CC Luc Alphand holds third place in Dakar Rally

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

2005 Dakar Rally
Leg 5: Agadir - Smara
Liaison : 240 kms - Spéciale : 381 kms – Liaison : 33 kms

Weather conditions: cool, sunny and windy - 12-16C
For immediate release
Tuesday, January 4th, 2005


Mitsubishi's Luc Alphand holds third overall into Smara
Housieaux leads Mitsubishi Ralliart customer teams out of Morocco

SMARA, Morocco - The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team driver Luc Alphand completed the last special stage of the 2005 Dakar Rally in Morocco in fifth position in Smara today (Tuesday).

Frenchman Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard moved up to hold third overall at the Smara bivouac. ~I am quite happy with the way everything is working so far,~ said Alphand. ~The pace at the front is really high, maybe on a par with a Baja race, and I am happy to be among the leaders. It is a little frightening for the mechanics, but I still feel sure that reliability and a good team strategy will be the key.

~Robby Gordon has been driving like an American! Today we began the hardest week of the rally and this was the first real African stage. I was sure that there would be problems for some people today. There was the risk of tire damage, but I am in a good frame of mind.~

After a 240 kms liaison section from Agadir to Goulimine, the 381 kms stage finished north of the blustery bivouac at the Moroccan border town. American Robby Gordon lost the outright lead of the event to stage winner Colin McRae, while Alphand's team mate Stéphane Peterhansel and co-driver Jean-Paul Cottret lost valuable time with a series of flat tires in their Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution and slipped down the early leaderboard.

~It was not a big difference this morning, but there is a long way to go,~ said Peterhansel. Yesterday Colin McRae had a flat tire early on and we were forced to run first on the road, because there were no bikes. Today we started behind Robby Gordon. Last time we came here we had flat tires on the Rally of Morocco, but it was 20 degrees C cooler this time. I did not expect any problems with tires, but we had flat tires again today. It was my fault, because I did not feel too well today and did not see the stones in the track.~

Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka and German co-driver Andreas Schulz began today's stage in 14th overall, but were badly delayed with transmission problems in the third Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution. ~There was a rock hidden in the grass about eight kilometers into the stage into Agadir and we did not see it,~ said Masuoka.

~It was unlucky and we stopped to change it. A BMW passed us and we had to stop with a windscreen wiper problem. There was no water left in the bottle. We knew it was going to be dusty today and we decided not to push and make sure we had no problems, because we know that we can push on the open desert sections later in the week.~ But the Japanese driver lost a lot of time with transmission problems today.

German lady driver Andrea Mayer tackled her longest stage so far with new French co-driver Jean-Michel Polato. She began the day in 17th overall and slipped to 19th position.

~I am still trying to find a nice rhythm,~ said Mayer. ~I tackled my first Dakar in a car with Francois Borsotto, so speaking French in the car is not a problem for me. We now have a good system. My plan is to wait for the longest stages, because I do not have the power of the Evolutions, so my best chance for a top stage result is on the longer, more difficult stages.~

Spaniard Joan Roma is making his debut with the Mitsubishi team and holds 17th place. ~I am pleasantly surprised with my position so far,~ said Roma. ~I started slowly yesterday and am growing in confidence. I have found a good rhythm, which keeps me in contention without taking any risks. I knew today's stage from old Dakars on a bike and the Morocco Rally and it was important that I slowed down at the start and did not risk flat tires or damage to the car.~

Tomorrow (Wednesday) competitors cross the border into the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and tackle the first special stage in the Mauritanian wasterlands en route to the overnight halt in Zouerat. Of the 622 kms in the road book, 492 kms will be competitive with a mixture of high-speed piste and the onset of the first dune crossings between the first and third passage controls.

Positions on SS4:
1. Colin McRae (GB)/Tina Thörner (S) Nissan Pick-Up 3h 37m 14s
2. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (B) Nissan Pick-Up 3h 43m 29s
3. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 3h 44m 32s
4. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 3h 44m 34s
5. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 45m 29s
16. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 4h 01m 58s

Overall classification after SS4:
1.Colin McRae (GB)/Tina Thörner (S) Nissan Pick-Up 5h 07m 24s
2. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (B) Nissan Pick-Up 5h 12m 52s
3. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 5h 13m 25s
4. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 5h 13m 28s
5. Bruno Saby (F)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 5h 14m 36s
6. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 5h 15m 01s
14. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 5h 29m 21s
17. Joan Roma (E)/Henri Magne (AND) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 5h 38m 25s
19. Andrea Mayer (D)/Jean-Michel Polato (F) Mitsubishi L200 Pick-Up 5h 42m 39s

Ralliart Teams

Housieaux leads Mitsubishi Ralliart customers out of Morocco;
Chinese driver Men delayed by a train; Thailand's Pornsawan forced out

Brazilians Klever Kolberg and Rouldan Lourival finished the day's stage in 18th position and were the fastest of the Mitsubishi Ralliart teams, but team mates Dominique Housieaux and Loic Fagot were classified 19th on the stage into Smara and will lead the Ralliart teams into Mauritania on Wednesday. They lead their team mates by 1m 24s.

Krzysztof Holowczyc and Belgian co-driver Jean-Marc Fortin began today's stage in 19th position in their Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero, although the former European rally champion felt that his car needed a sixth gear to give it higher gearing for overtaking. The Pole was delayed with mechanical problems near the end of the stage.

~I came from the WRC and am obviouisly used to a powerful rally car,~ said the Pole. ~A six-speed gearbox would be nice. Maybe the team can fly one into Atar. I am quite happy with everything at this stage. It is so different to the WRC. Speeds are slower and you have plenty of time to turn into corners. Today's stage was the longest of my life. It was incredible when you compare it say to a 60 kms special on Rally GB!~

Chinese driver Guan Yuang Men enjoyed his run through today's stage, despite being held up by a train for six minutes on the special stage into Agadir.

~We met a train in the stage,~ said Men. ~Yes it was incredible. Maybe the train only passes this way once a year, but it came straight in front of us and we had to stop. After that it was narrow and rocky and we caught some cars but were not able to pass them in the dust. The delay cost us maybe 20 places in the stage. Today was a case of taking no risks and making sure we gained a little time back. I prefer the gravel stages to driving in the dunes. It is so different.~

Thailand's Siriwattanakun Pornsawan lost over 10 minutes in the stage into Agadir when he was forced to stop in the dust of a slower competitor. But the Mitsubishi Truck Evolution driver's luck turned even worse when he complained of severe back pain at the team's hotel in Agadir on Monday evening and was forced to withdraw from the event with a possible slipped disc.

Dutchman Toni van Deijne was enjoying his first experience of the Dakar in a Ralliart Pajero/Montero. ~The team has made some good work with the car,~ said Van Deijne. ~It is fine so far. I plan to drive carefully until the rest day in Atar and then maybe we can push a little and move up the leaderboard.~


Date issued: 04/01/2005

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