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CC Alphand regains lead in Rally of Tunisia

Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports News

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

Weather conditions: warm and sunny - 16-22 C

Leg 4: Sabria - Sabria
Liaison: 52 kms, Special stage 315 kms, Liaison 41 km
For immediate release
Thursday, April 7th, 2005

MITSUBISHI MOTORS TEAM DRIVERS ALPHAND AND MASUOKA HOLD FIRST AND SECOND IN RALLY OF TUNISIA

Frenchman Alphand regains overall lead on Sabria loop stage;
Japan's Masuoka slips behind his team mate into second place

SABRIA, Tunisia - Mitsubishi Motors Repsol ATS Studios Team driver Luc Alphand and fellow French co-driver Gilles Picard regained the overall lead of the Optic 2000 Rally of Tunisia, after the fourth Sabria loop stage, today (Thursday).

Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka and French co-driver Pascal Maimon had begun the day's stage 3m 41s ahead of Volkswagen's Bruno Saby and Michel Périn, after setting the fastest time into Sabria on Wednesday in their Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution. Masuoka lost time today, however, by getting stuck on two occasions.

The Japanese driver was first into the stage this morning, but Alphand began a charge through the field from fourth place on the road after losing the overall lead into Sabria in soft sand. He reached the finish in the desert, five kilometers south of Douz, 7m 31s ahead of Volkswagen's Jutta Kleinschmidt.

~I feel much happier today,~ said Alphand. ~The first 80-85 kms were really tough. Hiroshi was stuck and we passed him. We had already passed Jean-Louis Schlesser after about 10 kms.. Then Hiroshi came back at us. We drove very fast. The pace in the camel grass was crazy, almost too fast. Then Hiroshi passed me and we passed Saby together.

~Then Hiroshi got stuck a second time, only about five kilometers from the end of the small white dunes. We passed him again, but we decided to slow down. We had opted for low pressure in the tires and I did not want to get a flat tire. There were a lot of stones on the way to the finish. I suppose I lost a little time here, but it was a sensible decision.~

The result lifted Alphand into a 5m 23s outright lead over team mate Masuoka, with Volkswagen's Saby 11m 15s adrift.

~We got stuck twice today,~ said a disappointed Masuoka. ~We lost 10 minutes in the small dunes. It was my mistake. Not a good day. I will try again tomorrow and push again.~

Today's stage crossed the pipeline track south of Douz and passed the foothills of the Anti-Atlas, south of Tataouine, before reaching Ksar Ghilane and the Bidane pass.

Tomorrow (Friday) the route moves south towards the notorious El Borma bivouac, near the Algerian frontier in the south-west of Tunisia. Affected by sand storms for two of the last three years during the Rally of Tunisia, El Borma is surrounded by towering sand dunes and treacherous tracks.

The stage heads across a section of soft white dunes towards Ksar Ghilane, on a similar track to today, skirts the Bidane pass and heads on a southerly route through the Great Eastern Erg and the pipeline road to El Borma.

~I hope tomorrow's stage will be easier,~ said Alphand. ~The first part is similar to today and after that it should be okay.~

Positions after leg 4 (unofficial @ 13.45 hrs):
1. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 8h 34m 24s
2. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 8h 39m 47s
3. Bruno Saby (F)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 8h 45m 39s
4. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 8h 48m 22s
5. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Schlesser-Buggy 8h 56m 46s

Positions on Sabria to Sabria stage: (unofficial 13.45)
1. Luc Alphand (F)/Gilles Picard (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 3h 55m 35s
2. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 4h 03m 06s
3. Hiroshi Masuoka (J)/Pascal Maimon (F) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 4h 05m 57s
4. Bruno Saby (F)/Michel Périn (F) Volkswagen Touareg 4h 08m 08s
5. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Schlesser-Buggy 4h 16m 31s

Ends

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Date issued: 07/04/2005

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