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CC Masuoka takes emphatic lead into final day of UAE Desert Challenge

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

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

For immediate release
Thursday, October 14th, 2004

Weather conditions: very hot and sunny - 38-41 C

MASUOKA GIVES MITSUBISHI MOTORS MOTOR SPORTS STAGE WIN AND HEADS FOR VICTORY IN UAE DESERT CHALLENGE

Peterhansel finishes with a flourish and second place in stage
Frenchman Housieaux on track for top finish in Ralliart customer car

MUREEB (UAE) - Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka and German co-driver Andreas Schulz won the final selective section of the UAE Desert Challenge and are on the verge of an outright victory in their Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports Pajero/Montero Evolution, today (Thursday). But the pair will have to wait until the official finish in Dubai on Friday to be crowned as the official winners of the five-day event.

The pair began the day's final 255 kms loop section through the Empty Quarter and around the Mureeb bivouac, 5m 44s ahead of nearest rivals Grégoire de Mevius and Jacky Dubois after they were awarded a five-minute time penalty for missing a waypoint on Wednesday.

But the Japanese driver followed team mate Stéphane Peterhansel to the finish of the final stage to close in on his first victory in the UAE at his sixth attempt. His overall leading margin over De Mevius is 12m 14s.

~It is a great feeling to cross the finish line on the Desert Challenge in first place for the first time,~ said a delighted Masuoka. ~We did not make the best of starts on the fiirst day, but I knew that we had the car to win this race. It was not a long race, but the stages were very difficult and you needed to drive with care in the dunes. Now we must complete the long road liaison section on Friday to be sure of taking the title.~

Peterhansel and French co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret started the final stage in 14th position in the new MPR11 version of the Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution and first on the road. They slowed to ensure that Masuoka did not have problems and finished second through the stage as a result.

~It was a nice stage today, plenty of dunes,~ said Peterhansel. ~We slowed down to make sure that Hiroshi was okay. This rally has been a very useful test for the team. The new car has been perfect. We have received positive feedback from the changes we have introduced. Now I look forward to the Dakar.~

German driver Andrea Mayer and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne held fifth overall until they suffered engine problems 36 kms into the third stage with the Ralliart customer development Pajero/Montero.

Today's stage was delayed by 90 minutes because of low lying fog and looped around the dunes and gatch roads in the Liwa area and finished in the bivouac at Mureeb Hill. Friday's section was cancelled because of the holy month of Ramadan and the route will be replaced by a road section to the podium. This ceremony will take place as planned at the Dubai International Marine Club, near Dubai, on Friday afternoon.

UAE Desert Challenge - positions on SS4 (unofficial @ 14.45 hrs):

1. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2h 52m 56s
2. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2h 53m 41s
3. Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Jacky Dubois (F) Nissan Pick-Up 3h 00m 26s
4. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 3h 01m 27s
5. Khalifa Al-Mutawei (UAE)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 3h 04m 46s

UAE Desert Challenge - final positions (unofficial @ 14.35 hrs):

1. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 14h 06m 57s
2. Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Jacky Dubois (F) Nissan Pick-Up 14h 19m 11s
3. Khalifa Al-Mutawei (UAE)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 14h 50m 32s
4. Juha Kankkunen (FIN)/Juha Repo (FIN) Volkswagen Touareg 15h 39m 44s
5. Matthias Kahle (D)/Thomas Schuenemann (D) Buggy 17h 00m 28s
6. Dominique Housieaux (F)/Loic Fagot (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 17h 06m 55s
TBA Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 21h 56m 19s

Ralliart Teams

Frenchman Housieaux on course for top six finish in Ralliart car

Frenchman Dominique Housieaux and co-driver Loic Fagot set out into today's stage in seventh position in the Ralliart customer Pajero/Monteros and completed the competitive sections of this year's UAE Desert Challenge challenging for a position in the top five, following the problems which befell Mark Powell and Ahmad Bin Soughat on Thursday.

~I feel a lot better with the way everything went today,~ said Housieaux. ~I passed Powell in the dunes, but then my oil pressure started to fall as I got to the end of the stage. I was a bit anxious in case we had damaged the engine, but it was okay.~

Spaniard José-Luis Monterde and co-driver Rafael Tornabell restarted on Thursday in 25th position after the front differential was repaired by the Ralliart mechanics. The Spaniards were awarded 14h 45m of road penalties on Wednesday.

Chinese newcomer Guan Yuang Men, partnered by French co-driver Serge Henninot, began the final selective section in 34th position out of the 35 surviving cars. Men collected 20h 45m of road penalties on Wednesday for missing PCs, after getting stuck in soft sand and assisting Andrea Mayer in the customer development car. The pair headed into the final section with a time of 43h 45m.

Ends

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Date issued: 14/10/2004

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