CC Hiroshi Masuoka leads Rally of Tunisia into Sabria

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia
FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup, round 2

Weather conditions: cold, dry and windy (14-16C)

Leg 3: Tamerza - Sabria
Transfer: 19 kms, Special stage 240 kms, Liaison 32 km

For immediate release
Wednesday, April 6th, 2005


Japan's Masuoka takes fastest time into Sabria and leads overall;
Frenchman Alphand loses outright lead after getting stuck in soft sand

SABRIA, Tunisia - The Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team maintained its lead of the 2005 Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia, when Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka and co-driver Pascal Maimon set the fastest time on the third 240 kms selective section between Chebika and Zarzine, today (Wednesday).

Masuoka began the day's stage 1m 46s behind his team mates Luc Alphand and Gilles Picard. But the twice former Dakar Rally winner moved into the outright lead himself when Alphand lost his way in the notes and became stuck in soft sand 50 kms from the finish.

Masuoka duly cruised to the stage finish to record his first fastest time of the event and he will now start the Sabria loop stage on Thursday 3m 41s seconds ahead of Volkswagen's second-placed Bruno Saby and Michel Périn. Alphand slipped to third overall.

~It was a good stage for me today, but very fast,~ said Masuoka. ~Luc was stuck in a small dune and we were able to take the lead. The dunes were not difficult, but there were several very fast jumps. It felt like I was in an aeroplane at times!~

~We got lost and got stuck,~ shrugged a dejected Alphand, covered in sand at the stage finish. ~About 50 kms from the end we made our mistake. It was a navigation problem on our part. It was an off-piste section and we lost the track and took a route a little too much to the left and ended up in the dunes.

~By the time you get out of the car you have to get the sand plates out and wait for Gilles, then you have lost around 10 minutes. We could have won the stage today. I am disappointed.~

Today's 240 kms stage began at Chebika, south of Tamerza, and finished on the windswept salt flats, near Zarzine. Teams crossed the vast Chott of Jerid on a selective section which offered tricky navigation and an area of small sand dunes.

Tomorrow (Thursday) features the 315 kms Sabria loop stage in a total route of 408 kms. This is a new stage and crosses stretches of camel grass, several small dunes and the pipeline track towards the Anti-Atlas mountains and the region around Tataouine.

The stage then heads towards the popular tourist village of Ksar Ghilane, onwards through the Bidane pass and passedsthe oil well at Birhaj Brahim to the finish at Douz.

Positions after leg 3 (unofficial @ 12.00 hrs):
1. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 4h 33m 50s
2. Bruno Saby (F)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 4h 37m 31s
3. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 4h 38m 49s
4. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Schlesser-Buggy 4h 40m 15s

Positions on Tamerza to Sabria stage: (unofficial 12.00)
1. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2h 18m 30s
2. Bruno Saby (F)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 2h 20m 25s
3. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Schlesser-Buggy 2h 22m 23s
4. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 2m 25m 15s


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Florian Moser
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Date issued: 06/04/2005

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