3 - Ralliart teams (unofficial @ 15.00)
8. Dominique Housieaux (F)/Loic Fagot (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 13h 39m 32s

Ends

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Date issued: 13/10/2004

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