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CC Mitsubishi extends lead in Dakar Rally on Atar loop stage

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

2005 Dakar Rally
Leg 9 - Atar - Atar
Liaison: 8 kms, Spéciale : 483 km, Liaison: 8 kms

Weather conditions: warm and windy (improving visibility - 20-24C)
For immediate release
Monday, January 10th, 2005

MITSUBISHI MOTORS TEAM TAKES TOP TWO PLACES ON
ATAR LOOP STAGE TO EXTEND LEAD IN DAKAR RALLY

Peterhansel and Alphand take top two times for Mitsubishi team
Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka delayed with engine problems
China's Men and co-driver Henninot spend three nights in the desert

ATAR, Mauritania - The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team maintained their lead of the 2005 Dakar Rally, after the 483 kms loop stage around the bivouac in Atar, Mauritania, today (Monday).

Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret completed the stage 1m 57s ahead of their team mates Luc Alphand and co-driver Gilles Picard The pair had been running neck and neck with their team mates to the second passage control and then stopped to reinflate their tires after passing a tricky expanse of sand dunes.

~It was a nice stage today,~ said Peterhansel. ~It was a varied stage. We passed along many tracks and dunes and a new pass off-road, where we had to climb a little. There was around 60 kms of camel grass and then some more dunes. We had a flat tire at the top of the pass and then we deflated the tires to around 1.6 bar pressure.

~I hit one small dune quite hard and there is a little front damage, but nothing too serious. It was good to drive together today and the result of the stage has strengthened our position in the race.~

Akphand duly took the second fastest stage time to maintain Mitsubishi's comfortable one-two position in the overall standings. Germany's Jutta Kleinschmidt was the team's nearest rival in third place, albeit 70 minutes 45 seconds behind Peterhansel's leading Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution.

~Stéphane and I drove well together today,~ said Alphand. ~We pushed a little, nothing that would risk our position. We stopped to put some air in the tires after PC2 and ran together to make sure that we were together if anything happened. I think it was a good strategy and we have taken more time out of Jutta Kleinschmidt today.~

Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka and German co-driver Andreas Schulz were badly delayed with mechanical problems 100 kms after the start of the Atar loop stage and returned to the bivouac in Atar.

Germany's Andrea Mayer and French co-driver Jean-Michel Polato had been running as high as 10th position at the first passage control point, but were forced to stop with electrical problems in their Mitsubishi L200 Pick-Up.

Spaniard Joan Roma and co-driver Henri Magne stopped to lend assistance to Mayer and continued to the finish to hold sixth position in the overall standings.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) the rally heads south towards Kiffa and a special stage en route to the Republic of Mali. The stage crosses over the Nega Pass, the Pic de Bou Naga and the valleys of the Tagant massif and the Ksar el Barka oasis.

This promises to be one of the most varied stages on the Dakar, with canyons, twisty sections, fast piste, dunes and camel grass on offer. The ASO's Patrick Zaniroli has warned that this could be the most difficult stage of the entire rally, but the ASO announced at a press conference on Monday evening that tomorrow's stage has now been shortened to finish at the 400 kms point at PC2.

Positions on SS9:
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 5h 22m 58s
2. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 5h 24m 55s
3. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 5h 53m 17s
4. Robby Gordon (USA)/Dirk van Zitzewitz (D) Volkswagen Touareg 6h 00m 52s
5. Ari Vatanen (FIN)/Juha Repo (FIN) Nissan Pick-Up 6h 06m 35s

Overall classification after SS9:
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 28h 08m 55s
2 Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 28h 30m 23s
3. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 29h 19m 40s
4. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (B) Nissan Pick-Up 32h 01m 51s

Ralliart Teams

China's Men and co-driver Henninot spend three nights in the desert

Chinese Mitsubishi Ralliart driver Guan Yuang Men and French co-driver Serge Henninot arrived in the Atar bivouac on Sunday afternoon in an organizers' helicopter. They had spent three nights and two days stranded near the second passage control between Zouerat and Tichit, on the special stage which should have been completed on Thursday.

~An aeroplane dropped us some food and water and acknowledged that we were with the car and safe,~ said a shattered Men. ~We just had enough rations to keep us going until the helicopter picked us up on Sunday. The gearbox had broken in the car and we were just stuck in the middle of nowhere, helpless to do anything until assistance arrived. We slept for three nights on the sand by the car. It was a scary and very unusual experience.~

Brazilians Klever Kolberg and Rouldan Lourival.led the five surviving Mitsubishi Ralliart crews into the Atar loop stage of the Dakar Rally in 44th place in the overall standings and set the ninth fastest time today.

~There were 30 kms of dunes, then camel grass and then soft sand,~ said the Brazilian. ~We came across 100 kms of rocks and it was not easy to find our way. The ascent through the pass was easy, but it was hard to find the way through the next camel grass and the wind made everything so difficult. You could not see any tracks.

~Then there were 20 kms more dunes and they were just horrible. You got to the top of a dune and then saw the next one and just hoped that it would be okay. The end of the stage was 150 kms of full speed piste and then a twisty track to the finish. But we made it.~

The French duo of Dominique Housieaux and Loic Fagot began the day in 66th place and were 10th quickest on the section.

Russian Alexey Berkut and Anton Nikolaev held 53rd position, and Poland's Krzysztof Holowczyc and Belgian co-driver Jean-Marc Fortin were classified 73rd at the start of the stage.

Dutchman Toni van Deijne co-driver Francisco van Deijne started from the rear of the field this morning, after delays into Atar, and were back in a competitive pace from the outset.

Ends

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Date issued: 10/01/2005

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